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

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?

“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: ,

“Visible Grace” (Theodore Jennnings)

If grace is to be real, then it must have real effects. And these effects must be palpable, visible.

When the Divine enters the world, it produces changes everyone can see, not invisible craters, but manifest ‘monuments of mercy.’

Theodore W. Jennings

Source: Good News to the Poor

“Dangerous Activity” (Joan Chittester)

Contemplation is a very dangerous activity. 

[Contemplation] not only brings us face to face with God.  It brings us, as well, face to face with the world, face to face with the self.  And then, of course, something must be done.

Nothing stays the same once we have found the God within….

We carry the world in our hearts: the oppression of all peoples, the suffering of our friends, the burdens of our enemies, the raping of the Earth, the hunger of the starving, and the joy of every laughing child.

Source: 30goodminutes.org

The Upside Down Kingdom

Some disturbing words from Jesus the Messiah:

And many who are first shall be last…whomever would be the greatest among you shall be your servant…The first will be last and the last shall be first…Blessed are the poor for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven…The Kingdom belongs to such as these [little children]…It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom…Blessed are the [anawim1] for they will inherit the earth…you can not serve God and money…If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me…Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me…

I really need not write anything if you prayerfully read the above words of Jesus and just sit in silent contemplation of just how ‘upside-down’ Jesus’ words and his way really are. His words were radical then and they are just as radical now (radical coming from the Latin word, ‘radix’ meaning ‘root’).

Our world today, as in the days when the Nazarene walked the earth, might still mean right, the strong survive by way of a ‘survival of the fittest’ ethos, youth and beauty are still worshiped and pursued, our mortality is still feared and avoided and the poor are still demonized. But as we enter this Advent season, a time of year where we remember that God came to us as a helpless, naked baby born not in a posh neonatal ward but an ‘animal shelter’ I feel it is important to remind myself of the nature of the Kingdom of God: namely, that it is an upside-down Kingdom.

In a world where God is becoming irrelevant to a whole generation and an ever-increasingly secularized world, lost in the middle of this is a helpless Messiah lying in a stable held by an unwed teenage Hebrew girl who is left to wonder if the angelic messenger was foretelling the truth of this swaddling-clothed little wonder or if she is just ‘insane.’

From the beginning of his life to the ‘theme’ of his good news to his death on a cross abandoned by almost everyone, Jesus embodied the paradox of God’s grace and love in the Upside-down Kingdom ethos: the rich become poor, the poor become rich, the first are last, the last are first, those who live by the sword shall die by the sword…the list goes on. In God’s Kingdom, up is down, down is up…grace is given to the unrighteous and the righteous are judged quite harshly. This is not so good for modern-day marketing, is it?

Does this message of the Upside-down Kingdom resound throughout the majority of sermons and homilies coming throughout the world?

The Kingdom of heaven is indeed an upside-down kingdom. It is not the kingdom of America, or the Red Kingdom or the Blue Kingdom. It is a Kingdom where all who call upon the King become ‘naturalized’ citizens; and we who call ourselves citizens of this Kingdom are called to follow the law of the King of this realm. And that law is the law of love – a law that embraces the unlovable, the unlovely, the broken, the wounded, the addicted and the marginalized. It is a law that embraces both good citizens and ones who have broken the laws of any land.

So what better day than today – World AIDS Day – to remind myself of the Upside-down Mandate given to us by the wandering Nazarene. And we better be careful for just when we are not looking, his grace will turn our hearts and our worlds upside-down, and Spirit willing, hopefully our churches as well.

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1) Anawim is a word that is often mistranslated as meek but more accurately is a word that means the “lowly,” “the poor,” “the righteous poor,” or “the vulnerable.” From Steve Kimes, “Overall, anawim’ mean those who are outcast or persecuted and then seek God for justice and help.”

The Word into Flesh…

“Fear is the polio of the soul. Faith is the life based on unseen realities; it is the word become flesh.” 

Clarence Jordan

As followers of Jesus our prime mission, as both individuals and collectively as Church, should be to allow the Spirit to turn the “Word into flesh.”

Church has become an insulating place where people come to hide from the world when in truth it should be a place where we come together to worship God, get refreshed and fed, pray, break Bread, and THEN get up and go out into the world to do Kingdom work. If we surrendered so deeply and passionately to the Spirit we would find ourselves truly becoming the Word turned to flesh and our very lives and lifestyles would draw people to God.

Preach the Gospel, live compassion, show mercy, serve the poor and marginalized, love the loveless and unlovely – THAT is what Church should be collectively and what followers of Jesus should be individually.

I fear the Church – in both its striving for cultural relevance and in its historical rigidity – is fast becoming the greatest barrier to people growing in love with Jesus.  The very vehicle for the Kingdom of God to be built on earth has become the very stumbling block to that mandate. And I say this as a Catholic deeply in love with and sometimes dismayed by the Church.

We should seek to turn the Word into flesh (and thanks to Rob Bell for the imagery), but I am starting to sense that far too many in leadership are turning the ‘flesh into word’. Some Christian leaders – Catholic and evangelical – are confusing following Jesus with turning the faith into a weapon for a culture war. The truths of God seen through the lens of fear turn only into fundamentalism and spiritual poison creating communities of intolerance and rigidity that leave no room for God’s lavish and messy grace.

I go to both Mass at a small, but sacred space, in a small town 75 miles outside of Washington, DC and I also occasionally attend a modern fellowship affiliated with The Brethren Church, so my eyes and ears are attuned to both sides of the Christian perspective as well as the modern and the historical and sometimes I am sickened by the ‘Ken and Barbie’ approach to faith. I fear that Jesus is indeed being preached but I do not always see the Word being turned into flesh.

Jesus loved the unlovely and the so-called unlovable, but would the people who are truly considered that way by the culture at large even feel at home in either of the churches I attend? Honestly, and surprisingly, they would most likely feel at home in the Catholic Mass (with its thousand plus year old tradition) rather than the hipster evangelical church.

If the addicted, the lonely, the traumatized and the modern-day ‘unclean’ are not ‘flocking’ to us the way they did to Jesus then I fear we are blocking the Spirit and preventing the Word being turned into flesh. For as Clarence Jordan’s translation of the Gospels (The Cotton Patch Gospels) says in his translation of John 1: “for the Word became flesh and came and pitched His tent among us.”

Jesus came to pitch his tent – his very being – among us. God came to us, not the other way around. But sometimes we Jesus followers forget that truth and we have smoke and mirrors and flash in the pan in the hopes that the broken and wounded will come to us. The mandate of the Church is clear: we are the ones who in imitation of Christ go to the world; it is an error of omission if we couch potato our faith, waiting to go, waiting for the call, when the call has already been given.

God, as revealed in Scriptures, is a mission God – One who comes to us and then sends us to those He hungers to draw close. God has been coming to us and sending us since He revealed Himself to Moses, and culminated in Jesus (Emmanuel – God with us).

The Word became flesh and pitched His tent among us so that we, while filled with the Spirit, might become a community where we become the Word (turned) into flesh.

Are we turning the flesh into word…or allowing the Spirit to turn us into the Word into flesh?

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Here is a Link to Pope Benedict’s recent message on living the faith, keeping it simple and joyful. 

Rez Farm – a dream of God

Rez Farm will be an experiment in faith & community for ordinary people loving an extraordinary God. It will be a place and space for seekers, everyday radicals, the lost, the lonely, the broken, the beautiful, the marginalized, and the rejected.

Rez Farm, through the Spirit, will ‘flesh out’ God’s love and compassion as a living invitation to follow Jesus and to love people.

Rez Farm will be a place to “cultivate Resurrection” – a place for new beginnings, to give and find healing, to practice all the Works of Mercy.

Rez Farm is a dream of a community and a mountain retreat that is a mixture of a few different influences from people who have inspired us and are changing the world for God’s Kingdom. We will offer hospitality in the spirit of the Catholic Worker Houses of Hospitality & Farms. We will embrace the inclusiveness of the L’Arche Community, and in time will offer retreats in the manner of Dayspring Retreat Center.

Rez Farm will be a safe haven for people to seek and share compassion, service, and healing through living, giving and receiving God’s ‘crazy’ love, messy grace & lavish mercy.

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Rez Farm is here to Cultivate Resurrection!

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A Word on the Name…

“REZ” is short for Resurrection (because through the resurrection of Jesus we can all find resurrection from our past); and for Reservation (as in “the rez”) – a place for the Tribe of Jesus to come find and give Resurrection.

“FARM” because as a noun,“Farm” means a tract of land, usually with a house, barn, silo, etc., on which crops and often livestock are raised for livelihood. But as a VERB, “Farm” means to cultivate (as in land and in our case Resurrection).

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Pray for Rez Farm!  Pray it comes to be as God’s Dream, pray for your part in it, pray with us and come be Tribe with us as God birth’s this Dream…

For more information contact Niles at earthymonk@gmail.com.