Joy In The Morning

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Dedicated to you, whose parents have abandoned you in many ways at a young age due to drugs, alcohol and abuse.

Psalm 27:9-11

“Do not hide Your face from me, Do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; Do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation! For my father and my mother have forsaken me, But the LORD will take me up. Teach me Your way, O LORD, And lead me in a level path because of my foes.”

 It is not easy for many to comprehend what it would be like to grow up in a home where there is chaos continually – where chaos could look like having some supervision to a small child crawling on the floor through trash and animal feces while the parents cook meth.

More and more, I am seeing clients who at a very young age have consciously chosen not to live in the drug culture like their parents and other family members. They grow up with a feeling of abandonment. As they tell their life stories of neglect and abuse, I am always amazed at how they could have turned out the way they have.   The scenario is quite similar in many of these cases. The mother is addicted at an early age to drugs or alcohol. In an impaired condition, she gets pregnant and tries to raise the child herself on state welfare. Her life is filled with a long string of drug dealers, abusive relationships with boyfriends and other addicts who are in and out of her life using her resources. Her encounters with the law and Children’s Division take their toll on this family. Most often there is more than one child growing up unattended and unprotected from predators attracted to this chaotic free-for-all.

These children have grown up being the parent. When they are finally able to leave and become independent, they are faced with controlling contact with this toxic family network and going on with their lives. They must be especially vigilant where their children are concerned to work hard not to expose them to family members who would endanger them in risky situations if given the opportunity. A high percentage of them are vulnerable in that they are ever seeking reunification and healing for that broken relationship like it’s a hole they are trying to fill. Some individuals suffer from post traumatic stress disorder – PTSD. This can be due to alarming experiences as children. More than 50% of the female clients I have worked with were molested as children. The chaos in their homes was a prime source of dysfunction resulting in the violation of innocence. Low self-image and disrespect is common and can easily perpetuate dysfunction into the next generation. Many of the children living in these situations are addicted at an early age when they are least qualified to make that decision and recklessly blow through their chances of a normal drug-free life. That is why the child who can stay free of it into adulthood is exceptionally rare.

At the time of the writing of the 27th Psalm, this issue of being forsaken by your parents evidently had similarities on some level to today. The Scriptures also relate the opposite end of the spectrum in the story of the Prodigal Son who was loved by his father but chose to go out in the world and live life in a faster lane and came home after he was homeless and had lost everything. But in this case, the parent welcomed him with open arms and had a great feast in his honor.

One day, as I was driving home, I saw a large homemade sign posted at the end of a driveway. The lettering was boldly scrawled in red “YOU ARE LOVED PLEASE COME HOME.” I turned around and went back to take a picture as it was so unique. One could only imagine what led up to this sign and to whom it was directed – a runaway child, spouse, or significant other. To the child from a home without love and even human regard, this would be a most welcome sign finally beginning to fill that deep hole.

Jesus Christ understands what it means to be forsaken by His father. In the moment when He had taken all of our sins upon Himself, I believe He was shut out from His Father’s presence because He was in a place, even if only briefly, where God wouldn’t go. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice saying . . .My God, My God, why has thou forsaken Me?” Matthew 27:46KJV 

This is the bitter cup, He wanted to avoid. “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me;” Luke 22:42

Being shut out from His Father‘s presence was the most bitter cup of all. He could hardly bear it even for a short time but He went to the cross willingly for us knowing that when He did He would go through that experience of alienation and abandonment from God caused by our sin – the condition of the world before Christ. He knows the pain that comes with that in the human experience even though He, like you as a child, was innocent – without sin. You had every right to be cherished by healthy, mature parents, protecting you and fully engaged in your life. 

In Isaiah 49:15 another reference is made to a woman forgetting her sucking child or not having compassion on the son of her womb, but again the reinforcing statement as in Psalm 27, that the Lord will not forget you. “Behold, I have engraven thee upon the palms of My hands.” The nail holes that Christ carries are the marks He bears for His act of love for you.

Psalm 30:5 KJV “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

He will bring you joy in the morning. He will take you up and comfort you when you feel forsaken. His sacrifice restored us to our heavenly Father.

To members of our community, who for the most part are blessed to be out of touch with the direct negative effects of the drug culture, we cannot avoid being made aware of its devastating impact on families. Joy can and should come through us to others who feel alienated by the ravaging effects of drugs, alcohol and abuse. Imagine this sign in the driveway of every family who needs healing reunification where there has been abandonment due to drugs, alcohol and abuse – a very good place to start.

You are Loved jul 2012

Scriptures for Your Meditation on Joy:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV).

“ In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” 1 Peter 1:6 NIV

10 Let those who love the Lord hate evil,
for he guards the lives of his faithful ones
and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light shines on the righteous
and joy on the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous,
and praise his holy name.
Psalm 97:10-12 (NIV)

“For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me.” – Psalm 27:5-7 (NIV).

”Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. . .” – Luke 6:22-23 (NIV)

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” – Psalm 16:11 (NIV)

“Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. For the Lord Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth. He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet.” – Psalm 47:1-3 (NIV)

“My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you— I whom you have delivered.” – Psalm 71:23 (NIV)

“For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord; I sing for joy at what your hands have done. How great are your works, Lord, how profound your thoughts!” – Psalm 92:4-5 (NIV)

 

Awakening

107286-555x488-YinYang6In the life that I have experienced, joy and sorrow can come at the same time just like the yin and yang of the Taijitu symbol in Chinese philosophy.

Yin and yang is used to describe how opposite or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world; and, how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Many natural dualities (such as light and dark, high and low, hot and cold) are thought of as physical manifestations of the yin-yang concept. The concept lies at the origins of many branches of classical Chinese science and philosophy. Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary instead of opposing forces interacting to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the parts. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, for instance shadow cannot exist without light. (Wikipedia online)

A disciple of Jesus Christ, Apostle Paul, described the same Christian principle in this way: II Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I will call her Grace. When someone is describing their life to you in tears of both joy and sorrow about not knowing real familial love and then finding it at their lowest point you listen in earnest because she has had divine intervention in her life, an awakening.   Grace’s lowest point came when everything that defined who she was had slipped away and was under the control of the ones she no longer trusted. This was her yin and yang moment – the light and shadow, fire and water, joy and sorrow, life and death moment of awareness. I was sitting across the table from someone who once was dead and now – alive – her tears, a form of baptism in entering a new life.

A few years earlier at our first meeting, she described a life without a childhood, a life of trying to parent siblings only a few years younger to keep them in school and out of trouble.   Her life started in rocky circumstances, born into the chaos of drugs and a long string of stepfathers. She talked about the adults who knew the abusive lifestyle in which the children of this family were living but who did nothing. She described social services representatives who looked the other way. She was in and out of hospital care with broken bones due to the condition she was born with caused by drug abuse. She got pregnant at 15 by the son of a family friend who lived with them. They had slept together due to cramped quarters since they were children.

She was in a leg splint recuperating from a broken leg. She was told that next time she would most likely lose her leg. She was raising her child and attending college online and trying to make her life better. I remember how impressed I was with her intelligence and will to succeed.

Today, two years later, even that was renewed and stronger than ever coupled with nosedives to the bottom describing her struggle to stay clean from drugs and the devastating fact that her children were no longer in her care. Grace talked about the journey she had had with alcohol addiction and now hardcore drugs and trying to get through life daily under her own steam toughing it out – the only way she had learned to survive each hellish day.

I have heard the stories from many young women looking for love in all the wrong places as the saying goes and getting burned again and again but this time for her it was different. Grace was in love with being loved in healthy ways. She was around people who weren’t perfect but were trying to live a clean drug-free life, and who set boundaries on her addiction management and yet loved her unconditionally. Now, for the first time, she had her village. Her partner sees her as a beautiful person. He wasn’t trying to exploit her in any way.   This was the joy that ran down her cheeks today, at last finding something that felt whole and lasting.

The dark and light in her life, were in a battle together everyday making her feel like they could tear her apart. The yin and yang symbols are held together in a circle which is an actual line not just imagined but visible as it shows up in the light side. It is this circle I believe to be God who I look to at all times to keep my light and dark together as a whole. I hope to lead others to this awareness by seeing that belief in action in my life.

Grace’s greatest challenge was now facing her in her new life. Her parental rights were in question. Her tears of joy and sadness peaked as she was dealing with the reality that she could do nothing at this point. Too much time had been lost in drugged numbness and escape to be able to catch up. Could she let her children go where they would no longer have to experience her present instability or fight for them when she had nothing to fight with at this time? Later, as we rode in the car, I told her the story of King Solomon and the two mothers who came to his court one day. She leaned forward and listened.

.           17 One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.

19 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”

22 The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”

But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.

23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’”

24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”

26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”

But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”

27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”

28 When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice. I Kings 3:16-28 NIV

This story has many of the elements that Grace was dealing with and the most important one was the ”grace of God love” that she and the mother in the story both shared. “Grace of God love” is defined as the love and mercy given to us by God, our Father because he desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it.

This love tirelessly advocates in the most difficult situations. This love makes the hard choices to let go when there is no other way. I have witnessed many times in custody cases where one parent even though they have been the perpetrator of abuse is awarded physical custody because they have the financial resources. Whereas the other parent who has invested a great deal of emotional energy and time in providing loving care will have to accept this decision due to their lack of financial resources. The Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence reports that half of all women and children become homeless while trying to escape abuse situations. Research shows that domestic violence is a risk factor for homelessness and this is especially true for those who are more isolated and have a harder time getting support from family and friends.1

After hearing the story of the two mothers, Grace decided she must be that woman who was the real mother and let her children go until she was able to get her life on track for their sakes.

From her journal: Struggling to Stand Again – “I turned to the people supporting my self-destruction thinking they were my only real friends. .. I asked multiple people sitting in leader seats for direction, advice, help, a chance. I have tried every way I know to show the people of the community that make the big decisions, that have jobs to give that make any difference, that I made a mistake. I own that. But once I was the employee to fight over. I want to be that again.” (End of quote)

. . .we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 NIV

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:14NIV

5 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”. John 1:5 NIV

 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

“Like the rising sun that shines. . . From the darkness comes a light!

I hear Your Voice. . . This is my awakening!” Lyrics from “Awakening” by Hillsongs United

Wherever you see dysfunction in people’s lives, believe me, God is there working to bring Shalom2. If it isn’t visible it’s most likely because not enough of others are helping God to make it happen.

I have been entrusted with the stories of those whose paths have crossed mine. I have been blessed in discovering how powerful the “grace of God love” is in helping someone understand that God encircles their chaos and wants to teach them life’s lessons while under his guidance and protection to bring about their awakening.

John Newton wrote: “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.” 

Our neighbors in our communities have amazing stories of life and near death of the spirit and the watershed moments of enlightenment that brought them into an awareness of God. I believe that it is God’s intention that we come together to listen to and support one another and be strengthened by each other’s story of faith and struggle.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was grace that taught my heart to fear.
And grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far
and grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

                             John Newton 1725-1807

The true stories that are included in Sweetwater Journey are being shared with us by clients of Christos House with their permission that they be presented in a way to teach the readers that there are people who are in difficult circumstances where not having any resources or a support network can make it impossible to overcome. We are honored that they are willing to share their stories to help others with similar issues and to hopefully keep them from making the same mistakes.  

  1. MCADSV “The Basics” Newsletter, February, 2012

    2.  Peace

 

 

A Bittersweet Journey: From Shame to Grace Part Two

guy_02-111 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.

18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

In this reference, the man was living among the dead totally banished from his family and friends, crying out and cutting himself with the stones. Today, the drug culture draws in the lost, the ashamed, the violated, the ones who have tried to navigate their way through predators and parasites who bear the guise of family and friends. The dreams of this young woman to be able to practice in the field in which she had earned certification and raise her children to contribute to society had become to her almost impossible. It is here that the risen Christ who was mocked and humiliated, deserted by all He befriended, beaten and at last killed can enter into this person’s life down here at the bottom in the tombs and attempt to minister to her through the social services, jail personnel and representatives of the court. In this case, I would like to say that has happened but unfortunately for her, it hasn’t. She was told at one point by a representative of the court “I don’t have to listen to you, you’re a meth addict” further destroying her will to clean up her life and start over.

In her compromised state trying to stop the addiction on her own, she sought help with the exhaustive search navigating the system of rehab centers that would admit her but didn’t receive any. Did you know that many drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers have a triage rule that you have to be actively using to get admitted? If you stop the drugs on your own and you are clean while you are on a waiting list to be admitted, you may only be prioritized for admittance if you begin to use again. One rehab hotline representative stated that more and more drug rehab is being provided in a daily outreach program because the facilities are full and the waiting lists are long. But when the courts require that you do inpatient rehab which is at the time of this writing most often the case, the outreach option may not be considered. This representative stated that we need to retrain the justice system.

There are crucial moments in the addict’s life that if appropriate help or just respect for their humanity could be given, the outcome would be far different. Entire generations could be impacted for good if in that moment when the outcome is so crucial; a caring person could be the Christ and offer the living water. Our prisons are filled with victims of lost moments. When we continue to hold to the belief that the prisons are filled with just bad people who deserve to be removed from our communities then nothing will change and we will continue to build more and more prisons.

Jesus specifically commands us to minister to people in prison because He wants us to be a redemptive-minded people like Himself and then it follows that we will grow into His image.

Psalm 17:15 NIV  15” As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.”

Vindicate means to clear, as from an accusation, imputation, suspicion, or the like: to vindicate someone’s honor. to afford justification for; Dictionary.com

My sweetwater journey offers opportunities to give ministry in those moments that are crucial in people’s fragile lives where I can witness with my words and actions or in a respectful silence just listening, that I worship a loving God who brings people back from failure and even the edge of death. It is so rewarding and brings great satisfaction.

“Wrap me in a bolt of lightning, Send me on my way still smiling, Maybe that’s the way I should go, Straight into the mouth of the unknown.” These words are boldly tattooed on the arms of a gifted young woman who looks to us especially those who claim redemption to help her find the Unknown that we know and trust, and share the journey with her.

Jesus told the man, “’Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you’. 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him”. Mark 5:19-20

Members of our communities have stories to share with us about their healing from drug addiction. There are unfortunately many more who are still waiting for that merciful act that will give them another chance. Imagine the incremental changes in our communities as we seek ways to educate ourselves about what we can do or help others to do the hard work of ministering to those lost in the tombs.

And all the people were amazed.” Mark 5:20

 

A Bittersweet Journey: From Shame to Grace Part One

shutterstock_57747313Rising from His seat in the synagogue in Nazareth, His home, Jesus stood to read this most important passage from Isaiah declaring that He was the long-awaited Messiah: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. . .”       Luke 4:18-19 KJV                                                                  

Because of its prophetic importance, this particular reference should always be the starting point for any ministry in Christ’s name. Just recently, I met with a young woman who had all of these conditions. She was poor, brokenhearted, captive, bruised and a little blind to the miracle that she was still alive. It had been nearly a year since I had heard from her. Her story to bring me up to speed on her life was absolutely jarring. Prescription drug abuse and meth had put her in life-threatening situations time after time. She had just turned 21 and already life had been so devastating that she had made multiple suicide attempts but someone was always there to intercede. She related that at one point when she was extremely high on drugs and attempting to end it all the person who intervened beat her unconscious so she couldn’t physically carry out the suicide. She was drawing emotional and financial support from one good friend who had reached out to her in her times of desperation. When she described walking, multiple times 30 miles one way in freezing temperatures to get to court and visitations with her children I asked her why she hadn’t called me. Her answer was that she was too ashamed.

Shame is powerfully destructive in the way that it subtly moves us into position to fail time after time without even a fight. On the levels of consciousness, shame is at the bottom just above death with love, joy and peace at the top. One source that I found described shame as paralleling with banishment. If a person is struggling with shame the drugs help them to temporarily escape as it suppresses these lower emotions. This can cause continued addiction with serious consequences as the will is slowly rendered ineffective.

This young woman had gone through a trial of self-banishment as one by one members of her inner circle, friends and close family members betrayed her and took advantage of every success of self-improvement she was gaining through sheer determination and hard work. When her children, her only joy, were finally taken by social services because she hadn’t taken action in time to protect them in this disintegrating state, it was the final act to dismantle her will to succeed. At the time of this meeting with her, the consequences of her choices in regards to the drugs she chose for escape were bringing her to the point of facing hard prison time. She has given permission for her story to be told in part in this chapter.

As we sat together and talked, I could see there had been a mellowing of her attitude and that grace had come into her life. Somewhere in the midst of her crucible of hell snatched from death multiple times, she had been given a kind of sanctification that she was now recognizing as the positive change in her out-of-control life.   We find these words in Romans 5:1-5 NIV 5 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

In the presence of someone who she could trust, she let down her guard and relaxed. She pushed up her sleeves and showed me the writings on both arms that had become her mantra: “Wrap me in a bolt of lightning, Send me on my way still smiling, Maybe that’s the way I should go, Straight into the mouth of the unknown.” (Lyrics from “Call Me” by Shinedown)

In the Scriptures there is an account about a tormented man who Jesus rescued:

Mark 5:1-20 NIV

They went across the lake to the region of the Gaderenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

(To be continued)