Quest to Rescue the Addicted

The Quest to Rescue Families in Addiction Part 2

Phase 1  Be not afraid.

So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.  – Zechariah 4:6

    Do not be afraid.  You are not alone.  God, Himself, will go before you and you will see His victory.  The pain, frustration and fears you are feeling are breaking God’s heart.  Know that he loves the victim even more than you do and this whole mess is crushing His tender heart.  As you engage with these beautiful men and women know that He is right there with you.  He will protect you, cry with you, encourage you and inspire you.  These parents, your sons or daughters, grandparents or other relatives or friends that have been captured in addiction need to be rescued.  This mission has been given to you because you can do it.  Our all-knowing and all loving Father would not give you the mission if He thought that you could not rise to the occasion.  He realizes that you do not believe that you have what it takes.  So He calls you to believe in Him.  He will teach, share and give you glimpses of hope when there seems to be no hope.  God is with you and He will not forsake you.  Consider this mission with all seriousness and brace yourself for the difficulties ahead of you. 

Understand that fear is the most common root to addiction.  Fear of not fitting in.  Fear of failure.  Fear of disappointing people.  Fear of not being accepted.  That is why we must address fear head on.  We cannot look the other way when fear rears its head and hope to succeed in our quest to help our loved ones.  What are your fears?  Are you close enough to your loved one to have passed these fears onto them?  It may be that you will need to address your own fears as well.

Phase 2:  Learn balance  This is going to be a rollercoaster ride.  There will be moments when you want to give the world to your addicted love one.  You must resist.  There are other times when you will want to kill your loved one that is trapped in addiction.  Obviously, DON’T do it.  We must find the balance of healthy boundaries.  Be firm and loving.  Never quit loving them.  The addiction is ruling their lives.  Strive to reach deep within your compassion genes and let loose.  Seek out the truth and balance it all with absolute truth.  If you don’t learn the balance you will be burned and hurt badly.  They will never get well unless you learn balance.  As you do this, it is critical that you guide them.  If you push them too much; the pressure itself can cause relapse.  Realize that if the person trapped in addiction doesn’t want out there is little that you can do.  Set boundaries, love them but don’t push them.  Definitely pray for them in this area because they have been living life in the extremes so this idea of a balanced life will seem dull.

Phase 3:  Learn how to stop.  There are times on the quest when you must simply go on vacation and be unreachable.  Leave it all behind.  If your loved one is in the midst of a bender they won’t even notice.  But get away. Enjoy nature.  Check out museums and other cultures. Whatever you do, work to not think about your loved one for a season.  This does not make you evil.  But it helps you to recreate your soul, your willingness to endure.  Those living in addiction count on you to get weak and give into their endless requests for money or other help.  All help must be done thoughtfully with an end toward redemption and healing.  If you find yourself giving money or other helps to your loved one out of guilt you are in trouble.

Phase 4: Learn how to steer:  There are going to be incredible obstacles some manmade, some thrown up by others that are trapped in addiction. 

Legal/ Court Systems

Over time you will have to work with the legal and court system.  Do not try to do this alone.  This system can be confusing and complicated.  Find allies that can help you.  It won’t always seem like it but they are there to help you.  If possible schedule time to talk to a drug court judge and find out more about success rates and what you can do to partner with the court for your community.

Treatment Centers

Treatment centers all have their own guidelines and policies.  You may not understand them but they were developed for good reasons.  This does not mean that all treatment centers are without fault.  It is good to ask the why questions and help them improve their systems.  For the most part these programs are operating with an intention to help your loved one overcome their addiction. 

Make sure to do the research.  Every treatment center has their, own rules or guidelines and style.  Discover what these are and make sure that your loved one is made aware of what the expectations will be.  Many families worry that if they tell those that are in addiction the rules that they will not be able to get their loved one to sign up.  The problem is that when they are done with treatment you will want them to trust you.  Being honest and upfront will help build that trust.  Holding back on the truth will only hurt their recovery.

As you do your investigation ask about their philosophy of addiction recovery.  Some treat addiction like a disease.  Today this is very common.  They will say that addiction is like heart disease.  People eat poorly and don’t exercise and they end up with heart disease.  They did not choose the heart disease; but it is there do to small poor choices.  In the same way the person with an addiction made some small choices that grew into the addiction. While the metaphor does work on some levels it breaks down on one key point.  Nobody, and I mean nobody loves their heart disease.  People in addiction love their addiction.  They dream about their drug, alcohol, pornography or whatever their drug of choice might be.  When they smell something close they get excited and they start to fantasize about it.  It is ok if they have that philosophy.  But being aware of it can help you later when you are welcoming your loved one home.

Note:  There are some programs that are only in it for the money.  Avoid these at all costs.  Look for those that will truly love your friend or family member and want to see them improve.  You should be able to find success stories for any program that is older than a year or two.  Check in with the graduates and see how they are doing?  Consider if the treatment center is keeping up with this person.  Aftercare typically is not included in most programs so if they are doing it, they must care.

Phase 5: Maintenance  Now that they are clean and sober the real work starts.  Like in all relationships you must find a way to communicate.  Most people caught in addiction have a “tell” a signal that they are getting ready to use.  Spend time with them, watch them carefully and call them out before they head out the door to relapse.  One young lady I worked with that was struggling with a sexual addiction would always put on a hat if she was going to relapse.  Initially she did not even realize that she was doing this.  Once it was discovered it was easy enough to call her aside if she was wearing a hat and help her refocus in the right direction.

Take time to notice who your loved one is hanging out with consistently.  People’s lives are a direct reflection of the expectations of their peers.  Many will argue that they need to help their friends also find recovery.  In many ways this is true.  Service is a key component of the healing process. The time trapped in addiction and selfishness must be redeemed.  However, they need to balance time with healthy individuals and invite healthy folks into the process.  All of this is part of the process.


If you are reading this than someone that you care about is struggling with an addiction.  I am going to give some general words of advice that you should keep in mind.

This is an ultra distance race in multiple environments and not a sprint: From time to time I will hear so called experts talking about a pill to help people overcome their addiction.  Things like methadone are touted as an easy solution to addiction.  My ears hear their voice, but I wonder if they are listening to themselves?  Think about the irony of using one drug to cure an addiction to another drug.  That is similar to paying one credit card with another credit card.  There is no shortcut. I hate to be the one to break that to you.  Getting healing will be a long, painful and difficult journey.  Those that tout quick and easy solutions are diluted at best and charlatans at worst.  Brace yourself for the battle ahead. 

An ultra runner knows that he or she has a long run ahead.  If they came prepared to do a fifty yard dash then they will fail.  Focus your mind and envision success in the distant future.  Yes it can get better and better but there could be setbacks, relapse and more visits to jails in your future. 

I tell you all of this because I want you to brace yourself for the truth and encourage you to stay with your loved one throughout the experience.  Something that can help is to find a quiet place and envision what life without the addiction could be like.  There is no magic here but it gives a moment of hope to see your loved one with you on a beach in complete sobriety and peace having a blast. 

This person trapped in addiction is not the same person as the one you love:  There was this lady that I once worked with who was a stereotype of a librarian.  She always had her nose in a book, her hair was in a tight bun and she spoke softly.  Her entire life was a picture of organization and joy.  Less than two weeks later I saw her again but would not have known it was her if she did not introduce herself to me.  This time I can only describe her appearance like you might imagine the demoniac from Bible fame.  Her hair was going in every direction and she was beyond loud and demanding.  Her clothing was all awry and she was shaking the gate of the shelter where I worked.  Hatred seethed from her mouth.  This woman had discovered methamphetamine and it had shaken her to the core. 

I am sure that you have seen the transformation.  It looks different for each person but some of the common versions are:

Paranoid:  They keep looking behind them or pulling the shades tight.  Every little sound frightens them.  These fears are typically extremely irrational.  They are so afraid that it will be contagious.  This might be a good time to take the kids away for a little adventure to grandmas.  Nobody should witness this.

Violent:  If your loved one is typically violent you must get yourself safe as soon as possible.  Even if you suspect that they are using than put a safety plan in action.

Mello:  Nothing seems to matter to them in this state.  Most of the time, we don’t get too worried about this person.  However, they find it difficult to keep a job since you must care to do a good job.  They also can be in the way if there is an emergency.  Many house fires start because those in this state fall asleep smoking and then don’t have a focus to put it out.

Delusional: This version will be killing bugs that you can’t see or will try to get you to wear foil on your head because the CIA is listening to your thoughts.  They are scary and typically you will not be able to rationalize with them.

You must take care of yourself first: This will feel selfish and unnatural but it is a key to success.  Regardless of what is going on with your loved one, you must eat right and exercise.  You must find a way from the chaos and find joy again in a hobby.  Live your life fully and completely.  When one trapped in addiction is sober and clean they can be welcome to join you in adventures.  Read good books and meditate on positive thoughts.  There is nothing easier than getting your mind into a negative spin when they are using or drinking.  They are making their choices, you are not required to go down the toilet with them.  Create a secret savings account they don’t know about so that you have spare money to enable you to get away.

Clean up the house:  If your loved one is an alcoholic you must get all alcoholic beverages out of the house.  Consider this.  If your loved one was a diabetic you would not put chocolate cake on the counter.  Yes you can eat the cake, but because you are filled with love you forsake the cake.  With many drugs there are smells, tastes and attitudes that are triggers to relapse.  Take note of those triggers and work toward not giving them the excuse that they are looking for you to give them.  These sometimes seem out of place.  Simple things like light bulbs or the smell of ammonia can serve as triggers.  It may not be possible to remove every single trigger but being aware of them helps greatly.

Share the truth:  Friends and family already suspect that something is wrong.  There is no need to try to hide it from them.  I have a friend who finally opened up with his mother in law about his wife’s addiction.  She knew it but was afraid to tell him.  Now together they work as a team to help this woman find healing from her addiction.  They refuse to be played off of each other and together they are addressing the issue with truth and love.

You must allow natural consequences to take place:  Recently I read a story about a woman whose husband was violent when he was using.  On nearly every occasion he would throw a huge fit in the kitchen and throw the trashcan across the room and dump the contents of the fridge and then storm out of the house for several hours.  She would spend several hours cleaning up the mess and fixing the damage that he caused.  Later he would return home and pass out in their bed.  When morning came she would tell him what happened and he would look at the kitchen and deny that it happened.  She was tired because she had spent much of the night working and worrying and did not have the energy to battle.  Eventually, she decided that she had enough.  The next time that he trashed the kitchen she took a warm bath and went to bed.  When she woke up in the morning, her husband was in the kitchen cleaning up the mess and patching the hole he had made in the wall.  He never did that again.

If you have plans to go out with the kids than go ahead without them.  You don’t need to forsake your plans.  This is really important if kids are involved, they are the innocent victims.  Never miss a school play or baseball game simply because your spouse or other family member cannot control their addiction.  Have fun, which will be a natural consequence.

What is not a natural consequence is a lecture.  They know they messed up again.  Remind them that you love them and you are praying for their recovery.  Ask what you can do to help them find healing.  Offer to go to a recovery service with them.  Yes the first time you go it will be scary.  Typically these services are loud with people that are pierced and tattooed (not you standard church crowd).  Amazingly you will soon love these men and women because they are all at different stages of healing.  Some will defend and care for you when you have needs.

Little things matter:  Avoid driving through areas of town where there is a liquor store or a house where they used to purchase their drugs.  Consider changing phone numbers and help them choose clean and sober friends.  Everything must change: people, places and things. 

Develop an escape plan:  Similar to living in an abusive relationship you need to have a strategy for that moment when you really are tired of the lies and the addiction.  Where will you stay?  How will you pay for it?  Having a bag packed and in the trunk of the car is often a good move.  You can checkout most domestic abuse websites for a standard checklist.  Write out the plan and then stick with it.

The addiction is the enemy not your loved one:  It is ok to hate addiction and how it destroys life.  I know that this will be a tough thing to do but focus on separating the drug from the loved one.  They are a prisoner and the sooner you figure out how to work together the sooner you both can celebrate that vision that you have created in your mind regarding your loved one.

Quest to Rescue the Addicted

Quest to Rescue the Addicted Families in Addiction Part 1

Trying to understand addiction can be tricky.  It is hard to understand why someone who watches their life fall apart does not simply just quit.  Imagine that you are on a diet.  This is serious now.  You have some serious health issues and the doctors have told you that if you do not lose a certain amount of weight you are going to have serious trouble.  With much research you change your whole lifestyle to include healthy eating and exercise.  Great job!  Then you are walking down the street and there is a bakery there that at one time you frequented often.  You smell the donuts and see the pies in the window.  Old friends are in there enjoying their treats.  They look so happy.  My friend, that is what addiction is like.  Even after many years of working to make a new lifestyle, it will still call out to them like a fresh donut calls out to the person on a diet.

 As you prepare to begin this mission know that there are some snares.  It is my hope to train you today to work around these snares and then warn others behind you so that they don’t get tripped up.

     The first snare: denial.  Likely if you are reading this book you have moved past the denial.  Your son or daughter is addicted to some drug or alcohol or unhealthy relationships or whatever life controlling deal they have going on.  Once I heard a mother talk about the fact that when her son was young and really pretty early in his addiction she believed her son when he told her that he did not do drugs.  She found drugs in his room.  He told her that he was just holding it for a friend.  She believed him.  You have been lied to long enough.  If you are angry, be angry enough to push through the fear that now sits on your chest and makes this whole thing hard to breathe.   The anger must become focused though.  Do not be angry because he or she lied to you.  There is a statement that I often hear around recovery circles that tells you how to know when an addict is lying.  The answer is really simple, their lips are moving.  They will lie about anything and everything.  Do not be mad about that.  Be mad at the enemy who has lured in and captured your loved one.  The enemy hates them and wants to destroy their lives.  Ultimately the enemy will turn on you as you come to set them free.  Turn your anger into heart felt prayers for your mom or dad.  Cry out with passion to the King of kings to set them free.  Take courage in the fact that He will set them free.  He is on your side.  But you must quit denying that this person is addicted.  Denial will not help them.  You know deep in your heart that it is true.  Face the truth.

  The second snare:  the blame game.   Naturally, you will look for reasons why this person is addicted.  If you had just … fill in the blank… they would not be addicted today.  If you had noticed earlier, if you had been softer or harder than maybe the addiction would not have captured them.   The truth behind the blame game is that it does not help anything.  Every parent thinks of things that if given the chance they would have done different in the raising of their kids.  This thinking helps nothing.   Unless you are the one that is lighting the joint or sticking the needle into their arms than you are not responsible for their addiction.  They are making their own choices.  Now let me point out that if you did buy them their first drink, or joint or you did stick a needle in their arm than you have played a role in their addiction.  But continuing to blame yourself will not help.  If you did those things; repent of those choices and move on.  If you are in your own addiction; then you need to get to recovery as soon as possible.  Most communities have free treatment centers that are connected to rescue shelters.  Check in and get clean.  Your new life will do more to set people free than anything else that you can do.  You cannot honestly expect to help your loved one trapped in addiction if you are still drinking and drugging.  People will always follow actions before they follow words.

    But if you are the average family and friend than you have done the best that you could and you should not join in the blame game.  The person trapped in addiction is looking for someone or something to blame.  Until they take responsibility they cannot get better.   You must not enter into the blame game.  It is not your fault.  They will give you examples and will direct anger toward you.  That is normal.  It will hurt.  You will likely even agree with their assessment in some cases. 

  Snare number 3: Denying the work of the enemy. 

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. John 10:10a

 It is here that I want to share that even though I had been a believer, I did not fully believe in Satan.  Sure my mind agreed that he was real because I saw references to him in the Bible.  But it was not until I started hanging out with the addicted that I saw how clearly he works today.  The words spoken by this person that you love are very well aimed.  Often they hit their mark and the pain is unbelievable.  Where did they get such aim?  The enemy has been watching you, he knows you.  Recognize that truth.  Also know that he has no real power over you.

Just a few facts

  • Not everyone trapped in addiction looks like an addict
  • Substituting addictions is common.  (Switching to sugar/ caffeine or sex  instead of hard drugs)
  • The goal needs to be redemption and healing not just recovery
  • Tobacco is the gateway drug.  Very few men and women trapped in addiction do not smoke.
  • The media in nearly every form will glorify drug and alcohol use. 
Quest to Rescue the Addicted

Quest to Rescue the Addicted

Conclusion to the Story

The next morning Roger and his new friend Fredrick went for a walk to the cemetery.  Roger laid flowers on the headstone and sat on the ground.  He was glad that Fredrick had joined him.  Today would have been his wife’s birthday and he wanted to visit one more time before taking off.  Roger had heard a rumor that had his daughter in Florida.  He had put in a request for the hotel to transfer his job to Orlando and it had been approved.  Soon Roger would start a new life.  He was moving on, still hopeful that he would find Joanne.  Fredrick had bought a cake for the occasion and a couple of sodas.  They enjoyed the little snack.  Fredrick patted his friend on the back and let him know that he would miss him.  Fredrick left for work. 

Joanne noticed that someone was sitting near her mother’s grave but she could not really make out who it might be.  The person was sitting there relaxed in a baseball cap and sucking on a lollipop.  As she got closer her heart nearly stopped.  “Could it be?” 

Roger sat deep in thought.  He had a running conversation with his wife.  In this conversation he said all of the right things.  He was able to save her life. 

Cautiously, Joanne approached the person. 

Roger did not even hear the footsteps but felt someone looking down on him and looked up.  He nearly choked on his lollipop.

Mike road his motorcycle and noticed that something was just not right.  It seemed like the bike was losing some of its steam.  Taking note of several different sounds and even the way it felt, Mike made a mental list of all the pieces that he needed to take the time to work on. 

Michelle brushed her teeth and did what she could to make herself presentable for court.  There really was not much she could do with the orange jump suit but she did what she could.  She could not believe that she was getting another opportunity this afternoon to meet with the judge and maybe work off some of her fines.  Since she had run away last time she really did not hold out much hope.  But the chaplain was going to speak on her behalf as well as one of the guards.  It might just work.

Roger and Joanne just stared at each other.  Slowly Roger got to his feet and moved toward her.  In the stillness of this place they moved together at a snail’s pace.  They embraced.  Both were crying.

Six months had passed since Sarah first started attending the Freedom Club.   Rarely did she miss a week.  Between meetings she would hang out with others in the group.   She had even gone on vacation with Fredrick, Rosie and Angie.  The time out at the cabin that had belonged to Rosie’s grandfather was a turning point for Sarah.  Somehow being out in the woods with friends, swimming in the cold lake and breathing in the fresh air gave her new perspective.  Michelle would be getting out of jail soon.  They had visited often and had established some solid boundaries.  Michelle would be going to an inpatient treatment program.  That would require another six months apart but they both knew that it was needed.  Michelle read her notes from one of Mike’s lessons.

With a strong arm I can carry a heavy load.

With strong legs I can run far.

With a strong mind I can solve great puzzles.

With a strong heart I can face disaster and devastation and carry on.

Without strong discipline you will have none of those things.  You are needed.  We were born dependent and from the first moments we had to learn skills to care for ourselves.  Babies must learn to eat, before that they were fed automatically.  Babies must learn to make sounds and eventually words.  All of those things took discipline.  If we throw out discipline the growth stops.  When growth stops, death is not too far behind.  The purpose of everyday life needs to be that we are striving to become a better version of ourselves.  Without discipline that will not happen.

Discipline enables us to stay balanced and focused.  We all know that person who is incredibly smart but cannot kick their way out of a wet paper bag or run around the block because they are so out of shape.  We also know the stereo type dumb jock type.  These might be disciplined in one or two areas of their lives.  Success though comes when they are balanced. 

A highly intelligent warrior knows strategy, wisdom and is in great physical health. It is the warrior who can change and impact the future of a family, a community and a nation.  Discipline makes the warrior.

The four areas where a warrior must be disciplined are physical, mental, spiritual and social.  These four areas must be balanced within themselves and with each other.  For example a person who is disciplined to exercise daily but is not disciplined enough to choose healthy foods will never really succeed at good health.  Also a person who is disciplined physically but does not read will also never grow as healthy as he would like. I think that you get the idea.  All of this takes planning.  Find harmony in the structure of your day.

As I work with men and women who come to the Freedom club.   I often find them to be incredible examples of intelligence and strength.  Some of the most talented and creative people that I have been privileged to meet are here week after week..  I ask myself often, “Why is that person here?”  They should have succeeded in life but have fallen short.  This is true for every person that walks through the doors.  While the reasons are too complicated to easily put into a clear system the common denominator is that healthy disciplines developed is the ticket back onto the road to success. 

During their time with the Freedom Club they begin to consider their overall health.  They develop the mindset of the warrior and learn to harness their strengths and make choices that will impact their futures.  This happens gradually and at different rates for all of the men and women that we serve.  But the discipline begins to give them a sense of purpose and hope that they never had before and suddenly success is in their sight.

It is discipline that enables us to overcome all obstacles and challenges.  It is discipline that prods us to risk failure or pain to taste success. 

The difficulty of course lies in the fact that rarely does a discipline have an immediate impact.  Benefits from discipline come from more of an accumulated benefit.  Choosing the eat healthy foods today won’t make me slim and trim by tomorrow.  Flossing everyday shows its benefits when you still have all of your teeth in your 80s.  It takes time.  We must accept that and that the value will be there.  Let disciplines work for you today and cash in those checks in the future.  The payoff is huge.

Sarah had taken that lesson to heart.  She had developed solid morning rituals.  Every day she prayed, read her Bible, prayed and meditated on specific Scriptures.  Each morning she ate a healthy breakfast and looked over her plans for the day.  She attacked each day as its own and focused on what she could control.  In the evening she had select disciplines like journaling and making some decisions on the future.  She decided that she had hope.

Rosie and Fredrick spent several months in marriage counseling and renewed their vows with all of their friends from the Freedom Club.  They continue to attend marriage classes and eventually they even led a group.

Many come and go.  Angie and Santa (Who’s real name is Ron.) are engaged and are intending to get married in Hawaii

Joanne and Roger are living in Florida and both work at a resort.  They love their life together. 

Bruce is now doing some hard time in a federal prison.  Up to this point he never really beat his addiction.

Mike continues to lead the Freedom Club.  While he is disappointed over Bruce’s life, he is still hopeful.  As he often teaches.  Only God can set someone free from the idolatry of addiction.  He is ready to be used by God but knows that the Holy Spirit is a gentleman and will not force his way in where He is not wanted.  He lives with the peace of God despite the circumstances.

Quest to Rescue the Addicted

Quest to the Addicted Part 18

Maintaining Progress

Joanne walked casually to the Gospel Rescue Mission’s smoking area.  She felt like she needed a quick smoke before she sat through another chapel service.  Deep down she had to admit that they were not as bad as she thought they would be.  The idea of going to church several times a week still miffed her just a bit.  Most of the time she came away feeling pretty good, and she was learning to pray.  Mostly she prayed that she would figure out what to do next.  Her life had been a mess for far too long.  She wondered what she would say if she ever found her father.  What would he say?  Most of the teachers encouraged her to read the Bible.  They had even given her, her very own Bible.  She read it but most of it made little sense to her.  Taking a deep drag off of her cigarette she pondered life and decided that she would go visit her mother’s grave the next morning.  Throwing the stub to the ground she followed the others to the chapel.

    Bruce sat in his cell pondering his life.  The judge had sentenced him to twelve months in this overcrowded place.  It seemed like most of the people here did not even have a bed.  Some slept on mattresses on the floor.  Others curled up in a corner at night.  He hated the smell and the nearly constant noise.  Everyday there were fights.  Some sections were basically owned by gangs.   Bruce wondered how it had come to this again.  He realized that when he got out his job prospects might not be so good.  When another prisoner offered to teach him how to pick a lock, Bruce figured that might come in handy someday.  Other skills were eventually taught in informal classes.  Bruce knew that when his time was up here he would be a great criminal.  He also learned that there were many who would get arrested on purpose so that they could smuggle in drugs.  The price they were getting for the weed, meth or other drugs was incredible.  He did the math and decided that when he got out it would be worth it to be arrested about once a month.  Though he hated this place he figured that it was the best option for his future. 

As Joanne looked around the chapel she noticed that almost everyone there looked bored.  Some were scrolling through social media and others were trying to catch a little bit of sleep.  Soon a lively but seemingly shy woman led them in a couple of songs.  She had heard most of these over the past couple of weeks.  With the songs over, the mission’s executive director stepped forward and put his Bible down on the pulpit.  Opening to the twenty third psalm, he read the entire psalm.  Many had opened up the pew Bibles to read along with him.  Then he stepped from behind the pulpit and walked up the central aisle. 

“It is my dream that you all begin to look at yourselves differently.  God looks at you as the apple of His eye.  You are the ones that he likes to tell people about.  He says things like ‘Have you noticed my friend Job?  He is  pretty awesome.’  I see you all as potential leaders in our community.  Those that have been here awhile know that I believe that many of the problems that we see in our society can be solved by the minds, souls and bodies of the people sitting right here.  I remember being in Germany.  Looking across the meadow there are thousands of sheep.  At least it seemed like thousands.  Maybe it was only a few hundred.  Though I am certain that there are differences that my untrained eye cannot see; they all appear pretty much the same. Watching from a little rise though is the shepherd.  He is the leader.  He whistles and every sheep will look up.  With a gesture he will direct the flock and they will follow him wherever he leads them.   They totally trust him.  He is a leader.

But what if the shepherd did not lead himself?  He would not know where to take the sheep.  He would not know when it was time to shear them, or when to move them to new pastures.  Life would become bad for the sheep.  The shepherd must first lead himself.  I want to share four things that we must all do before we can hope to lead others, to lead our selves.  First take responsibility.   It is true that others have manipulated to us, lied to us, and treated us poorly.  Circumstances might have been such that you have lived your life oppressed and always twenty steps behind the pack.  But if you are to take leadership of your life you must start with yourself.  Look at where you are now and take responsibility for how you are going to get to the next rung.  Once I worked with a very attractive young lady who was unbelievably single.  I wondered what was wrong with all of the young men of this generation that they were not spend their every effort to win the heart of this intelligent, fun and beautiful woman of character.  One day I was sitting next to her at a meeting and I got my first clue.  She smelled terrible.  I thought wow.  She has everything going from her but a little hygiene is stopping her from ultimate success.  The meeting lasted for about an hour and we went our separate ways and my mind was spinning with this apparent miss in her development.  However, I soon noticed that the smell was still there.  It was then that I noticed that I had stepped in some dog doo on my way into the meeting.  I was the one who stunk.  Look at yourself first and quit blaming others for your lack of success.  It is yours to win or lose.  Secondly, live deliberately.  For a short season I was feeling pretty sorry for myself.  I had quit my job believing that I could find another job easy enough.  However, two weeks had gone by and not even a nibble.  I lay around and watched TV all day.   I guess that I was hoping that some employer would dial seven random numbers and call and I would be just what she was looking for in an employee.  What do you think the odds of that working are?  Right.  Nada.  To get a job I had to go get a newspaper (this was pre-internet days) and go out and hunt for the job.  All of life is like that.  I cannot sit on the couch and hope to get healthy.  We cannot sleep away the day and hope to get smarter or wealthier or happier.  It does not happen.  We must wake up and go hunting for what we want.  It won’t land in our lap without some effort.  Leading yourself takes effort.  Thirdly take risks.  Every moment off your couch is a risk.  You could step outside your door and be struck by lightning just moments before a bus driven by your ex girlfriend runs you over on the way to take the job that you just got fired from.  All of that could happen.  But you might also be the one millionth customers and get a lifetime of pizza at your favorite restaurant where the cute waiter suddenly falls for you head over heels and whose father is looking for an eligible young woman to lead his fortune 500 company. The point is that you never know what the day holds.  Get off of the couch and explore.  Consider setbacks as adventures and opportunities as motivation to keep going.  Leading yourself requires risks.  Finally, live for life.  Leading yourself requires that you make it a lifestyle.  We cannot choose to waver in the wind day after day.  Rise up today and declare, ‘Today I am going to make my life, the life of my family and community better.’  All of this self leadership must be shared and utilized to enhance the world.  You can change the world but it must start with yourself.

Get started today and lead yourself.  Find your passions and strive to enhance yourself by taking responsibility, living deliberately, taking risks and living for life. Watch and act.”

With a prayer the group was dismissed.  Most eagerly rushed out to catch a quick smoke before dinner, a small handful hung out hoping to talk the speaker into some special exception.  Others wanted to learn more.  Joanne just sat in her seat.  She wondered what she could do to make her community better.  She noticed some trash left behind by those that had just attended the chapel.  One row at a time she straightened the Bibles and song books.  She threw out any and all trash.  Quietly, she went to the dining room.   

Quest to Rescue the Addicted

Quest to the Addicted Part 17

Knowing where we stand on our own values is a great place to start on learning to steer through the dangers of our modern world.

Then I move onto other people and their expectations.

I have come to the conclusion that just because someone disagrees with me they are not necessarily my enemy.  While I might not agree with your stand on same sex marriage or on abortion; maybe we can find common ground on helping those experiencing poverty.  I don’t have to agree with you on every topic.  You have your reasons for your beliefs and I hold to mine.  We may never be best friends and we may never come to an agreement on some of the more difficult topics in our era.  But if I want to steer successfully; I need to be able to be compassionate regardless of our positions.

But I also need to share that if our relationship is to grow we need to be able to share our positions as adults without name calling or attacking.  We need to stick with truth and discuss these things from time to time.  We don’t ignore the disagreement, but we choose to be civil.

 As a community we have been divided and we can blame media or government but the truth is that it is our own fault.  We have chosen to hate our neighbor, to see them as an issue rather than as a person.  Can we vow to ignore those who would want to divide our community into whatever groups suit their purposes?  I think that we must.

Steering through our modern culture is a real challenge.  But if you want to steer effectively it is going to take real work.  Too many people believe that if they share complaints or discuss social justice issues on Facebook that they have done their job.  That is not tough.  It is not really risky.   That is one venue. But toughness is getting involved. Instead of demanding the government to go out and solve our problems, go out and get involved.  Find the real truth.  Investigate action steps that can take place. 

Example:  Instead of slamming politicians for cutting welfare programs go out and help your neighbor.  Get to know them and help them to get a job, get food and get healing. 

Complaining may be ok but it solves nothing.  Steering cannot happen in a parked car whether that is in a garage or in front of a TV.

Steering through our modern culture will require that we take time to listen with an intention to understand the position of others.  After listening can we work to come up with a solution that works for all parties?  Where can we work with others?  If we can not agree then is there a way that we can at least not work in opposition of each other?  This will not always be possible.  How can light and dark work together?  They can’t is the simple answer.  Those that market hate, murder and sin cannot be compromised with; but can we hear them.  Are there other areas where we might be able to agree?  Not all roads will get us to Heaven, nor to the Promised Land.  So the difficulty lies in the question how do we work with those that are in the extremes?  There are no easy answers and I am not sure that I have even the beginning of an answer.  Part of that answer sits in the idea that this person you disagree with is a human being, not a monster.  All sides try to portray the other side as Adolf Hitler or as Satan, himself.  This is typically not true.  Hold to truth but part of that truth is that they are human.  Pray with others and for others.  Love them even if they hate you.  It seems that is something Jesus did routinely.  Remember that He prayed for those that were driving nails into His Body.  He forgave those that had insulted Him and beat Him.  They were wrong, but He loved them anyway.  Can we do the same?

Planning, think through what you would like to accomplish this day, this week, this month or even this year.  How are you going to define success for this day?  Will that require anyone else to make it happen?  If so how will you influence that person to partner with you on these sorts of goals? 

Create a plan that enables you to live a life that makes today a success but also keeps you on track for your longer range goals.  Create a vision of a successful life and consider what that looks like physically, mentally, Spiritually and socially.  Move toward that dream daily.  Consider every choice.  Will this choice draw me closer to my dream or could it potentially destroy my hopes? 

A great habit is to create a plan for your week that takes all of these things into consideration.  Make sure that these plans are actually doable.  In other words you do need sleep so plan to sleep.  You do need to eat, so plan to eat.  You do need time to travel from location to location. Take all of these things into consideration as you make your plans. Practice,  most of the people that I know are flying by the seat of their pants almost every day and never consider that they could practice a bit and get better.  For example: Are you going to have a difficult conversation with a co worker.  Instead of just winging it, go to someone that you trust and practice the conversation.  Ask them to make it difficult with assorted reactions and arguments.  All of these things come together to make us better communicators.  Yes it takes time.  But weeds grow overnight with little effort.  The oak tree grows slow and sure and with much struggle but the tree will outlast the weed and has greater value.  Find time to practice everything.  This could be cooking, sewing, music or whatever.  Practice often and make the practice more difficult than the real thing.

Selflessness, when we get too focused on ourselves we quickly discover that we are all alone when we let ourselves down.  Take the time to reach out and care about others.  It is too easy to write them off.  “Oh I helped a guy once. He turned out to be a fraud.”  Who cares?  Help the next person.  You might change their lives.  That life you change might actually change the world.

There is a story of a moment when Robert Lincoln was almost struck by a train when he fell off a station waiting area.  The man who rescued him at great personal risk was John Wilkes Booth.  That moment of saving a child could have saved the President the grief that would have pushed him over the edge.  John Wilkes Booth who a few years later would do so much damage to our nation saved the nation for awhile longer.

Conflict resolution,  I hate to disagree with people.  Rocking the boat leads to many people getting wet and much discomfort.  But we must choose to engage in conflict if we hope to navigate these rough waters.  There is much conflict in our world.  What we are proposing here though is actually looking at how we can do this in a way that is healthy and good for us and for society.  What we most see in the media is name calling and other childish forms of conflict. Everyone is aiming for sound bites and a moment of fame.  One position focused on demonizing the opposing side.  Rising above the standard of our society will require us to take a slower process to our conflicts.   This week the small groups are going to take a look at conflict resolution.”

The room was a little quiet for Mike’s comfort but he expected that to be the case.  As normal some decided that it was time to go for the night; but most made their way to the small groups. 

Santa looked deliberately looked into the eyes of everyone in the group before starting.  “You will not experience this life without conflict.  The sources of conflict are far too many too prevent them from coming up. When you take time to break it down every conflict stems from one or more of the following: money, ego, power and boredom.  Take a moment to consider how easily fights take place over the toilet seat (up or down) or how the toothpaste is rolled neatly or simply squeezed from the middle.  Couples have divorced over such issues. Some will run to work to avoid these conflicts only to be dealing with conflict there with a more political bent over differing goals and expectations.  There is no escape, even at play.  I once saw a man arrested for threatening an umpire at a little league game.  While there are reasons to try to avoid conflict there are more reasons to cause us to wade into the uncomfortable waters of conflict.  Among these are the pain of divorce, lack of productivity at work and a myriad of health issues both physical and mental.  Step one is that we must take time to engage in conflict.  The cost of not doing so is simply too high.  Beyond that, once you decide that you have the heroic courage to step into conflict the four steps that I will share with you will help you immensely.”

Santa looked around and watched as everyone started taking notes.  He had some handouts but decided that he would wait until the end to hand them out. 

“So step one is to find out more about your opposition and share more about yourself.  What makes each of you tick?  What is important to you?  How does each of you typically react to conflict?  Really strive to get to know each other.  It helps to share your name and set some ground rules.  Some things like sharing that you don’t deal well with cursing or you might share that certain terms are personally offensive.  Other things to share are to describe a situation where conflict went well for you.  Finish up this step by pointing out specifically anything that you can share that added to the success of that conflict resolution.

Step two is to take an honest look at yourself.  Ask what you think this conflict is all about?  Ask what you think they think the conflict is all about?  Why does this bother you?  The whole purpose of this step really is seek an understanding of this specific conflict. 

Step three is to actually talk to the other person.  Conflict often grows as we share it with others or when it is sitting in our own minds and hearts.  Small conflicts grow when we don’t talk to the person involved.  Take the time in this step to listen as much as you speak.  Watch your tone of voice and guard your facial gestures.  Finally, you will take on step four and seek a solution.  Most of the time, you are going to look for something beyond compromise.  Hopefully you are able to find a solution that is a win for everybody.  Always at least look for a third solution.”

As the group broke up there was much conversation  about divorces and other broken relationships that may have been saved if they would have worked out such a process.  Most left for the evening deep in thought.

Quest to Rescue the Addicted

Quest to the Addicted Part 16

Rosie and Sarah both chewed as quietly as they could.  They felt like they were the only ones in the diner.

“When I took a deeper look at many of the pagan idol worshiping cultures I noticed that intoxicants were often a part of their worship services.  Even the famous Oracle of Delphi used hallucinogens to bring out the oracles.  Now when I see idol worship in the Scriptures I notice that people seem to chase after their idols continually despite the fact that they have seen and experienced the very presence of God.  Those that love the idols are actually often portrayed as violent and forceful in their defense of their idol of choice.  I see the same thing in the culture of drug use.  They work to legalize and justify its use continually.”

Sarah swallowed her food and nodding said, “I saw on TV the other day one of those talk show commercials.  They were highlighting an upcoming episode where a twin did not want her sister in her wedding.  The reason was that her sister was always high.  The sister trapped in addiction responded that if she was not high that she was too sick to be a part of the wedding.  She had to be high at the wedding.”

“I see that often.  Justification.  The way I see it, nobody loves their heart disease but people love their addictions and that is the big difference.”

The three enjoyed the time together talking over other things beyond addiction.  The ladies laughed easily and comfortably.  Mike paid for their meals and the three made their way over to the Freedom Club.

As the group gathered for the evening there were many conversations.   Rosie sat at a table and seemed very animated.  She was debating with a woman who was certain that she needed to get her brother into a high dollar treatment program.  Rosie pointed out that it was absurd when there were great, free or low cost programs that were just as effective.  Mike overhearing it pointed out that what works for one does not work for everyone.  Fredrick responded so far to the local program but others needed something much more intense.  Noticing that the woman was wearing glasses, Mike smiled.

“I have been having trouble seeing.  Can I use your glasses?”  The woman looked confused but handed them over.  Gingerly, Mike put on the glasses.  They were defiantly not his style, he actually looked a bit ridiculous.  “These things don’t work.  Why are you wearing broken glasses?”  The woman looked even more confused.  Mike handed the glasses back.  The woman turned the glasses over in her hand and put them back onto her face.  “They work for me.” 

Mike looked at Rosie.  “Those glasses work for her because they were designed for her.  They are made to a specific prescription.  My guess is that there are others out there that could function well with her prescription.  Others may need to see a doctor for more serious treatments.  Some will be able to made well with medications, surgery and others will need to wear glasses for the rest of their lives.  Everyone is different.  Addiction is similar in that respect.”  Mike noticed that others were listening in and decided maybe that was a good segue into the meeting.  He asked Sarah to read Psalm 23 and then began his lesson.

“We live in a world with dangers at every turn.  It recently became law in some regions that if you refer to someone that looks like a man, but they want to be referred to as a woman using the wrong pronoun; you can be sued.  Our nation has become so super sensitive it is difficult to live life without offending someone.  Unfortunately that is just one area.  We have temptations, work/life balance issues, family functions and dysfunctions to work through and so many other obstacles to overcome. 

How do we learn to steer through these things?  It all begins with some self examination.  Write out your values and things that you want to live up to.  Possibly specific Bible verses, Boy Scout Laws, leadership lists and other standards of behavior can be a good base for these examinations.  Take these different items and decide daily where you really stand.  Are you living up to your own values?  If you are not that is where you need to start.  Truth is that too many people claim to be Christians but don’t live up to the standards that God sets for us.  Yes it is true that Grace covers over our sins and it gets us to Heaven.  However, to live an abundant life and to demonstrate our love for God we need to do the best that we can.  It is also true that raising the standard gives us an opportunity to talk about God.  When I was in the Army I was convicted that I should not partake in alcoholic beverages.  This would cause many conversations that would easily lead to opportunities to witness as other soldiers would ask why I was not drinking.  All convictions can work that way.  Why do you not go see the pornographic movies, why do you go to church, etc.  We get to share our faith with others every time we hold to convictions.  But first we must decide what we really believe.  This week I would like to give you a basic example.  When you wake up or before you go to bed you pull out your list of standards that you are determined to live by.  On my list are the Boy Scout laws.  I learned long ago that I don’t have time to do all of them in one sitting.  If I try to do so I rush through them and the examination is not very well done.  So I take four a day for three days and then move onto other items that I use for evaluation, like the ten commandments, the beatitudes and military leadership traits. 

So today I am starting with A Scout is trustworthy.  I simply consider, “Have I been trustworthy this week?”  I replay in my mind all of the opportunities that I have had this week to display this trait.  “How am I doing?”  It is critical that I am honest and holistic.  Maybe I was trustworthy at work but not at home.  Consider how you can make that better in the weeks to come and write out your evaluation and any resolutions for change that you need to make.  You would then move on to A Scout is loyal.  Same thing there.  This typically takes less than 10 minutes and gives you concrete things to help you grow. 

Knowing where we stand on our own values is a great place to start on learning to steer through the dangers of our modern world.

Quest to Rescue the Addicted

Quest to Rescue the Addicted Part 15

Learning to Steer

Bruce woke up with a start and for a moment he could not remember where he was or how he got there.  Suddenly he remembered Michelle and looked around for her.  He must have been high because the house was not that large but it took him 30 minutes to find her.  When he did he felt excited over the sight of this beautiful young lady.  Then he saw the bottle and rescued it from her hand and took a deep drink.  He didn’t want to wake her up so he carefully made his way through the rubble to what must have been a bedroom.  Bruce took another drink and looked through a closet of wet, damp clothes. He was not really sure what he was looking for but he felt there was something that he simply had to find.  He felt like he had lost something in that closet.  A sound from the back door startled him and he stepped into the closet and pulled the door shut.

    Fredrick woke up if you can call it that.  Really he felt as if he had not slept a wink.   Loud snoring came from someplace in the dorm.  Several guys were moving around trying to be respectfully quiet and get ready for the day.  A couple of other guys were getting ready for the day but were obviously not trying to keep it quiet.  In the dim light, Fredrick saw someone sitting on their bunk, reading a Bible.  He remembered seeing his dad sitting in a chair reading the same way.  Not really reading as much as studying and trying to digest the words.  Fredrick marveled at the memory that had been buried for so long.  Before he realized it he was crying.  “But why?”

Angie was driving well below the speed limit this morning but not because of the ticket from yesterday; but because of the bumper to bumper traffic. “Where are all of these people going?  Is there some sort of evacuation that nobody told me about?”  She continued to move inches and feet at a time.  Up ahead she could see an exit ramp and carefully mapped out in her head an alternative route to work.  It would be a little tricky but she felt that this new route would get her around the construction that she could see up ahead.  With any luck the new route would get her to work on time.

Joanne woke up with grass in her mouth.  She looked over the marker in front of her and read her mother’s name several times.  The dates really struck her.  She did the math in her head, “Twenty-six years old.”  Joanne shook her head. “Mom, why?”  She began pacing now, rubbing her hands together. “Beloved mother and wife.  Didn’t you know that we loved you?  Why did you kill yourself?  I would have behaved better.  I promise I would have.  I’ll clean my room.  I’ll do the dishes.  I’m sorry mom.”  Silence filled the cemetery that was now covered in early morning light.  The sky was clear.  Joanne touched the headstone and then saw an envelope taped to the marker with her name on it.  The letters were a bit smeared from the rain, but that was definitely her name.  She could hardly breathe.

    Sarah began the day as she had for the past several weeks.  She pulled out her Bible and her notebook.  She reviewed her plans and dreams and then prayed.  She prayed for the world.  She prayed for her pastor.  She prayed energetically for the Freedom Club and specifically Mike.  She prayed for Michelle.  As she did so tears filled her eyes.  “Do whatever it takes to set her free.”  Sarah paused and thought about what she had just said, “Just don’t hurt her too bad.”   She then thought some more, “Do what You need to do, Father.  I don’t want to see her hurt but do what must be done.”

    Bruce wished that he could see what was going on.  It sounded like someone was kicking in the back door.  It also sounded like someone was coming in the front door.  But the sounds were muffled and he could not make any sense of it.  Maybe if he was clean and sober he could have made out the shouts and orders of the police that were coming through the doors and questioning Michelle.  Bruce sat back in the closet and tried not to breathe.  As he made himself small he found an old leather book.  Instinctively he grabbed the book and clutched it.  Now he could hear movement in the room outside of the closet.  A man was speaking but Bruce’s mind could make no sense of the words.  He started crying.  When the door opened he screamed and then passed out.

   In the bathroom of the Gospel Rescue Mission, Roger straightened out his tie and checked himself out.  His job at the hotel was a real blessing.  While others were struggling getting by on minimum wage jobs or struggling to even find a job; he was earning good money at the front desk.  If he played his cards right in a few months he would be a manager and the possibilities were endless.  He resolved not to forget the men that had encouraged him here.  He made his way down the hall to the dining room for some coffee and breakfast before he made his way across town.

    Rosie was enjoying the week.  Several times she had stopped by to see Fredrick and had some pleasant conversations and met some of his new friends.  She had seen Roger one day; but tried not to look at him.  She was afraid that he would be embarrassed, or was it because she was embarrassed.  Rosie just wasn’t sure.  She enjoyed the meals and liked seeing her husband sober.  He had attended a couple of recovery services and they seemed to give him some clarity. 

    Mike was surprised earlier in the week when he ran into Sarah in the courtroom.  They sat together but didn’t say anything.  They both knew why they were there.  While guilt was there, they both felt relieved that they knew where their children were.  While they were tempted to bail them out, they kept each other strong and let the two pay the price for their choices.  After court was over they silently sat in the diner and drank coffee.  Being present was enough.  They both had a ton of questions.  But they knew there were no good answers so they chose to simply be together.  After they prayed together they both said that they would see each other the next day at Freedom Club and departed.  The separation felt awkward but they didn’t know why.

    Joanne had been staying at Gospel Rescue Mission now for a couple of days.  She mostly kept to herself and talked with staff only.  Every day she would read over the wet note and try to make sense of it. All that she could clearly read was that the note was from her dad.  She had no idea where he was, but for the first time in years she wanted to be with him.  Several times she had tried to call him, but when she finally got the call to go through some stranger had answered the phone.  She knew that he had sold their home and was out there somewhere.  Maybe he was looking for her too?  The thought made her smile.

Mike prepared for the Freedom club message diligently that week.   Now that he knew where Bruce was, he felt better able to focus.  As he prayed he felt the Holy Spirit comforting him and touching his thought life.  When he completed his preparation he sat back in his recliner and thought, “This is going to upset some people.  But if this is what you want me to say, then so be it.”  With that Mike took a deep breath and turned on the television.

Mike, Rosie and Sarah decided to have dinner before Freedom Club.  Rosie shared the excitement of seeing her husband doing so well.  He was closer to being the man that she had married.  She was still a bit cautious and made sure that her friends knew that she was not rushing into anything.  “She raved about the recovery groups and the life changing courses that Fredrick was taking.  I think they really have a cure of this disease.”

“What disease is that, Rosie.”

“Well, you know.  Addiction.”

Mike took a breath and sipped his sweet tea.  He casually looked around. 

“I don’t really see addiction as a disease.  I know that many will compare it to diseases like heart failure or diabetes.  They make the point that nobody chooses to be an addict.  That is all well and true.  Up to a certain point they are correct.  For a long time I went along with that sort of thinking.  But one day as I was praying and reading my Bible I began to see similarities between addiction and idol worship. “

Quest to Rescue the Addicted

Quest to Rescue the Addicted Part 14

     Roger sat down and rubbed some tiredness from his face.  Every muscle in his body felt tense.  He rubbed his forehead as if somehow that would relieve the tension.  He let out a deep breath.  He had only caught the last words of Santa’s first point but he liked that thought, “To be fully alive!”  He would need to get the notes to learn more.

“In order to hear your soul’s whisper you will need to put down the electronics.  We are a culture that has become addicted to technology.  There is a deep desire to be in constant contact with people that we love and even those that we don’t really care about.  When was the last time that the fact that a missed Facebook post ruined your life?  If the news story is worthwhile, they will play it multiple times later.  Usually the later editions will have more accurate information.  Who cares if you missed the first twelve hours of speculation and rumor?  When someone calls, if it is important they will leave a message.  Somehow that beeping or vibrating leash in your pocket has become the master and we have become its slave.  Today is your day of freedom.  With all of those calls and messages coming at you at the speed of sound and light, how are you supposed to hear your soul’s whisper?  Leave the manacle on your desk and walk away.  Yes, it will call to you.”

Several people took a moment to check their phones to make sure that the ringer was off.

  “Your very being will feel like you are missing something.  But it is lying to you.  After a few short hours away from the masters whip you will sense your freedom.  In the silence you will suddenly hear a voice speaking to you.  This is your true self, the person that you were meant to be, and the one that can impact the nation.  A slave that remains a slave to this world cannot change the world.

To hear your soul’s whisper you also need to build your faith.  When words like “soul” come up thoughts most often turn toward religion and churches.  Buildings and systems in themselves can do nothing to help you hear the whisper of your soul.  However, they can provide an atmosphere that will enable you to come in contact with your faith.  Believe deeply and allow the Holy Spirit’s teaching to immerse you into thinking and thoughts that are contrary to your own nature.  Our own nature often leads us in ways that are not in our best interest.  In faith we can grow and become more.  Read the Bible, read about saints and heroes of the faith.  Hear from the ancients how to live.  Dig deep and invest in your future.  Your soul is trying to speak to you even right now.  Will you listen to that call?”

Sarah reluctantly raised her hand.  She hated to interrupt but she felt overwhelmed with emotion. “Today my daughter ran away from her community service team.  I don’t know when and if this trial will ever end.  Coming here the past several weeks and getting to know each of you has been such a blessing and I honestly felt the faith of my childhood returning but what do I do now? I am ready to simply give up on Michelle and really give up on God. Even He can’t save her.”  Sarah broke down in tears.  Angie put her arms around Sarah and let her cry.  

“Sarah, that actually leads me to the next tip on hearing your soul’s whisper.  Don’t give up but choose to enjoy the storm.  When I was in Junior High School my town was rocked by a tornado.  I remember after the storm seeing the neighbor’s fence stuck in the side of my house.  Across the street the attic of the old farmer’s house was now in his front yard.  All up and down the street there was damage.  Strangely, though what I remember most was the moments immediately after the storm.  The storm had been loud, scary and uncertain. When the sirens stopped we went outside to see a clear sky with more brilliance than I had ever witnessed in my life.  Nobody had power so there were no lights on anywhere.  The clear night sky was beautifully arrayed with stars.  My entire neighborhood survived the storm.  However, we were not all the same people.  The storm changed us.  Suddenly it was more important to visit with the guy living next door than to watch television news.  Old feuds disappeared and we actually learned the names of neighbors that we had previously only seen in passing.  The storm helped us to focus on what was really important.  Memories will last longer than stuff.  Friends will attend your funeral, not your new car or even your home.  The storm caused us to get to know each other.  The people of that season and place, connected at a soul level that is almost indescribable.  We all heard our soul’s whisper and were better because of it.  I know that it doesn’t feel that way right now and nothing that I can say or do will help you to feel that way.  I only ask you to remember this when the sirens stop blaring.”

Sarah gathered herself together.  She wondered what good could come out of this situation.  Her imagination pictured a trip to the morgue to confirm her daughter’s body.  She wept silently at the image.  As she stood looking at her daughter’s dead body she noticed a tattoo.  Sarah tried to remember if Michelle really had a tattoo like that or not.  Moving the sleeve of the young woman she saw clearly the words “Hope”.  Sarah felt life return to her.  Suddenly she realized that she was still at the Freedom club and had missed the final tip that Santa was offering.  

“My final tip to hear your soul’s whisper is to become the storm.  Fear often keeps us from rocking the boat.  Consider though that when the boat gets rocked there is an adventure waiting to happen.  Stories will be told.  When my kids were small we went on a float trip on an early spring morning.  We had taken countless trips but this one was memorable.  Everyone got settled into the canoe.  Three kids, two adults ready to experience nature and adventure.  Less than ten minutes into the trip the canoe got turned sideways and dumped us all out into the cold river.  After I came out of the water I looked desperately for my children.  My wife was holding onto the youngest.  The other two were swimming toward the shore.  I went to them and ensured they were all ok.  My oldest daughter had rescued her water bottle by tying it to her life jacket.  The youngest gave his mother credit for saving his life and the middle child was laughing as he got to a spot where he could stand up.  We all survived.  Even today, many years later we still laugh about our shortest canoe trip.  That day we simply enjoyed being together.  If something natural does not happen and you really want to hear your soul’s whisper; become the storm.  Challenge the status quo and experience the adventure.  Yes, you might get hurt or worse.  But you will know that you are really living according to the real you.

‘All men die, but not all men truly live,’ said William Wallace 

Your soul is in color and filled with life.  What are you doing living in gray and death?  When you take the time to listen to your soul’s whisper you will discover more than you ever knew.  You will discover the true you.  This is who you were designed to be by your Creator.  The world needs more people who are fully alive.  Will you join us in the world of the living?”

Roger quietly left as the others cleaned up and chatted sleepily.  On the way back to Gospel Rescue Mission, Roger picked up a stick and mindlessly swung it around and thought about his day.  More bill collectors were calling.  Soon he would have no choice but to give up the search.  His heart was heavy.  How would he ever learn to steer through the rest of his life without his daughter?  How can he avoid all of the problems that were now a part of his life?  He was already living in a homeless shelter and struggling to somehow get her bills paid off as well as his own.  Throwing the stick to the ground he walked briskly home.

Darkness was creeping is as Joannie jumped the low wall at the cemetery.  She was pretty sure that it was illegal to be there.  But she wanted to spend the night near her mother.  For the first time in years her mind was clear enough to remember where the grave was.  Carefully, Joannie made her way through the monuments and stones.  Along the way she avoided anything that looked life freshly dug ground.  After several minutes she recognized a tree and knew right where she was and moved toward the marker that she knew was her mom’s.  Joanne pulled her jacket tight around her and laid down on the wet ground, tears streaming down her face.  Soon she was asleep.

Having avoided any interaction with public officials of any type Bruce and Michelle quietly made their way through a back yard that was littered with garbage.  Looking up and down the street, Bruce pulled open a screen door and then pushed hard on the backdoor.  Soon they were both inside.  Michelle gagged a little bit at the smell.  Obviously the plumbing did not work in this place.  In a back corner she found some clothing that while not exactly clean nor fashionable but they were better than what she otherwise had available.  Bruce moved a heavy stone to prevent anyone else from coming in that door.  Moving gingerly through the house he found a mattress and laid down.  While he had not really felt tired earlier he quickly fell asleep.

Michelle found a bottle of some sort of liquor.  The bottle was worn but the liquid inside looked ok even though she didn’t know what it was.  She took a drink and smiled.  Warmth filled her insides.  A great sense of freedom filled her with joy.  She fell asleep laying against what must have been a bunch of couch cushions, the bottle still in her hand.

Rosie returned home.  There were no lights on.  She noticed a note taped to the door.  Trembling as she recognized the handwriting she put the paper in her mouth as she unlocked the door and went inside.  Sitting on sofa, reading the note she smiled and laid back full of excitement. 

Quest to Rescue the Addicted

Quest to Rescue the Addicted Part 13

Sarah held her breath when she saw the two police officers standing there.  She thought that she should invite them in but fear captured her every thought.  “Something is wrong.  Why are they here?”  Getting a firm hold on her thoughts, Sarah moved to the side and invited them in.  In a high state of alertness they seemed to survey the entire room.  One stood by the door and the other was looking around.  The officer by the door did all of the talking.  “Have you seen your daughter today?”  Sarah took a deep breath.  “No.  I thought that you had her.”  “She escaped this afternoon from Community Service.  We thought maybe she would come here.”  “I promise you that if she shows up I will call you.”  The officers seemed to notice that there was not much furniture in the apartment.   

The officer watched Sarah intently and instantly understood the situation.  He knew that this was a woman that was hurting for someone in addiction.   “I really don’t have much left.  She knows that I love her but that she needs to get clean before I will give her anything else.”  The officer nodded and patted her gently on the shoulder.  “Thank you mam.”  They left.  Sarah watched the door shut and sat on the couch to cry.

 Angie came running into the meeting room and looked around.  She saw Santa and smiled and then noticed Rosie looking a bit downcast and decided that she would sit with her this evening.  She had expected to see Sarah and was surprised that she had not arrived yet.  It was almost meeting time.  Roger stirred his coffee and simply sat quietly next to Rosie. 

Mike made his way up to the lectern and began with the 23rd Psalm.  Then he cleared his throat and prayed for everyone.  He could sense that the mood was somber and he was not sure what to do with that so he just went on with the lesson that he had in mind.

“A couple of weeks ago I began a lesson from Genesis 19.  We had left Lot there in the city gate.  Lot is humble he meets the angels there at the city gate.  He is very submissive and offers to wash their feet and feed them well.  Of course he does not really know that these are angels so this is his real heart.  He invites them into his home and expects nothing in return.  This idea of hospitality in the Middle East can be a fascinating study all in its own.  We can learn from other from them and other cultures and apply it to our lives.  The idea of serving others seems to be lacking in our community in many cases. What would it look like for us to purposely serve other people and expect nothing in return?”  Most in the room nodded in understanding.  Sarah walked in quietly and sat down next to Angie.  She looked at Mike and said that she was sorry with her eyes.

“Lot brings them into his home to care for them.  But notice where he is now in the story,  He is in the midst of the city.  We become like the people we hang around with.  Lot is surrounded by scoundrels.   The city if filled with immorality and sin.  The people that we love and care about will slowly become like the people that they hang out with.  Many think that when they get clean and sober that they can simply hang out with the same friends and stay sober.  Rarely does that work out.  Later in the Genesis 19 we see Lot’s wife looking back longingly and is turned into a pillar of salt.  Somehow our mind is able to forget the pain of addiction and only remembers the positive.  Unfortunately, the positive actually never happened.  The positive is actually the illusion of what the next high will be like.  Those in addiction remember their drug fantasy as reality.  They somehow forget the damaged lives, the lost jobs and jail time associated with their crimes.  Even after many years of sobriety those that have been cured of their addiction can look back and miss the good old days.  This is why many teach that once an addict always an addict sort of thought.  I don’t believe that.  I totally believe that you can be cured.  All sin has an illusion of fun and blessing but like addiction it is a lie.  We can be set free.  In fact that is what Jesus came to do.  Teaching anything different is discounting the power of God.  Because Lot had acclimated his wife and family to sin, she looked to go back to it.

A short time later in the story, Lot sleeps with his daughters and produces offspring.  Lot is infected with sin and it all started with failing to stop and seek God.  The two nations that resulted from this relationship present consistent troubles for the nation of Israel.  Sin is never about one person.  Many claim freedom, as long as it does not hurt anyone.  All sin hurts multiple people.  Look at the commandments.  It would be impossible to break even one of those without hurting other people.  When Lot was in the valley life was good and prosperous.  Fear drove him into the city instead of to God.  Imagine the trouble he could have saved himself and the future nation of Israel if only he would have stopped when he felt the fear building, built and altar and sought God.  I think there is an important lesson to be learned there.”

   There was much soul searching going on.  The room felt heavy and nobody really seemed ready to speak or move. 

After a short prayer the large group broke down into smaller groups.  Suddenly the room came alive.  There was much animation as they all discussed events of their week.  Soon Angie and Sarah were sitting in Santa’s class.  Rosie had decided to go home.  Roger was talking on the phone.

“My lesson tonight could be called, ‘How to listen to your soul’s whisper’

We live in a very loud world.  Billboards scream at us as we drive down the freeways.  Radio, social media, television and movies all demand our attention and loyalty.  Then you add in peer pressure, family pressure, and employer pressure and suddenly your soul is in the midst of a storm.  Where can you find peace?  Not simply external peace but true from the bottom of your very being peace.  Tonight I want to share some tips with you on how to find this peace.  Of course all true peace begins with a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Other things that bring you peace are only temporary.”

Many notebooks were pulled out and pens were scribbling.

“It starts with a wilderness experience.  There is something healing that happens to the soul when you get out of the public and into nature.  This could be woods, a beach or a mountain.  Look at majestic scenes and allow yourself to dream and imagine a life of peace.  For those more daring and willing to allow their soul to really live give this experience enough time to work its power.  Walk through the woods and spend the night among the critters and creation.  Breathe in the fresh air and allow your mind to simply rest.  Watch the squirrels play.  Observe animals in their natural habitat.  See life lived simply for the moment to moment experience of life.  Literally stop and smell flowers and go out on a quest for greater and more spectacular views.  I remember being in Los Angeles on the beach late one night.  Looking out across the ocean, I actually forgot about the city and all of its noise just behind me.  I could sense my purpose and felt fully alive.”

Quest to Rescue the Addicted

Quest to Rescue the Addicted Part 12

The quiet in the house was starting to get to Rosie.  Fixing lunch she thought about Fredrick and all they had experienced together.  She laughed as she remembered all of the mishaps around the circus.  Fredrick had always been able to stay so calm, even when things would go wrong.  Rosie picked at her food.  She remembered sitting with him around a small campfire.  The crowds had all gone away and it was just the two of them, sitting close and just enjoying the peace.  They dreamed of running away from the circus but wondered what else they could do.  Most of these circus skills did not really transfer to the real world very easily.  But still they dreamed of living a more stable life, having a couple of kids and someday sitting on a porch swing.  Rosie wondered if that would ever happen.

Rain started to fall, slowly at first, but soon was coming down hard.  Joannie ran under the pavilion at the park to find some shelter.  Her dirty blonde hair was soaked.  She shook herself a bit like a dog and sent out a few curses as she shook out her coat and pulled out a cigarette.  She took a deep drag and only then noticed that there were three or four other people sitting around on assorted tables also trying to stay dry.  She slowly inhaled the smoke and tried to remember how she had gotten here. 

The entire work crew was pretty excited when they saw the rain and figured that they would be given a few hours of service for nothing.   That is until the community service van pulled into the library.  “We are going to clean the library today,” smiled the supervisor.  “Well at least we will be dry,” a voice from the back of the van had thrown out.  As the eleven men and women made their way out of the van, Michelle noticed her boyfriend inside the foyer.  She had to be careful but she wanted to talk with him.  Jail had made her feel so lonely.  Certainly she could get a moment with him.  As the group moved quickly in the door, Michelle looked around but could not see him.  “Was I imagining things?”  They were given assignments and set out to work.  Michelle felt self conscious in the orange jumpsuit but was determined to do her work and set aside her discomfort. 

Bruce looked around carefully and tried to line himself up on a bookshelf so that he could not be seen down the aisle.  He shook a cigarette out and lit it and instantly felt a sense of relief and joy as the smoke filled his lungs.  He was living in revelry in the moment when he felt a strong hand grab his neck.  He felt his head turned against his will by the enormous black man.  “I have already told you that you cannot smoke here,” the librarian said strongly and forcefully.  “You will need to leave now.”  Bruce decided that it was not worth making a big deal about since they would forget that they banned him by the next day.  He noticed the community service workers and smiled at a young lady he had never seen before.  Her dark hair and deep eyes made her look like how he always imagined Cleopatra to look.  He liked the way that the orange jump suit seemed to make all of the rest of her features glow.  Now he wished that he did not have to leave, but oh well. 

Michelle watched Bruce being escorted out and she wondered what one did to be thrown out of a library?  “But he is cute,” Michelle whispered as she returned to her work cleaning off tables and putting books on the cart.  Then she noticed a jacket on the chair.  She looked around to see if the owner was anywhere to be seen.  The jacket was a little dirty on the outside and had a definite smell.  Tobacco definitely, a little bit of cologne and was that weed she smelled?  In that moment, Michelle had an idea.  Grabbing the coat she made her way to a back room where she removed the jump suit and put the coat on.  The coat was long enough to cover her.  She pulled the hood of the jacket over her head and made her way back out into the library.

Bruce was distracted as he walked through the rain wondering where he should go and what he should do.  The only dry place that he could think of where he would not be hassled was the park and he always had good friends that hung out there so he headed in that direction.

Joannie sat on a table by herself.  The boys at the other table were telling stories and laughing.  They were obviously being crude but that never did bother her.  Still she hoped that they would not notice her.  She really just felt like she wanted to be alone.  As Joannie lit another cigarette she noticed another boy join the crowd.  He seemed to notice her as he lit a cigarette and then was telling them a story that made them all laugh.

Rosie was cleaning up her dishes when she heard the door open.  She closed her eyes and said a small prayer, and then continued doing the dishes not wanting to turn around when she heard footsteps walk into the kitchen and stop.  Slowly, she turned around and gasped.

Mike finished his work around the church and decided to go out for a quick bite to eat before the meeting.  The rain was letting up a bit but it was still drizzling.  Mike walked to his favorite little diner and pulled up his standard booth where he could look out the window.  Quickly the waitress brought him a glass of water and after confirming that he was having his usual disappeared.  Mike looked out the window.  His attention was drawn to what looked like a young woman wearing Bruce’s coat.  Deciding that it could not possibly be Bruce’s coat he stared at the water and then took a sip.  Soon his meal was before him and he prayed.  He prayed for the meal and for Bruce.  Most of the diner was empty and Mike was happy for the quiet.

Sarah finished her work day and sighed before she left.  It looked like it had stopped raining and Sarah felt a wave of relief over not needing to get wet.  Her plan was to go home, catch a quick bite to eat and get to Freedom Club.  She really did not want to be late and hoped that the traffic would be clear for her to make it home quickly.  With the wet roads an easy trip home was out of the question.  It seems like people simply don’t know how to drive in adverse conditions.  Sarah felt frustrated and very tense when she finally walked through the door.  Her only thought was the hope that there was something to eat in the fridge.  As she surveyed the interior of the fridge she heard her phone chirp.  Not finding anything any way she made her way to the counter and looked at her phone.  She did not recognize the number but decided to pick it up anyway.  “Oh hi Angie.  What’s going on?”  There was a long pause as Angie told all about her day.  “Yes I am planning on going.  Just hoping to eat something first.”  Another pause and then Sarah hung up.  She remembered the can of soup in the cabinet and decided that was what was for dinner. 

Fredrick stood tall in the kitchen in the full regalia of his ringmaster costume.  In his hands were a dozen roses and an exceptionally large box of chocolates.  “Rosie I have been a fool.”  Rosie stood staring.  He looked younger.  He was sober.  She wanted to believe but she also knew that her plumpness was the result of these boxes of chocolates.  Forgiveness had been given too many times.  “Last night I was too drunk and did not wish to see you in such an embarrassing situation.  I will be different.  I promise.”  Rosie had heard all of that before.  Fredrick stood waiting for a response.  Rosie took a breath.  “Sit down and I will get you a cup of coffee.”  Fredrick moved to hug her but she avoided his embrace. “Sit down.”  Rosie pulled a chair out.  Fredrick sat the roses and chocolate on the counter and complied.  The silence was heavy as Rosie made the coffee. 

At the park the pavilion was filling up quickly.  It was almost like someone had planned a party and invited all of those that are homeless and addicted.  The voices were rowdy and there was much laughter.  Joannie thought about joining in with the fun.  A couple of the boys seemed interesting but she was simply not in the mood.  For the first time in a very long while she felt she was in her right mind.  “These people will only get me into trouble,” she thought.   Noticing the rain had mostly quit, she grabbed her bags and took off for the cemetery.  Joannie really loved the cemetery on a stormy day.  She could not explain why but she had always been fascinated with death.  Even before her mother had died she liked to wear black and most of her jewelry included skulls and crossbones. 

The soup was starting to make the house smell good. “If only I had some rolls to go with this soup.”  Sarah was just about to start eating when there was a knock on the door.  “Never fails.”  She looked at the soup longingly and went to open the door.

Michelle could hear the voices long before she got to the pavilion.  Some of the voices were recognizable.  None of them belonged to her boyfriend.  “Where was that guy?”  Stealthily, Michelle tried to mix in.  With a little bit of anxiety she suddenly remembered that she as not really dressed for a party.  “Hey, that’s my coat.”  Michelle could not see where the voice was coming from but somehow knew that it was being directed at her. 

Barely controlling the shaking in her hands, Rosie poured the coffee and brought over two cups.  Setting one in front of Fredrick she sat down.  “Look we only have about an hour before I have to leave for a meeting. So you need to listen carefully.”  Fredrick looked stunned.  “I love you.  I know that you are better than you have shown yourself to be lately.”  Rosie paused to gather her thoughts.  “I still believe that you are the man of my dreams, but lately you have been a nightmare.” Rosie again paused.  “Thank you for the flowers and the chocolates.  But they will not work this time.  You need to leave.  I know that this is tough.  But you will need to start treatment and get some clean time under your belt.  Then we can start talking about getting back together.”  Fredrick smiled. “Rosie you can’t mean it. Where would I go?”   “Ah but I do mean it this time.  I want the man that I married, not this abusive and addicted man that I have been living with for the past several years.”  “I promise, Rosie,  never another drop.” “Then it should be easy for you to prove.”  “Where can I go?”  “You can stay at the mission.  They won’t even let you stay there if you have been drinking.  If you can make it there for three months…”  Rosie paused. “We can talk about you moving back home.”  Anger flashed through Fredrick’s eyes.  Rosie calmly stood up and moved toward the back door.  Fredrick jumped to his feet and started to move toward Rosie until he noticed the knife in her hand.  Looking at the floor, Fredrick whispered, “I’ll do it.”  Rosie wept as she heard the front door shut and the car start up. 

Bruce moved over next to Michelle and eyed his coat.  “It’s you!”  “It’s you!” She repeated back.  They looked at each other as if they were long term friends.  “We should get out of here.”  Michelle agreed suddenly thinking that this is the first place that the police would look for her.  “Where should we go?  “I know an abandoned house over near the mall.  “Sounds good, “ Michelle said quickly.  The two took off across the park.  Seeing a police car Michelle pulled her hood over her face.  Bruce noticed but said nothing.