Promoting Recovery is Promoting Community Betterment

Author’s Note: This blog post is a revision of a forthcoming Op-Ed piece that is being published in January 2019 in a southwestern Virginia newspaper.  I have edited it to speak more to any community affected by addiction and how promoting recovery is a tool for community betterment and community development.

In 2018, everyone knows something about addiction; whether from personal experiences or news media reports, addiction – especially opioid addiction – is front and center.  Everyone has heard the horror stories about the opioid addiction epidemic and its decimation of rural and small city American.  Everyone has heard or knows about people who are living with drug and alcohol addiction.

We keep hearing stories of addiction and the epidemic.  But where are the stories of people in recovery and the powerful positive impact recovery has upon entire communities?

Don’t get me wrong, the addiction epidemic is a major, catastrophic problem who negative consequences ripple out to all of society.  And I keep saying addiction epidemic, because although the numbers around opioids (overdoses and mortality) are atrocious, more people are addicted to and dying from alcoholism than opioids and cocaine combined. That we are an addicted society is not changing but what we are addicted to will fluctuate based on anomalous trends.

When we talk about addiction, the focus is far too often on the ‘problem’ element of it: the rise in overdose deaths; the lost days, weeks, months and years of peoples’ lives as they spiral out of control from drugs and alcohol use; the rise in crime; the losses; the scourge, the stigma, and the death.

But what if the greatest thing we could do to start creating long-term solutions to addiction was to begin a major shift in perspective?

What is if we started focusing more on the solution to addiction which is recovery?  What if we stopped the blame game (blaming addicts, families, communities, law enforcement) and started pointing towards solutions?

What if, rather than focus on the problem of addiction (and in sensationalizing it), and focused more energy on the solution of recovery?

What if we started looking at recovery and funding recovery services from a broader, community building perspective?

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“A Letter to the Church of Abbotsford and Beyond” (Ward Draper)

In this broken city teeming with hurt and frustration a looming tragedy approaches. This tragedy is not new; we have seen it before and will most assuredly will again. On the horizon injustice and oppression are bearing down on some of Abbotsfords most vulnerable residents again.

An eviction notice has been posted for July 31, 2014 at 9 a.m. to displace dozens of hurting, sick, and forgotten humans who have sought fragile safety and community along the Gladys corridor. It is a street drenched in pain, exploitation, despair, and numerous other woes. Regardless of the conditions and behaviors, these are humans who need the Church of Abbotsford to respond and engage. The Church needs to walk down into that darkness and let its light bring the healing so desperately needed. Do not let more suffering come.

God asks His children, lovers of Christ, to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, and to set the oppressed free. We, the Church of Abbotsford, must rise united to halt the cycle of tyranny which decimates so many precious lives. We have an opportunity to bring the Kingdom to bear upon misguided and futile hostilities that cause great pain and misery on so many lost and hurting human beings.

It is true the Church of Abbotsford has stumbled many times when facing the challenges of the marginalized within her walls. However, it does not have to be this way. This does not have to be. It is our calling, our responsibility, our privilege to face these daunting challenges together as family of believers. Sisters and Brothers – our King calls blessed those who feed the hungry. Those who quench the thirst of the parched. Those who welcome the stranger as family. Those who wrap garments around the naked. Those who bring healing to the sick. Those who visit the prisoner locked in cages of steel. Jesus calls us blessed when we do for the least, for it is there that He is found. Christ is served when we offer these courageous loving gifts. The Kingdom is found in these simple acts of love, grace, and mercy. The King says if we do not love in these ways we will face punishment.

The time is now, today, to put aside empty self-gratifying activities and seek justice. Lend your voice, your hands, your heart, your possessions to reach out to the lost in our community and on our streets. July 31 is such an opportunity to serve our Lord. Pray, listen, and seek practical ways you and the Church can rise up and face these challenges that burn within our city. Together we can let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream.

Original Link at Huff Post

Apathy Addiction

“Religion is the opium of the masses.” Karl Marx

Karl Marx, like him or loathe him, was indeed on to something.  Opium doesn’t ask us to change or spiritually evolve, but only to grow thick in our spiritual tummies.

I have been feeling the apathy addiction: lethargic in my desire to even put words to paper; resilient to growing in self awareness; stubbornly resisting God’s tender mercies deciding instead to live in a small place called fear.

Opium, the drug, is highly addictive.  Many, many years ago I smoked some opium…it made me dreamy “happy”, lazing the day away on the couch with nary a care in the world – not for food, human company, nothing.  And my faith in God, if it becomes a drug called religion, is not much different.

If my religion is a drug, my so-called service to God becomes simple apathy.  And apathy justifies complacency, fears awareness, stifles the inner –and outer – journey towards God, others and self.  Apathy leaves a slimy, icky residue on the interior lining of my soul, leaving it good for nothing – neither God nor people.

If my faith in God becomes an opiate, it will only seek to preserve the status quo, all the while fearing change, ingenuity and the divine gift of day-dreaming for God.

Apathy addiction leads to the seven deadly words: “we’ve never done it that way before.”

My faith in God, my ever deepening love for God and from God is a journey called spirituality – and spirituality is just religion with its clothes stripped off.  Spirituality is a verb whereby I stand naked before my God – a God who is pure love, eternal compassion, perpetual loving-kindness, and infinite goodness.

Spirituality heals the apathy addiction of religion and moves me deeper into God, creates movement, and fills me with the very attributes of God.  Spirituality empowers me to love God and my neighbors with gentle vigilance, tender mercy, wisdom and compassion.

 

Going About…Doing Good

“You know…what has happened all over Judea…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy Spirit and power [and Jesus] went about doing good and healing all those oppressed…for God was with him.” (Acts 10:37-38, NAB)

I’ve often realized that sometimes the sacred Scriptures get quite “dull” to me, and I think the reason is that for all the “this and that” over Scripture, it is and will always be a collection of stories about real people of people, and their interactions with each other and with God.

That is why I love the above mentioned Scripture; for it says that the love story of Jesus, and how he lived and what he did, was known all over Judea (so even back then ‘gossip’ and stories were afoot and the norm).

When I think about Jesus, I often forget or deny his humanness (back in the day that was a named heresy with punishment being excommunication and a hot party of one on a burning stake!).

Yes, Jesus was utterly and completely human, and he was filled with the Spirit and power. And what did he do with his Spirit-filled power: he used it to go about doing good and healing all those who were oppressed. Now, how many of us can say if we had “power” that this is what we would do? Be honest…

And when I look around at the self-proclaimed Christians, I am often left wondering and amazed at just how power hungry some God mongerers are. Wouldn’t it be grand if most of “Christendom” and the “true professed followers of Jesus” were known more for going around doing good and healing the oppressed rather than what most of Christians are known for now: gay bashing, gun-toting, reactionary close-mindedness, narcissistic self-help pedagogies promoting earthly riches. The list goes on…

Truly, I sometimes feel that if Jesus were alive today, we’d lock him out of our houses of worship: how dare he hang out with whores, drug addicts, money-launderers, and those people who smell funny and talk to themselves when they walk down the street.

Can you hear it? Just exactly who does this Jesus think he is? How dare him. Well, he’ll mess up my agenda. He’ll mess with my Constitutional Rights! He’ll come across as unpatriotic. He’ll offend the neighbors…

Blah, blah, blah. Damn right Jesus will mess with you! For going around doing good and healing the oppressed got Jesus killed! He did not win some local civic award, or the Nobel Prize, nor did he get 1 million hits on his YouTube viral video or have the most popular Facebook account.

He got strung up on a tree for following the leading of the Spirit and doing good and being with and healing the poor and oppressed. It is vital to remember that in the time of Jesus, much like today, the poor were maligned for being so because it was their fault; they had sinned or committed some heinous error that had caused God to punish and curse them.

Jesus screws all that screwy theology right to hell.

I’d like to be all pious and sanctimonious and say I want to be like Jesus. Well, I do, just without the cross. I do want to be filled with the Spirit and go about doing good and being a source of God’s healing for the oppressed. But I am afraid because those who love God and the poor often times suffer the same fate as the poor.

What will the stories be about me when I die? Will I be known for going about doing good? Will you be known about going around doing good? What legacy am I leaving?

The question is: am I out there going about doing good and healing those who are oppressed?

Journey Inward, Journey Outward

“The one journey that ultimately matters is the journey into the place of stillness deep within one’s self. To reach that place is to be at home; to fail to reach it is to be forever restless. In [contemplative prayer] we catch a vision of not only what is, but what can be. Contrary to what we have thought, contemplatives are the great doers.”

N. Gordon Cosby

The Journey of faith is a twofold journey: it is a journey inward and it is a journey outward.

The inward journey is the starting point, the infinite steps that have no end…towards God, others and ourselves; it is a journey that goes on for the ages.  This inward journey leads then to the outward journey, the journey of self in service to God, others and the earth.

The key that unlocks this journey is prayer but is found in the ordinariness of life – the practice of the dailiness of our days.  For not many of us live on the mountain top all year round, no, for many of us there are dishes and diapers and bills and demons and darkness, fragile faith and nagging doubts.  But God is greater than all of these and thus we are immersed in the Divine every moment of our existence.  We are given, lovingly, the power to choose to recognize the very sacredness of our existence in every Moment.  With God there is no past, or future, there is only now for time is a human construct.  God is timeless and when we are in the now, we are indeed one with the Infinite Love.

Prayer allows us to enter into the emptiness of silence where we are awakened to the fullness of God and to the power of prayer to mold us into a people of relentless love, messy grace, and compassionate service.

It is this silence that feeds the journey inward and the journey outward, and it is in this twofold journey that leads us to a divine banquet, one where we can taste our lives as a holy space where God and flesh meet, the place where the boundary between the sacred and the profane dissolves and all is wrapped in the warm tenderness of God’s love.

 

Author’s Note: I first learned of and experienced this naming of the journey as both inward and outward when I was a member of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC back in the 1990s.

For more information on this journey, please click on the link (www.inwardoutward.org).  And to read the book that inspired such missions and fed my soul deeply please see the book by Elizabeth O’Connor, Journey Inward, Journey Outward.  It can be purchased online at Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Journey-Inward-Outward-Elizabeth-OConnor/dp/0060663324)

“An Incarnation Into Littleness” (Gustavo Gutierrez)

The incarnation is the irruption of God into human history: an incarnation into littleness and service in the midst of overbearing power exercised by the mighty of this world; an irruption that smells of the stable.

The Son of God was born into a little people, a nation of little importance by comparison with the powers of the time. He took flesh among the poor in a marginal area—namely, Galilee; he lived with the poor and emerged from among them to inaugurate a kingdom of love and justice. That is why many have trouble recognizing him.

“Where’s the Proof?” (Kayla McClurg)

Advent Reading for December 15, 2013 ~ Matthew 11:2-11

Sermon by Kayla McClurg, Church of the Saviour, Washington, DC

In prison a person has time to ponder things. My friends who have spent time there say it isn’t surprising that people meet Jesus in prison simply because there is so much time, mindless miles of time, to be still and think. The wise ones use that time to ponder the depths of their lives and to ask questions and invite new answers. John has been put in prison. The authorities have tried to stifle him, but his disciples remain faithful and John remains their teacher. From his cell they carry a key question John has been pondering about Jesus: “Are you the one, or should we be waiting for another?”

Curiously, Jesus doesn’t say. He simply says, “Go and tell John what you hear and see.” Look at the evidence, and come to your own conclusions. The evidence is this: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are standing on the shores of a new life, welcoming a boatload of good news. Is this the proof you were expecting from “the one who is to come,” or another?

You know the question, if you were arrested for following Jesus, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Or would you get off scot free, innocent of having disturbed anyone with the good news? Would you be found guilty of living a converted life, of giving away freely what you have received? Could anyone accuse you of radical expressions of solidarity with the poor? Would the powers tremble at the ripples of your generosity?

John has been arrested for stirring up mercy and healing, for proclaiming another way, for inspiring people to submit to a higher-than-human authority. His imprisonment is meant to intimidate him and his followers—and especially to intimidate Jesus. The powers always resort to such foolishness. In reality, such a response does nothing but add fuel to the fire of the movement. Jesus and a growing band of disciples pick up where John left off. The mantle has been passed, and the momentum builds. The proof is at hand.

By: (Season and Scripture: ,

“Drugged into Submission” (Robert Farrar Capon)

This quote below by Robert Farrar Capon is quite appropoe, and we can allow the word “preacher” to speak for all followers of Jesus.  Stirring the pot…

“I think good preachers should be like bad kids. They ought to be naughty enough to tiptoe up on dozing congregations, steal their bottles of religion pills…and flush them all down the drain.

The Church, by and large, has drugged itself into thinking that proper human behavior is the key to its relationship with God.

What preachers need to do is force it to go cold turkey with nothing but the word of the cross-and then be brave enough to stick around while [the congregation] goes through the inevitable withdrawal symptoms. But preachers can’t be that naughty or brave unless they’re free from their own need for the dope of acceptance. And they won’t be free of their need until they can trust the God who has already accepted them…in Jesus. Ergo, the absolute indispensability of trust in Jesus’ passion. Unless the faith of preachers is in that alone – and not in any other person, ecclesiastical institution, theological system, moral prescription, or master recipe for human loveliness – they will be of very little use in the pulpit.”

Robert Farrar Capon, The Foolishness of Preaching

The Good News Manifesto

Some simple suggestions for those who call themselves ‘followers of Jesus’ as well as all people of faith & good will. You can click here for the full Manifesto

Follow the Nazarene closely (He set a pretty good example on how to live).

Pray often and even more so.  Pray for the people you love, and pray for the people you don’t love.

Don’t build a big church Because if we do, then we will need to protect it and use up time, taxes, and treasure to maintain it.  Instead of a building try Being Church – and rather than building a new building, start by sharing your life with people as they are, where they are and they will undoubtedly see Jesus.

Share the Good News.  For what Jesus did is indeed Good and truly Newsworthy.

Make serving the poor the Gospel mandate it is (instead of treating it like a superfluous add-on)…make charity and justice for the poor a personal, close-up thing and not a ‘program’ in the church.

Give relief to those who are suffering around you and those far away (for we are all in this together).

Visit the sick, the locked up and the shut in.

Sit with the dying…just be with them as they transition into the next part of life.

Comfort the broken, the bruised and the bereaved.

Be generous and lavish with those in need and do so with your time, your talents, your money, and your stuff.  Share your house with someone in need like a teenager in a bad situation or a person coming out of the system.  Share your car, your tools, your garage, your apartment, your books, etc., because we are merely stewards of what God has given us.

Be reckless in giving and receiving God’s grace, graciousness, love and mercy.

Practice hospitality and be hospitable to strangers and those different from you (not just your friends and family).

Love your neighborand yes, I do mean the one right next door, as well as the one down the street, across the country and across the world.

Live your life as a fully alive, aware human being Practice being real and transparent then watch people see Jesus in and through your unique personality.  No stuffed shirts, smug piousness or the need to be superior over people.

Love ‘sinners’…and love all of them, not just the ones you feel most comfortable around.  Remember first and foremost that you and me are ‘sinners’ as well, which is another way of saying we are all wounded and are all in need of Divine mercy and grace.  Befriend people different from you and people of other faiths, and don’t do it just for the sake of “converting” people.  Jesus loved all people – truly, madly and deeply – even those who walked away from, betrayed and killed him.  Jesus had no other motive but to love people into the Kingdom, so put down your Four Spiritual Laws, your missals, and your Bibles and start being real (i.e., human) around people for you’ll be amazed at how much God’s love will flow from you.

Practice Common Grace (whether you are Calvinist or Catholic).  For all people are made in the image of God and God sustains everyone regardless of their faith or lack thereof (see Matthew 5:45, Acts 17:25-28, and James 1:17)

Practice common graciousness as well…don’t be a bully, smug, self-righteous or mean-spirited.  Just because we know the Truth does NOT mean we are the truth or always right.  Only Jesus is Lord and only he will judge on the last day, so save the judging for him and him alone.