Tag: The Salvation Army

I was raised in a church where alcohol and tobacco use is not allowed for its pastors and members. We come from a Wesleyan background where this was more commonly adhered to at one time.

This being the only church I’ve known, imagine my surprise when as a child, I saw a priest smoking! I knew with certainty that I’d spied something not meant to be seen by others. Later I learned smoking and drinking were acceptable for Catholic priests and parishioners.

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The commercial featured a boy who was a picky eater. A bowl of cereal was put in front of him. His expression of disinterest unchanged as his friend said, “He won’t eat it. Mikey hates everything.” A pause, and then he takes a spoonful while the friend exclaims: “He tried it. He likes it!”

When it comes to alcohol, my stance is if you don’t try it, you don’t have to worry about liking it and the accompanying responsibilities.

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I also grew up with stories of drunken uncles whose arguments erupted into brawls. These stories were told as funny with laughter accompanying each one. Why do we laugh at this behavior that leads to anger expressed in physical harm? ‘Oh, they were drunk. Ha ha ha.’

We laugh at drunken behavior but whisper about drug use. No wonder we’re a mess.

photo from Unsplash

The freedom of drinking has become more a part of the lives of younger evangelicals. Bloggers write about that glass of wine. (Does wine sound more acceptable?) The 30-something podcaster mentions it and it seems there is a whole generation of young evangelicals who have found the freedom to enjoy alcohol as if putting an exclamation point on grace.

Which also means, there is a whole new generation of young evangelicals where one out of 10 will become an alcoholic. It doesn’t happen quickly. It can take ten years or more for it to become an obsessive addiction. You’ll barely notice the slippery slope of this disease.

I’m not against the use of alcohol. I don’t believe drinking is a sin or that you’ll go to hell if you do. I do believe, for many, they’ve opened something they never had to find out. Like Mikey, they’ve tried it and they like it. Only, they really, really like it and then they need it.

The next few days we’ll look more closely at alcohol and addiction within the church. Redemption isn’t reserved for a group of men in a residential rehab program. As we say in Celebrate Recovery: it’s hurts, habits, and hang-ups and we all have them. Whether it’s a substance, a habit, or hurt, we need the redemption of Jesus.

grace The Church

Beauty has been mostly external in my life. I’ve measured the external appearances of houses, people and scenery in terms beauty. My idea of beauty. What I like, what appeals to my eye and taste. We all know the quote “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. We can attest to the truth in that comment as we look at our newborn babies, most of them looking like a pink wrinkled piglet or old man. In our eyes, they are beautiful. No one can see the beauty in our children or spouses quite the way we can.

That began to change when, quite unexpectedly, found ourselves in ministry with men in recovery. Men gaunt and malnourished from their diets of crack cocaine, some with few teeth from meth or extended cocaine habit.

These days they are younger and even thinner from heroin addiction. There are a few old school alcoholics, but regardless of drug of choice alcohol plays a vicious part.

Beauty is not a word attached to these men when they walk through our doors and may never fit an external description. The beauty has to be unearthed and refined much like a diamond found  deep within the earth.

Their beauty starts with willingness; willingness to surrender, to change, to give back.

For the past 7 years we’ve hosted a Fall Festival for our church counterpart. They load up the vans and minibuses and bring 50 or so kids to a warehouse we’ve decked out with Halloween decorations. They run a few games, take polaroids at our homemade photo booth, give out fresh made popcorn from our machine and take turns getting in the dunking booth.

All the ones in costumes

They FINALLY got me in a costume!
They FINALLY got me in a costume!

 

Ryan face painting

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When the belly is fed with eggs for breakfast, taco salad for lunch and baked chicken at supper, when there is purpose work in the day, a counselor to unload your burdens and a hot shower to wash off the old ways….when there are people praying for you, helping you, and loving you…beauty starts to bloom and it looks a lot like gratitude.

Gratitude gives back. To the new man not sure if he’ll stay and to the kids who have no idea what your life is about. They’ve come to get their face painted, dress up in a costume and play a few games. It’s an interesting dance we see unfolding of the most unlikely kind of beauty I ever expected to find.

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Salvation Army

I just may have trumped Jamie the Very Worst Missionary in the worst missionary category. I love her blog, I do. Love reading about her not-so-perfect life and I’m not even offended when she uses the, shall we say ‘slang’, of the day. I think we could be friends because she’s real and I’m wanting so hard to be real and I could be real with her. All the time kind of real.

Maybe that’s what I’m about to be here with you when I tell you that the week I spent on my first ever mission trip to Haiti, a country so steeped in political corruption that keeps their own people mired in poverty, that country close enough to our shores its people have set out on rafts to come here for better lives, yes, the mission trip there didn’t steal my heart. My soul isn’t bleeding for its soil and I’ve not dropped to my knees every day praying for those dear children living in a place that offers them safety, but few options for more.

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I was the old girl on the team, older than some of my teams mama’s including my co-leader. I wasn’t in tears our last day there. I wasn’t vowing to come back some day. Maybe it was my age, my life’s experience that tells me ‘this is how things are honey’. You come, you love as much as you can knowing you’re going to get to go home and they have to stay, and you say thank-you and wave goodbye.

When I got home I stood under our shower with hot water for a long time completely conscious I was wasting water. Completely not caring at that moment. And I flushed the toilet every time I used it. I didn’t have to use bottled water to brush my teeth with and it was wonderful.

I’ve wondered about this a lot over the 2 years since that trip. Wondered why it didn’t pierce my heart the way I’d heard others explain, the way other bloggers have written. Have I built a gate around my heart that strong?

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Bethany Children's Home 2399

And I think, yes, yes I have. No apologies for it. It’s survival. It started when my parents divorced I think. A heart so confused and so hurt and so broken that you never want to be hurt again so, unknowingly, the bricks start to build a shield.

Then you work in an area that sees heartbreak far too often when men who have sought relief from addiction, relapse. Again. And again. They did well a long while, and you let them in and thought they were friends and then, then the behavior starts that you know will come to no good end. And they’re gone and your heart hurts and you add a few more bricks around your heart. But you risk it again. Because you know, God risks it for you day after day.

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Haiti did impact me. It gave me a deeper understanding of their lives and yes, I do love that place that was once looked down on by so many from my neighborhood (America). Their smiles and generosity and contentment with little found its way around some of those bricks surrounding my heart. Or maybe the bricks are crumbling. Just a little. Maybe grace is blasting away at those bricks each day. Maybe the heart needs to hurt sometimes to love.

faith Salvation Army

I’m throwing it back to a time way before my time. To a time where all I have to go on is the history left and it is good history for this band of believers and do-gooders.

You may have heard tomorrow is National Donut Day. Exactly how does a food go about having a day proclaimed for its recognition in the whole country? Who cares – it’s a round piece of fried dough that is delicious so what’s not to celebrate?

The Salvation Army has a bit of history with the doughnut. A history that goes back to World War I when a young Salvation Army Lassie gave a fresh doughnut to a homesick “doughboy” in France. It was that gesture that led a group of Salvation Army women to cook up doughnuts by the dozens for the soldiers fighting overseas.

This group of women earned the name Doughnut Girls and brought the doughnut to American soil to serve to soldiers at home.

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It was a gesture of serving that has been a hallmark of The Salvation Army since its inception.

Throughout America, The Salvation Army serves as official representatives to Veterans hospitals, sitting on their quarterly meetings and conducting visitation to service men and women in their hospitals.

I have never visited a Veteran’s hospital that I haven’t been thanked for what those generations ahead of me have done. A simple gesture of kindness that is remembered and handed down as part of their family story.

I’ve written more about the doughnut girls here and for those of you who are foodies, here’s the recipe of the original doughnut made to serve our soldiers.

Ingredients:

5 C flour
2 C sugar
5 tsp. baking powder
1 ‘saltspoon’ salt
2 eggs
1 3/4 C milk
1 Tub lard

Directions:

Combine all ingredients (except for lard) to make dough.
Thoroughly knead dough, roll smooth, and cut into rings that are less than 1/4 inch thick. (When finding items to cut out donut circles, be creative. Salvation Army Donut Girls used whatever they could find, from baking powder cans to coffee percolator tubes.)
Drop the rings into the lard, making sure the fat is hot enough to brown the donuts gradually. Turn the donuts slowly several times.
When browned, remove donuts and allow excess fat to drip off.
Dust with powdered sugar. Let cool and enjoy.
Yield: 4 dozen donuts

For all the talk that goes on in any large organization, The Salvation Army included, this ‘Army’ was built on service to others and continue to run on this principle, this mission statement:

Mission Statement
The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.

We don’t always get this right. We’re made up of people and you know what problems we can create! But we believe this mission. We do our best to put aside judgement and prejudices because to show God’s love includes neither. Rather it is grace extended where none is expected, where none is earned or deserved because grace is the purest kind of gift.

God’s love in gift form. That’s grace.

If you try that doughnut recipe please let me know in the comment section. Or maybe it’s just a good excuse to eat a doughnut tomorrow. And when you do, think of The Salvation Army please. Say a prayer for us that we will uphold this mission statement and be conduits of God’s love.

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“The Lord will stay with you as long as you stay with him! Whenever you look for him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” 2 Chronicles 15:2 TLB

This week, I want you to look for God.

We had a lively discussion about the bible. This class of men with 4 months or less of sobriety, a few with some bible knowledge, most not so much. It was my first week to teach this group and I try to put aside the church-talk and make it more of a discussion. Where’d it come from? Do you believe it? Why does it matter? Does it make a difference in your life? Those kind of things get my juices going, hoping to provide a safe place for disagreement and hoping to be smart enough to guide us along the right path.

 

Bethany Children's Home 2399

kids

When I was in Haiti last year, my co-leader would ask the group at the end of the day where they’d seen God. It wasn’t something I hadn’t thought of, I’d just never verbalized it that way. It wasn’t a question asking for some lofty, theological answer but calling for one rooted in our surroundings in a third world country. Where did we see God?

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Two days after that class one of the men stopped me in the rec room to tell me where he’d seen God. He’d seen it in an employee who came along side and encouraged another. Then I asked the whole group at our next class to share where they’d seen Him. The room got quieter than I had hoped or expected but Corey, who sits quietly each week, raised his hand to say he’d seen God in a double rainbow the previous day. He snapped a photo on his phone and said the colors were so vivid it was if he could touch it and he knew that was God.

Denny said he saw God in a cat. He explained this cat had saved a little boy from a dog that was attacking him.

Do you see what I’m missing? I’m missing these opportunities to see God like these men see him. Men whose lives became so unmanageable it lead them to seek shelter at The Salvation Army. Men who have seen more ugly in their lives and now are seeing God in their supervisor’s and cats! Men who seem to understand that question more than I do with my churchy words and explanations. I saw God right there. Right there in that room full of men who are sorting life out, some with good intentions, others marking time until they’ve gathered enough strength to go out on the streets again. I saw him in each man still alive for another chance, no one unworthy of His grace.

I saw God in a man who is so uncomfortable being in this safe place. I see his far off gaze that causes my heart to clutch a bit but I see God there, trying to soothe his soul.

Where are you seeing God?

faith recovery Salvation Army