Two Tragedies


There are two tragedies with addicts. There is the tragic life of the addict. A person whose life has unraveled and become a stranger to all who knew them. They have changed in every way.

Physically they have aged. Meth and crack destroy their teeth. Opioids take them to skin and bones. Eyes become pinpricks and eventually flatten out to blankness. Flakka can leave long-lasting paranoia and mental confusion.
The once good looking brother, son, husband so well-groomed and well-mannered is hiding things, stealing from family, lying about jobs and money until everyone has cut them off. Until the crack house is the only place that welcomes them and even that will end when they can’t pay. One way or another. The lucky ones are put in jail which can lead to detox giving them a chance.
The second tragedy happens to those who love them. Addicts are the real walking dead.
“Who can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains in his own heart and even losing his precious peace of mind? 
In short: “Who can take away suffering without entering it?”  
– Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society
These are the people who enter our lives and wreck our emotions forcing us to draw boundary lines and make hard decisions. They are why we’ve attended too many funerals and memorials. Their names are on my tears and they leave bruises on my heart.
*Tom has left. Again. When he came back this time he was thinner than the last time. He’s not a big man, only a couple of inches taller than me. But his eyes were alive before. Now they are desperate. He grabs me in a hug nearly every time he sees me and there’s something about it that isn’t him. The counselors have expressed his ongoing paranoia and I learn his last run involved Flakka. He has prescriptions but he’s decided the amounts he should be taking which completely violates our policy. We know his level of care has gone beyond what we can handle. We wish we had the power to Baker-act him. It would put him directly in the system to have a mental evaluation. It could give him a chance. But we don’t have that power. Before we can meet with him about options he leaves. He’s become sure he’s being targeted, a manifestation of his paranoia.
So he left. Walked out. To nothing. And I’m so afraid he’s going to die. Out there. Alone.
You’d think after 14 years in this ministry we’d become numb. There are many times I’ve wished for it and times I’ve felt it. There is a layer we must wrap ourselves in every day to be able to look at the night log to see if anyone has left. I can only explain our ability to still care by saying God is with us. I don’t know why we haven’t been destroyed by this except that He is with us. And right now I want him to also be with *Tom.
Two tragedies multiplied by every man in our Center.
“Dare to love and to be a real friend. The love you give and receive is a reality that will lead you closer and closer to God as well as those whom God has given you to love.” 
– Henri Nouwen

Playing Church

I may have told you this before, but some things bear repeating. They bear remembering more than the retelling.

During my 3rd and 4th grade years we lived across the driveway from our church. When I say our, I mean it was the church where daddy preached most Sundays and mama taught and they worked together in ministry. It was not just the ‘our’ church we attend but it was ours.

Our house was the parsonage separated from the church building by a driveway. We walked back and forth from the church offices and were as much a part of the ministry team as anyone.

The chapel was where I’d go at times, up on the platform and stand behind the pulpit. I’ll wave my hand like daddy directing the congregation to sing. I’d turn the songbook to Just As I Am because we sang that one all the time and I knew by memory where it was.

Then we were transferred and the church wasn’t next door and I got older spending more time with friends and listening to the radio. Only, when looking back, I realize part of me still played church.

Going week after week, Sundays and Wednesdays and special events, were as much habit and obligation as anything. It’s where my people were and it was a good place. We grew together and planted roots in God’s word. It felt like community.

Time went on and we entered full-time ministry. We became the ones, much like our parents, preaching and teaching on Sundays, planning events and training leaders. Church was our vocation and while it was a God-leading mission if you don’t pay attention, you will be playing church again.


When there's no room left at the alter they come on the stage.

When there’s no room left at the altar they come on the stage.

You will stand before the congregation and wave your hands and sing the songs you sing every week. You will plan Advent and Holy Week and you will organize youth outings and summer day camps. And it will all be good. But you’ve forgotten church is more than a collection of parts.

We didn’t plan the change that woke me from my church induced trance of sameness. It was most unexpected. Who would ever think a bunch of guys who are required to attend an in-house Sunday service because they are part of this rehabilitation center, men whose last choice was to come to this residential program with dress codes and meeting requirements, would shake off my slumber?

The have and they do. Every week someone will teach me a new thing about grace. Someone will show me that God uses the least, the last and the lost. Every. Day.

Are you playing church? Sleep walking your way through? May the God who wakes the dead and gives life to dry bones renew our Spirit and make us alive in Him.

Word Processor

Maybe I’m a slow learner. I never thought that. I did okay in school. We moved too much in my high school years to find out my real strengths but I’m no dummy.

When it comes to learning about me…..others seem better. Maybe I don’t pay enough attention to myself or my perception is entirely different. Or  some of both.

Brian and I would have these long phone conversations. I’d stretch the cord on our wall phone as I’d wipe down the kitchen counters while we talked. Our conversations centered around church and serving and Jesus and these talks with him helped me flesh out what I believed. It help me go beyond the childhood beliefs and put feet to the words.


He was a new man in the Center. It was less than a week since he’d checked in to our Adult Rehabilitation Center, his first Sunday in our chapel service. Everyone had left after the service and JJ came back to introduce himself to me. He put out his hand and as I took hold of his there was nothing but flesh. No grip, just fingers held out but nothing given in return. He wanted to know if I’d take his picture so he could send it to his family. Said they’d never seen him dressed up like this.

I pulled my iPhone out and positioned him against the wall so as not to get shadows. I was going for a just below the shoulders shot so they could see his face but he motioned me back. More….more….he wanted the full view for them. From head to shiny dress shoes.

Version 2



This is why I write. Men who’ve never been taught how to give a good handshake, who’ve never been “dressed like this”. Men whose lives have brought them to through our doors, their “last chance”. Men who are so different are teaching me how more alike we are.  It’s these men and this ministry that has stirred something inside of me and brought me to pecking out the words while I search for more understanding.

I envision it as a lump of clay on the potter’s wheel. My thoughts are plunked down in a big lump. Wet, pliable but not weak or thin. There has to be strength to withstand the shaping.

Each word is taken by the potters hands and smoothed. There are times when one design is expected but, surprise!, another emerges under his skilled hands. A more suitable vessel, more fitting for service.

That is my hope, my prayer. That this word processor is not just for me but that others can connect and find their clay shaped to a form fit for service.


Riverside Pottery, Dillsboro

It’s an old hymn and I think the only reason it stays with me is its use of the imagery of pottery.

Have Thine own way, Lord, have Thine own way

Thou are the potter I am the clay

Mold me and make me, after Thy will

While I am waiting, yielded and still.

These words I offer to be molded into truths by the Truth.

Participating in a book discussion, link-up over at Kate Motaung‘s place working our way through the book, On Being a Writer.
















When the heart needs to hurt

I just may have trumped Jamie the Very Worst Missionary in the worst missionary category. I love her blog, I do. Love reading about her not-so-perfect life and I’m not even offended when she uses the, shall we say ‘slang’, of the day. I think we could be friends because she’s real and I’m wanting so hard to be real and I could be real with her. All the time kind of real.

Maybe that’s what I’m about to be here with you when I tell you that the week I spent on my first ever mission trip to Haiti, a country so steeped in political corruption that keeps their own people mired in poverty, that country close enough to our shores its people have set out on rafts to come here for better lives, yes, the mission trip there didn’t steal my heart. My soul isn’t bleeding for its soil and I’ve not dropped to my knees every day praying for those dear children living in a place that offers them safety, but few options for more.






I was the old girl on the team, older than some of my teams mama’s including my co-leader. I wasn’t in tears our last day there. I wasn’t vowing to come back some day. Maybe it was my age, my life’s experience that tells me ‘this is how things are honey’. You come, you love as much as you can knowing you’re going to get to go home and they have to stay, and you say thank-you and wave goodbye.

When I got home I stood under our shower with hot water for a long time completely conscious I was wasting water. Completely not caring at that moment. And I flushed the toilet every time I used it. I didn’t have to use bottled water to brush my teeth with and it was wonderful.

I’ve wondered about this a lot over the 2 years since that trip. Wondered why it didn’t pierce my heart the way I’d heard others explain, the way other bloggers have written. Have I built a gate around my heart that strong?


Bethany Children's Home 2399

And I think, yes, yes I have. No apologies for it. It’s survival. It started when my parents divorced I think. A heart so confused and so hurt and so broken that you never want to be hurt again so, unknowingly, the bricks start to build a shield.

Then you work in an area that sees heartbreak far too often when men who have sought relief from addiction, relapse. Again. And again. They did well a long while, and you let them in and thought they were friends and then, then the behavior starts that you know will come to no good end. And they’re gone and your heart hurts and you add a few more bricks around your heart. But you risk it again. Because you know, God risks it for you day after day.

Bethany Children's Home 2473


Haiti did impact me. It gave me a deeper understanding of their lives and yes, I do love that place that was once looked down on by so many from my neighborhood (America). Their smiles and generosity and contentment with little found its way around some of those bricks surrounding my heart. Or maybe the bricks are crumbling. Just a little. Maybe grace is blasting away at those bricks each day. Maybe the heart needs to hurt sometimes to love.

What’s good for you


It’s no surprise that I’m not a big show kind of person. Meetings that are overblown and overstuffed with things to make ‘us’ look good or look like we’re doing the most good and celebrating ourselves instead of our Creator.

While meetings can be overdone, I am over critical. Sitting in the crowd, trying to disappear and just get through.

We were going to a week of these big meetings. Thousands would be there from all over and I just wanted to go to England again and see it with family this time. The meetings would be an obligation.



Do you remember somewhere around Jr. High age when you didn’t want to go somewhere or be part of a school group but your parents kept pressing, assuring you it would be good for you?

Daddy always made me play in the school band. In those days I was often the only girl playing a brass instrument and I learned quickly how to ignore rude boys not use to a girl in their section. Especially a girl who wasn’t half bad.

I fussed, but turns out, it was good for me. I learned more about music, which in my opinion, is never bad. I also learned how to not let stupid remarks lower me to another’s level.

Funny thing about this big celebration in London, it was good for me too.




I forget that our coming together is more than celebrating our heritage, it is celebrating why we have this heritage.

We come together to blend our accents and languages in prayer and praise, to come away from the burdens of the everyday and soak up the affirmations that God has raised an Army of believers to serve the lost and last and least.

We come together to be reminded we are the lost, the last, the least, and God calls us through His power and Spirit to be grace and give hope.

We come to be reminded this mission is bigger than ourselves, bigger than our local units, it really is a world-wide Army for God.

We come from over 100 countries to this city where it all began. Where God called a Methodist minister to come away from the safe and practiced church and “Go for souls and go for the worst”.

He and his wife would fill their tent services and store fronts with men still stinking of alcohol, with the curious wondering what this odd lot was about.

“You’ve heard of The Salvation Army, what an odd lot of people they are.

They sing and they shout Hallelujah, as daily they march on to war.

They form in a ring on the corner, they kneel in the street e’er to pray,

While others tell out the sweet story, how happy they are night and day.”

from the song, I’m Glad I’m a Salvation Soldier

Catherine Booth said, “If we are to better the future we must disturb the present” and disturb it they did with their bands playing tunes heard in bars but the words replaced with words of salvation and God’s love.

They gathered on street corners and used military terminology and ranks to identify their ministers (officers) and members (soldiers).





150 years. 

William Booth was a visionary and if we are to be true to his vision, and God’s calling, change must come. But change doesn’t wipe out the past or our foundation.

So we celebrated our heritage and challenged ourselves to continue this war on sin. A war fought with love and mercy. Armed with truth and grace.

And it was so very good for me.

To view video clips of Boundless2015 International Congress, Boundless2015.

Five-Minute Friday {hope}

We’re back from our trip to London. Back physically, mostly, but mentally….working on it 😉 Kate Motaung‘s Five-Minute Party link-up is a good way to get back in the groove of sharing from Grace-land. Today’s prompt is hope.


Out of the hundreds of men coming through our doors at our Adult Rehabilitation Center, I’d guess only a small percent coming looking for hope.

They come looking for rest, for a safe place, for a chance to clean up and get some regular meals in their body. They come for the ‘3 hots and cot’ so they can recharge to go back out ‘there’.

They don’t come looking for hope. Not most.

Hopes have been shattered when the marriage fell apart or the job fell through.

Hopes placed in others devastated because others will fail too.

pain hope

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him.” Romans 15:13a

If we can stop long enough, be still and quiet enough we will know that hope comes in rest. Hope comes in clarity to see the grace God gives not because of us but in spite of us.

Hope comes when we accept we can never be more than because we are always less than Him and that is why He wants to be our hope.

He is our completion.

He is our Savior.

He is our mercy and grace.

He is our hope. The hope of glory. Living in us.

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles [the nations] the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27 NIV

150 years and Counting


We are in London for the 150th celebration. These photos are just a few from the International Congress being held with thousands of Salvationists from around the world.

 From the song penned by the founder, William Booth, 

“O Bondless Salvation……the whole world redeeming”

May we love the unlovable and serve the least and the lost. 

May the world know we are Followers of Jesus by our love for all mankind. 

Renew our commitment, strengthen our resolve and guide us clearly putting you above self as we serve you in our daily lives. 







“In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.” ― Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child

God has this crazy way of bringing the most unusual things together, all pointing to Him and His grace. He uses people from different walks of life and different places in the world and none know the other but they are shining His light in my life.

For several years I’ve been watching men battling addiction, watching the painful journey of shining a light on their pasts. For some, the pasts was the deepest darkness ever known and addiction seemed the only escape. For others, the wreckage of their past was self-made. I’ve stood before them and assured them of God’s grace, of His love that is the only true light. I’ve talked about pasts they’d rather forget but needed to face and I’ve done this without facing my own.

Mine isn’t marred by drugs or the mis-use of pain medications. My past doesn’t look too different from most Americans: parents divorced, poor decisions in my teen-age years, times where I walked away from God’s best for me. They seem trivial in the face of what some of the men have been through. And that’s added to minimizing my wounds, my fears, my shame.

A friend came along side to walk with me through this. To gently prod and ask some questions I thought there were no answers to. Questions about feelings and what I had numbed were named. It made me feel weak and what’s a good Christian girl doing feeling weak? It made me feel raw and vulnerable and ashamed of not being able to “get over it”.

from the side


“You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.
(Matthew 5:14, The Message)”

I intruded on their weekly meeting. Again. But there they sit, in plain view as I walk past the dining room and I’m drawn to these two men. Externally, they are as different as can be. Short and tall, fair and dark. Add this blonde female to the mix and, yeah, we are those God-colors the bible talks about.

Mike and Dodd. I don’t know if Dodd is his first or last name which doesn’t matter because all I need to know is the light he shines brightly when he comes to share the message of recovery.

Mike, I know. He’s been in and out and in and out of our program and every time he’s been in he’s I’ve been drawn to his easy nature and we’ve hoped for his best seeing that something inside of him that we know is capable of more. And this time….yes, this time, Mike has taken fully hold of this light and has become, himself, a light bringing out the God-colors in our world.

I looked at the two of them yesterday and said, “I like hanging out with you two.” In our dining room on Wednesdays when they meet for their sponsor/sponsee time that I inevitably crash.

Thank you God, our loving parent who is the light inside us, a spark to share and set another light aflame. Thank you for letting us see and be part of the God-colors in our world. Help us see beyond the frame to how the colors spill out and over and can never be contained in what man has made. Let us light up the night so the darkness will be exposed and your way be made clear. 

To Gavin

Gavin –

To be sure, we don’t know from experience what you are entering. We do know about change and you are about to experience one of the biggest changes in your life.

Emotions run high in times of change. Many of them the result of grief, something often overlooked as we forget grief comes with any loss.

You will grieve the place you’ve lived for 4 years. The place you came to as a broken, searching man. Near hopeless you walked through the doors. Not in your wildest imagination could you see becoming employed with us and then, surprise of all surprises!, God has called you to be an ordained minister of his grace.

You are going through the journey of lasts. Last softball game, last retreat, last youth night. These times that have been ordinary days in your life suddenly hold a title and their importance hits deep in your heart. They should. You have poured yourself out for others and emotions are the result of that pouring.

There are more lasts to come and the task of handing off what was yours to another. A reminder that what is ours was never ours but always His.

You’ve made friends and built relationships. You’ve gone deeper in life than you ever thought you would. This doesn’t come without tears, pain and struggle. You are also enjoying the rewards which are peace, serenity and a certainty that you are loved.


Murder Mystery Night

Some of these friendships will span miles and years but most will change and fade in the rearview mirror. The lessons they’ve brought and memories will be cherished. Get those photos off your camera roll and fill up boxes of these people and events because there will be days you need these visual reminders. They will be your affirmation that you have walked the right path and will help guide your future.

Goodbyes are hard. I have never figured out how to say them with any sort of depth. I’m not alone in this. It seems common throughout our denomination. A group that loves to host events for everyone and has official Sundays called “Farewell Sunday” and all we can do is sit through them with feigned smiles while people we never really got along with say nice things about someone who sounds a little like us.

So what can I tell you about that? I can tell you to do it your way. Hug longer those you love and smile politely to those who showed you how not to be. Do it your way. It’s your time anyway, we just tend to forget that.

People are going to ask a lot from you these last weeks. They will want you to share your story and do it in 7 minutes or less. And in that time they will expect you to inspire the whole group who has gathered to hear someone else. Get use to it. There will be plenty more of those in the years ahead. Never forget God uses the ways of the foolish to confound the wise 😉

Alumni Sunday

Alumni Sunday

The best thing we can tell you is what you already know:  your life isn’t yours but it is God’s. That means it will be hard and challenging, painful and uncertain.

It also means the rewards will be amazing and miracles will surround you in disguises you may not initially recognize.

They will come in the forms of church members who are too grumpy but the first ones to cook food for you when you are sick.

It will be the teenager who is a bit slow and the music instructors at camp ask you not to send him back because he just can’t get it. But he calls you even when you’ve moved states away because you made a difference in his life when he needed to know what a father was.

These small moments will be enough because you will know they are really the big moments when God’s grace reaches through the biggest hurts and reminds you again, you are loved.

When we say goodbye to you it will be too little. Remember they are just words. And words that fail to say what is in the heart.

You are one of the miracles. You have encouraged and instructed us with your devotion, intention, integrity, character, honesty, willingness, energy, heart, caring, compassion, dedication, and vulnerability. We don’t expect you being in another state will change the impact you have on our lives. We look to learn even more from you and we thank God for the opportunity he gives us.

Our figurative door will continue to be open to you. You’ll be getting one of those smart phones, which means your texts will show up on ALL of my devices. (Maybe I shouldn’t have told you that.)

You have a collective family who will be praying for you, encouraging you and probably still harassing you. It’s what we do to people we love and we love you Gavin. We do.



Throwback Thursday {doughnuts}

I’m throwing it back to a time way before my time. To a time where all I have to go on is the history left and it is good history for this band of believers and do-gooders.

You may have heard tomorrow is National Donut Day. Exactly how does a food go about having a day proclaimed for its recognition in the whole country? Who cares – it’s a round piece of fried dough that is delicious so what’s not to celebrate?

The Salvation Army has a bit of history with the doughnut. A history that goes back to World War I when a young Salvation Army Lassie gave a fresh doughnut to a homesick “doughboy” in France. It was that gesture that led a group of Salvation Army women to cook up doughnuts by the dozens for the soldiers fighting overseas.

This group of women earned the name Doughnut Girls and brought the doughnut to American soil to serve to soldiers at home.



It was a gesture of serving that has been a hallmark of The Salvation Army since its inception.

Throughout America, The Salvation Army serves as official representatives to Veterans hospitals, sitting on their quarterly meetings and conducting visitation to service men and women in their hospitals.

I have never visited a Veteran’s hospital that I haven’t been thanked for what those generations ahead of me have done. A simple gesture of kindness that is remembered and handed down as part of their family story.

I’ve written more about the doughnut girls here and for those of you who are foodies, here’s the recipe of the original doughnut made to serve our soldiers.


5 C flour
2 C sugar
5 tsp. baking powder
1 ‘saltspoon’ salt
2 eggs
1 3/4 C milk
1 Tub lard


Combine all ingredients (except for lard) to make dough.
Thoroughly knead dough, roll smooth, and cut into rings that are less than 1/4 inch thick. (When finding items to cut out donut circles, be creative. Salvation Army Donut Girls used whatever they could find, from baking powder cans to coffee percolator tubes.)
Drop the rings into the lard, making sure the fat is hot enough to brown the donuts gradually. Turn the donuts slowly several times.
When browned, remove donuts and allow excess fat to drip off.
Dust with powdered sugar. Let cool and enjoy.
Yield: 4 dozen donuts

For all the talk that goes on in any large organization, The Salvation Army included, this ‘Army’ was built on service to others and continue to run on this principle, this mission statement:

Mission Statement
The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.

We don’t always get this right. We’re made up of people and you know what problems we can create! But we believe this mission. We do our best to put aside judgement and prejudices because to show God’s love includes neither. Rather it is grace extended where none is expected, where none is earned or deserved because grace is the purest kind of gift.

God’s love in gift form. That’s grace.

If you try that doughnut recipe please let me know in the comment section. Or maybe it’s just a good excuse to eat a doughnut tomorrow. And when you do, think of The Salvation Army please. Say a prayer for us that we will uphold this mission statement and be conduits of God’s love.

faith and works quote