Facing Addiction as a Faith Community

There’s a serious problem in the US and other parts of the world, and it has to do with addiction to either drugs or alcohol. Whenever you turn on the TV whether to watch the news or one of the popular cop shows there’s a really good chance that something in that show will have to do with addiction. The addiction to alcohol has contributed to too many drunk driving episodes that have killed too many innocent people, and they’ve also contributed to many domestic violence charges too. The addiction to drugs is something that has been growing over the decades, from the fun and mystique of the 70’s to the epidemic it has become today.

It’s not something I have personal experience with nor do I have someone in my immediate circle who is dependent on drugs or alcohol, but I’ve followed the epidemic all the same, in part because of how deadly it is. For many people it starts innocently with a prescription and then snowballs into something more serious. I know that there are people whose lives have been made better because of the drugs that have been developed, and that there are people who are finding relief from medical marijuana. I support the use of drugs and other medical aides, but only with careful supervision and only for those who really need it. There is no reason anyone needs the addiction, and it doesn’t do anything good for anyone.

And yet the addiction grows. But over the past few months there have been a few stories of communities and people who are doing their part to not only combat the addiction but get the people who are addicted help including a small Washington community, and a family doctor in Iowa. Instead of viewing the addicts as a “dirty population” or “homeless” these people and communities are taking a step back and seeing them as people, humans just like themselves. Because while there are some addicts who don’t care, there’s a significant portion of the population who does care and just can’t break free for any number of reasons. Maybe it’s because they don’t have the resources to get clean, they don’t have the support to get or stay clean, or they’re trapped in the community and can’t get free, just to name a few.

Choosing drugs or staying addicted to them certainly isn’t treating your body like a temple, it’s not respecting the gift of a body that God gave you. For those of us who don’t have personal experience with an addiction we can’t understand what they’re feeling, thinking or really going through. We also have to accept that we can’t help everyone and everyone won’t want help. But for those who are willing to get help and be freed from their addiction, we should be open to extending them the same grace, patience and love that God does to us when we experience failings or sin. It’s not our place to judge or criticize them for their failings, just to extend the friendship and help that God would extend to us.

If you’re struggling to understand this whole topic I would encourage you to read some of the articles and stories from the communities and people around the country who have been addicts, are trying to make a difference in the lives of addicts, or are on the front lines interacting with addicts like police and emergency medical technicians. Understanding is one of the first steps to being able to help, or at the very least pray about this epidemic. After that we need to take a real hard look at our communities and whether we’re working to resolve this epidemic or not, and the damage it’s doing to our world.  What are your thoughts and experiences with addiction?

Reality Reflection: safety and security

This week in the US we’ve seen the unfortunate events unfold of several bombs being delivered to leaders and politicians. The good news about this story is that no one was killed as a result. I was talking about this event with a friend and we agreed that it had been a while since bombs have been on the news, and that’s a really good thing. It’s good that we’re not using bombs on each other as much, or that we’re getting better at catching them before they can be detonated or even delivered to their destination. There’s still too much violence overall, as the shootings that happen each week continue to show, but it almost seems like we’re making progress if people aren’t going the bomb route as much anymore.

But the overall question here that again puzzles me is why people think it’s such a big deal for people to be part of one political party or be a leader of some kind, and as a result think they need to be killed. I may not agree with everyone’s views, but I don’t see that as a reason to kill them. If we were talking more along the lines of a vigilante, while I don’t agree that they should do that it would at least be more understandable from a ‘they might actually deserve it’ standpoint. With the places and people that the bombs this week were delivered to there were a lot of innocent people in harms way, people who could have been killed for no real reason other than associating with someone that someone deemed to be a threat.

As I said initially there weren’t any casualties as a result, and it really speaks to the improved training and awareness of those in law enforcement who not only diffused the bombs but also tracked the clues to a suspect. There are people around the US who put their lives on the line each day for the safety of others and don’t get to return home, so it was a victory that everyone was able to get home and they were able to do their jobs quickly and effectively.

So this weekend I would encourage you to hug your loved ones a little closer, say a prayer for those in law enforcement and be thankful for the life and blessings you have.

The Best Version of You

Self improvement has been a thing for quite a few years now, and something that people have always done even if there wasn’t an official name for it.  I think it’s part of who we are that we try to improve ourselves and become better people, that as we physically grow it’s part of that process or journey to grow mentally as well.  It’s good to want to improve our skills, knowledge and productivity, but sometimes there’s something else we have to focus on first.

Sometimes in our life journey we pick up some bad habits and sometimes our bodies or minds get the best of us and as a result we may struggle with ourselves, our self confidence, and our relationships with others. As a result people may think of you as an “angry person,” a “debbie downer,” a “serial dater,” a “violent person,” someone with a short temper, or someone can’t hold down a job. It’s not easy to admit that these titles may fit you, and for many it’s even harder to get over being them, especially when being angry or violent or just throwing away relationships is your default.

It may not be easy, but it will not only improve your life but also the lives of those around you. Think about the last time you were out at a store and listened to someone lose their temper at their kid or at someone they’re on the phone with. It was probably embarrassing for you to listen to, but it may also hurt to think about how the person on the receiving end may be feeling. Yes, self improvement is about growing personally and making your life better, but in this case it’s also about being aware of the world around you and how you are impacting the lives of others.

This week I encourage you to work on the habit or personal challenge that’s not only holding you back from victories, but also is negatively impacting others.  Addressing this issue will not only help get you on the path to a better you, but also improve your relationships and the perceptions that other people have of you.

God is My Rock

This week on Facebook I asked an important question: how has God been your rock? I think it’s important to talk about God as our rock, as well as the people in our lives who have been a rock for us because there comes a time in your life (or several times) when you just can’t handle it all on your own. There’s no shame in admitting you can’t do it all and that you’re not perfect. In fact, doing so can make you a stronger, more confident, more fulfilled person because you’re no longer chasing things that you don’t need in your life.

But even for those of us who aren’t trying to do everything, sometimes life just is too much for us to handle alone. It’s why we have doctors and lawyers and police officers and farmers and home builders, among many others who make our lives work a little easier. It’s these people we turn to when we need some expertise that we don’t have or need some muscle that we don’t have. We put our trust in these men and women believing that they’ll be there to support us when we need them. Yes, they are human so sometimes they mess up just like we do, but overall we are able to rely on them in our times of need.

Unlike humans, God isn’t going to screw up or not be available or not be strong enough. God also goes with us and grows with us, there’s no stage of our lives we can reach that He won’t be able to help us through it because He is God.  He’s the most reliable and trustworthy person in the world and beyond.  He won’t let you down when you need Him most.  Even if you don’t see an act of God (a big answer to your prayer), He may send someone or something your way to reassure you or help you get to the next step of your journey.  How will God be your rock this week?

“I am the Lord, and I do not change…” Malachi 3:6

Reality Reflection: Educating the Voters

It’s that time of year again, election season! I don’t know about you but it is getting harder than ever to put on the TV without seeing a commercial about a politician or even just going around town there are all kinds of banners and signs up promoting different politicians. I’ve always voted, my preference is to do it by mail rather than attempt to make it to the actual polling stations on the one day that voting is done. It’s a lot less stressful that way and being that I’m not one to just vote for one specific political party by default it gives me the time to consider my decisions and know all the people up for vote before making a decision.

I love that we’re able to vote in the US for the people that we have in office. I appreciate that we’re able to have some say in who gets elected, or at least show that we care about how things get done in our country. But there’s one thing I hate about voting, especially as someone who isn’t voting by default party, is that there’s little or no information about the majority of the people who are up for election online.

Why does that matter? Because I want to know who I’m voting for, I want to know that I’m voting in the people I think will do the best job or have the relevant experience or might help bring about needed changes. But I can’t know those things unless the information about them is shared!

Sure the top candidates like senators have information online, but when you get down into the local government you’re lucky to be able to put a face to a name let alone find where they stand on issues or how they’re going to help the community. Anyone can make a free website and create free social accounts. They don’t have to be fancy or have lots of political dollars behind them to share who they are and why people should vote for them. If they want to be elected that’s the least they should do in this day and age of the internet.

Gone are the days when politicians or those desiring to hold political office can simply get into office by throwing up a few signs or holding a couple of rallies, and don’t think that you won’t be held accountable to doing work in office either. Voters have changed, it’s about time that politics and politicians understand that and start stepping up.

Focus on Being a Blessing

This month one of the things we’re talking about is our focus.  Throughout a typical day we focus on tons of things from the car driving in front of ours to the person talking to us to the child we’re playfully chasing to the partner we love to the dinner we’re cooking.  There are lots of things that demand our attention and care, and that’s normal for many people today.  Part of our job as adults is to learn how to manage all those responsibilities and how to focus when we need to on what we need to.

Sometimes we also have to focus on the scary things in life or the sad things.  I know of several people who have passed away in the past few weeks, and many people around the US are dealing with loss of their belongings or livelihoods due to natural disasters.  It’s important to take time to process those fears, scary experiences and losses, they’re part of life.

But today I want to challenge you to do something different: focus on being a blessing.  This is something that everyone can do in hundreds of different ways.  From sharing a kind word to helping get something off a grocery store shelf to holding the door to sending a ‘just because’ gift or card to donating winter coats at the local food pantry or shelter.

It’s not necessarily a huge labor-intensive activity, doesn’t always require a lot of time, and doesn’t have to cost anything other.  All it takes is for you to be willing to focus your attention from yourself to others.  And not only does it mean that you’ may making someone else’s day, you can be blessed by being a blessing too!

How will you be a blessing today?

An Autumn of Bounty

This week I’ve been meditating on a couple of verses from Psalm 13:

“But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because [the Lord] has dealt bountifully with me.” Psalm 13:5-6

The first reason this verse caught my attention was that it didn’t sound like a verse I remembered reading, and I’ve read the book of Psalms several times. This version of Psalm 13 came in one of the many newsletters I’ve signed up for and I can’t find the answer that I’m sure you’re asking: what translation is it? While I wish they would clearly post that information so we would both know, they didn’t, and so we’re left to guess. And with over 100 versions of the Bible in English alone, there are lots of possibilities of the translation it could be.

The second reason these verses caught my attention was a word in the second sentence: “I will sing to the Lord, because [the Lord] has dealt bountifully with me.” Right now we’re in the final push of the harvest season. Summer is winding down and the crops are all being gathered before the frost and winter arrive. In the US we’ve got the holiday of Thanksgiving coming up which began as a celebration of and thanksgiving for bounty for the Pilgrims. But how often do we use the word ‘bounty’ in our lives today? We tend to use words more like abundance, affluence, prosperity, or thriving today. Bounty is a word that isn’t used as often but I feel it paints a better visual picture of what it means than some of the other similar words do.

Lately I feel like all I’m hearing about is loss and fear, not to mention hate and anger, between all the hurricanes, politics and violence that have been happening recently. I’m concerned that we’re not talking about or looking for the bounty in our lives. No, we shouldn’t ignore the bad stuff that goes on, the sooner we learn to deal with and move through it the better. So this week my encouragement to you would be to look for the bounty, accept the abundance and be open to the blessings God can send your way.