Friday, March 31, 2017

Lenten Devotional - Day 27

Scripture Reading: Matthew 9:9-13
“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.” (Matt. 9:9)
  Jesus knew that it was a religious violation to break bread with tax collectors, social outcasts and misfits, not to mention to be in close contact with a diseased woman, but he broke bread with them all. They clearly are a group gathered in fellowship. Jesus is literally a "friend of sinners." He did these things because he believed that showing mercy is never against the law of God.

  Jesus sits down to dinner with a group of tax collectors and “sinners,” people in Jesus’s day, as well as ours, who were considered misfits and outcasts, earning the disdain of the purity-conscious Pharisees. But Jesus turns the tables, telling them that he has come to call not the righteous, but sinners. “Go and learn what this means,” he orders them, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (vv. 10-13).

  “Go and learn what this means,” is a phrase God has frequently shared with me. Following Jesus requires us to hit the road and experience life only in the way that Jesus can show us. Working with individuals both in the depths of their addictions, those in recovery, and their family members, helped me to understand, Jesus words about mercy, grace, forgiveness and so much more.

  In calling Matthew to be one of his disciples, Jesus picked one of the most unlikely individuals. A tax collector who by profession was despised by his own people. Jesus’ had the ability to see within those he called, not only what they were, but also what they could be. What did Matthew see in Jesus that made him instantly ready to leave everything, to follow Jesus? At that moment, maybe Matthew saw in Jesus the hope of true friendship and peace with God, maybe he experienced the irresistible grace of God.

  Jesus shows real transformative power when he surprises the Pharisees with a call for mercy, not sacrifice. Jesus is calling us to see the possibilities which exist in the individuals around us, despite the problems and challenges they currently face. Our ministry believe that God’s grace and mercy will bring amazing and unexpected change. We are expected show mercy, to educate, mentor, and help them shape their lives into the potential that God created them to fulfill.

  We must note what Matthew lost and what Matthew found. He lost a comfortable job, but found a destiny. He lost a good income, but found honor. He lost a comfortable security, but found an adventure the like of which he had never imagined. We come to believe that beyond any doubt we will find a peace and joy and thrill for life that we never knew before. Do you thirst for true and lasting friendship with God? “For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” (Matt. 9:13)

Lee McDermott, Contributor

Remember in Prayer: Ability to care for those not always invited to the table.

Click Here PDF - Day 27 Devotion

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Lenten Devotional - Day 26

Scripture: Romans 8:24-25
“For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Rom. 8:24-25)
  It often feels hopeless for an addict's family who is caught in the web of the addiction of a loved one. You've probably tried most everything to get it to stop. You've hid loose cash, you tried tough love, you've prayed, you sought rehabilitation information and maybe even called the police. Addiction leaves us worn out, beat up and feeling useless as an addict's family. We often fear what tomorrow may bring.

  But we are reminded in the verses of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 that everything has a season and there is a time for everything. In our frightened and desperate times, God sends an advocate to stabilize us. He sends the Holy Spirit. God never makes a promise he won't keep but nevertheless his plan may take more time than we expect or sometimes doesn't go the way we had hoped. Instead of waiting impatiently for things to improve, we should place our confidence in God's goodness and wisdom. God's got it even when we don't.

  By accepting the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can let go of our own resources to cope with problems. When requests are brought to God, trust that he will always do what is best.

  If a loved one eventually loses his battle with addiction, so much is lost and irreplaceable. Lent offers the opportunity for reflection and change. In hope we can look ahead and trust toward what lies beyond this life when we are with Christ. God is not working to keep us happy and give us what we want in this life, he is working to fulfill his promises. Trust in God, not life's treasures, look for security in heaven that sometimes can't be found on earth.

Lynn Mance, Contributor

Remember in Prayer: Families caught in addiction that they might find a way forward.

Local Resources — Fayette County
Fayette County Drug and Alcohol Commission, Inc.
   100 New Salem Road, Suite 106, Uniontown, PA 15401
   Phone: 724-438-3576            Fax: 724-438-3305
Toll Free: 800-856-3576 Toll free number answers 24 hours/day-7 days/week

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Lenten Devotional - Day 25

Scripture: John 4:27-38
“Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, 'Four months more, then comes the harvest'? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.” (John 4:34-35)
  The problems and challenges we face with alcohol and other drug (AOD) abuse and dependency is not something that impacts us only externally. AOD issues are not someone else's problem to solve. We can’t just say that if only the government, the police, or social services would do this or that specific thing, the problem will go away in a few months. We, as a society, as a church, have a AOD problem. The AOD problem is ours by omission and when we fail to adequately live out the full expression of the gospel, we are advancing the development of AOD problems in our communities. AOD dependency, abuse and usage is as much a spiritual and relational problem than it is a physical or mental issue.

  Jesus is reminding us that we only need to look around us to find opportunities for mission, “the fields are ripe for harvesting.” (v. 35) To hear the cries of those suffering, a field of mission lies before us and is ripe for the harvesting. What churches DO need to know is how to recognize when it's time for the harvest. The Samaritan woman recognized something special in the person of Jesus, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!” (v. 29)

  The message of the harvest is always urgent, the destiny of neighborhoods, communities and families hangs in the balance. Every generation is crucial; every generation is strategic. We are not responsible for the successes or failures of a past generation and we cannot fully determine how future generations will answer the call. However, we do have our current generation! God will hold us responsible for what we do or choice not to do now. Someday, Jesus will ask us why we did not recognize Him in our neighbor.

  This relationship between God's mission and the church's work in the world is the reason Jesus reminds his disciples that sometimes the fields are ripe for harvesting - not just for sowing (v. 35). When the fields have already been plowed, and planted by God's own Spirit, then Jesus' disciples simply need to decide to join with God’s ongoing actions, for we are called to harvest this crop which we have not sown. 

  A group within Redstone Presbytery has been meeting periodically to discuss the problems and issues related to AOD facing our churches. Come and join us in the conversation. The Addiction Ministry Network meets again on Monday, April 3, 2017 at Noon at the offices of Redstone Presbytery in Greensburg, PA.

Lee McDermott, Contributor

Remember in Prayer: Ask God to show us the way to reveal our light to those living in the darkness and need someone to lead them out.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lenten Devotional - Day 24

Scripture: Galatians 5:1-6
“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal. 5:1)
  Christ has set us free. We are free. Thanks be to God.

  I want you to take a minute and think about a difficult time where you felt as though you were trapped in your life, or unable to make a change. How did you get through? Did you move on in your life only later to return to what was causing problems in the first place?

  We can take this lesson in scripture and apply it to so many aspects of our lives. For instance, we can start with something easy and look at dieting. How many of you have ever started a diet on New Year’s Day? How many of you were still committed to your diet by March? How many by April? For those of you who no longer became committed to the diet, think about what happened. Did you decide to have a piece of cake at a party one day? Did you decide that it was okay to have an extra serving of your favorite meal that mom made (because you wouldn’t want things to go to waste, now would we?) and things just started to go downhill from there?

  When we break out of a cycle it is often so easy to slowly pick up and return to what we were initially doing in the first place (in a short amount of time). This can truly be said about many aspects of one’s life, whether it’s dieting, exercise, drinking, smoking, money, gambling, shopping, etc.

  What the scripture tells us is that we are free, Christ has set us free. Thanks, be to God that we can be free! However, what the scripture also tells us is that we must stand firm and not submit again to a yoke of slavery. We know that Christ has set us free however, this does not mean that we can go back to the same demons that he has set us free from and expect that everything will be okay. We have a responsibility to stand firm and to not submit ourselves to that slavery. Slavery is a very strong word. How often do we make ourselves slaves to different vices in life? Sometimes it’s easy to overlook this.

  Lent is a season where we are called back to enter a right relationship with Christ. We have the blessing of knowing that we are accepted for whom we are as sinners and that God has promised that we are not alone. God has also promised us that we are free; he has set us free from whatever has enslaved us in our lives. However, God is also telling us that we have a responsibility to be accountable and to choose not to return to old behaviors that can bring us back into that cycle of slavery again. Thanks, be to God for the blessing and lessons we have in life, and for giving us the ability to move forward and to change.

Elizabeth Comer, Contributor

Click Here PDF - Day 24 Devotion

Monday, March 27, 2017

Lenten Devotional - Day 23

Scripture: Ezekiel 37:10-14
“I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. Then he said to me, "Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.' Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel.” (Ezek. 37:10-12)
  Deep within the souls of those struggling with AOD dependency is the belief that they are beyond hope, they are lost deep within the grave of despair. Recovery offers the possibility of resurrection. They need us to help them believe that recovery is possible.

  People in the midst their addictions believe the same as the people referenced by Ezekiel in today’s passage, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost.” (v. 11) God needs Jesus’ disciples to exercise their prophetic voice and proclaim what God can do, “to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves” (v. 12)

  We are called to proclaim a message they have never heard and to believe in someone they have never known. Prophets share the word of God with us, reminding us who we are as God’s people, something which has been true from the beginning of time and has faded from our memories. We all have days and moments when we feel, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost.” (v. 11) These moments come at times of grief, during sudden and rapid life changes, or emotional distress.

  The whole church is called by God to have a prophetic voice in our communities and proclaim that together with the Holy Spirit we have a partner in our faith. Jesus Christ leads us to the harvest which will breathe new life into our communities and help those affected by AOD problems rise to their feet to new life. We are also called to teach them how to tell their stories of restoration and redemption, how “they lived, and stood on their feet.” They have rich and meaningful stories about how God’s love and grace transformed their lives and we as the church need to hear their stories and the hope they show us and our communities.

  We all have stories of faith, heartache, hope, and grief capable of breathing new life into our communities. Communities which have arrived at a point where they have come to believe “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost;” (v. 11) Our prophetic voice allows these stories to live and breathe new life into our communities. We are called to tell our stories and share our hope, to encourage those with recovery stories, those with stories of grief and loss, those with stories of transformation, and those with stories of resurrection which lifted them up from the darkness. We have stories to tell which can breathe new life and raise up our communities from their graves of despair. What stories is God’s Spirit calling your church to tell and teach others to tell?

Lee McDermott, Contributor

Remember in Prayer: Individuals and families who feel hopeless about their current situation.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Lenten Devotional - Fourth Sunday in Lent

Scripture: John 4:36-38
“The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor." (John 4:36-38)
  When we, as Christ’s church, set out to address the AOD problems in our communities, we will experience the joy of seeing a harvest through our efforts. While, on other days, we will struggle when all we can hope to accomplish is to sow. In our sowing, we may never see the resulting harvest within a single, individual life where we have placed a great deal of our effort. Sadly, our sowing may not produce any harvest because addiction is deadly and the end of the story is tragic and heartbreaking.

  When a person first enters treatment, their initial treatment experience may not produce a lasting journey toward recovery, but as an addictions counselor my responsibility was to sow a seed. Positive recovery outcomes may only bear fruit much later and the harvest may not be witnessed by us, but only by others weeks, months, or years later. As an addictions counselor, I know this happened frequently, I never clearly discovered what eventually happened to many of these individuals. What I did come to recognize is that God did. In turn, God allowed me the opportunity to meet some of these people months or years later.

  The ability to learn what eventually happened to these individuals, who were now recovering, was truly a gift of God’s grace toward me. I discovered that what I did, the actions I took and the efforts that I put forth did produce positive results at some future moment. They may not have borne fruit in the fashion that I imagined or the ways that I had hoped, but God did produce a harvest. I was privileged that God gave me the chance to truly see what my early efforts had achieved.

  As leaders within the church, we need to approach those who are lost and living in the darkness of addiction with prayer, discernment and trust in the Holy Spirit. We need to trust that God is indeed at work within the lives of these individuals. If we can trust where God is leading, and trust that God is hearing us, and trust that God stands beside us as we struggle each day to address the problems of AOD, God will bring an abundant harvest. As the church, we are called upon to sow and sometimes God will call upon us to reap. In whatever, circumstances we may find ourselves surrounded by God’s grace, God is calling us to be faithful and steadfast in our faith. And by doing so we will discover that we will indeed reap where we have not sowed, but our labors will never have been in vain.

  As a church, we are first sent out to sow and be faithful in the sowing, then God will not forget us, God will allow us to see an abundant harvest.

Lee McDermott, Contributor

Remember in Prayer: Churches able to see the harvest which lies all around them and how God’s Spirit will lead them to the right place.

Click Here PDF - Fourth Sunday in Lent Devotion

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Lenten Devotional - Day 22

Scripture: Romans 5:12-21
“For just as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,” (Rom. 5:19-20)
  There is much we can do to assist others in achieving their recovery, but we must remember, we are not alone in this pursuit. We are partners with God, we need to depend upon God who can do what we can’t now see or things we can’t now do.

  I have over the years worked with many individuals whom I prayed for while working with them and I witnessed the grace of God at work within them. I have seen God intervene in ways I could not imagine and often, was unable to see at first, but only later recognized God’s hand at work where, “grace abounded all the more,” (v. 20)

  Denial can be a very strong force in the lives of those with dependency problems, they harbor the common illusion that many people hold that addiction couldn’t possibly happen to me. Paul in this passage speaks of disobedience, this disobedience is like the meaning of denial you often hear regarding those with AOD dependency. In both denial and disobedience, we believe our view of the world is better than the reality which we clearly face and the reality that others see quite clearly, but we question their perceptions of the same reality.

  Obedience calls on us to see the world as it currently exists and it is not always a very pleasant picture of humanity. Obedience to God's will does not mean everything will go smoothly or there won’t be some difficult hills to climb. Obedience does not guarantee that the wind will always be at our backs and that the journey will be calm and peaceful. Jesus told his disciples to cross to the other side of the lake, even though he knew the wind would be working against them. Jesus does tell us that he will never leave us alone and will be with us until the end of the age.

  One of my favorite old hymns is “Trust and Obey”. When I was, younger I was not fond of this hymn, trusting and obeying was not high on my list of things to do. As I grew older, increased in maturity, and hopefully wiser, I recognized how important trusting and obeying had become to my spiritual formation. When a person enters treatment for AOD dependency, their initial posture is not geared toward trusting and obeying, so some time is needed for them, to come to trust the treatment staff and come to comply or obey their treatment plan. Trust and obedience does not come easily, but is essential to treatment success. In early recovery, trusting someone can prove difficult and complicated and disobedience has become a way of life and not easily relinquished.

Lee McDermott, Contributor

Remember in Prayer: Professionals who work each day to lead others to life and recovery from their addiction.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Lenten Devotional - Day 21

Scripture: Psalm 130:1-8
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;” (Ps. 130:1, 5)
  “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.” These words of King David lamenting the death of his son echo the laments that have been expressed by my family when the scourge of addiction claimed one of our own members on November 6, 2016. Noah was 27 when he died of a heroin overdose, leaving behind a mother, father, brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, coworkers and many others who knew and loved him. Losing a loved one to a drug overdose is difficult to publicly acknowledge, but doing so and putting a name and face to this terrible disease of addiction may, just may, save a life.

  Noah’s mother reflected on what it means to be an addict in a recent newspaper article written about his struggles:
“When you know the highs of addiction, you forget the lows. You forget that you’ve used your last $40 on your drug of choice and you don’t have money for food, or you blew your last paycheck on drugs and can’t pay your rent. You can’t afford a bus ticket home, because you wanted to get high last night and now you’re getting the shakes, and your stomach is sick and you need to get high…”
  The grief felt by those of us who loved Noah often seems too difficult to bear. As his mother wrote:
“There are days when I don’t want to move, to get out of bed. I wake up crying, I cry all day, I cry myself to sleep at night, I wake up in the middle of the night with tears on my cheeks, only to start the cycle all over again the next day. His name, his face, his smile race through my head all day long. I’m not handling it well, and sometimes, I don’t want to handle it at all. The loss is just simply overwhelming.”
  Please pray for those feeling such excruciating lament, prayers to put hope in the Lord and His unfailing love.

Cathy Ritter, Contributor

Remember in Prayer: Families who cry out of the depths of their soul for loved ones in the grips of addiction.

Click Here PDF - Day 21 Devotion

Informational Resources
National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teachers

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Day 20

Scripture: Psalm 23
“he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name's sake.” (Ps. 23:3)
  In Lent, we are reminded to meditate, repent and restore our souls. The words of Psalm 23 teach us how. Jesus is our shepherd who guides and leads us to good places. As his sheep, he wants our commitment to follow him. When we follow him, we will find contentment in the pathways of life.

  When we sin, and go our own path, we cannot blame God for the environment we have created for ourselves. When one is an addict and going their own path into a sinful life of drugs or alcohol he is not following the Shepherd.

  But the story doesn't need to end there. 

  The shepherd seeks his sheep, when they are lost he looks for them. Even in the darkness of addiction, the shepherd is within reach. Seek his help in prayer, humility and repentance.

  Our souls can be depleted in normal life through work, busyness and life problems as well. Our souls are even more quickly depleted in the life of addiction. Multiple losses of job, money, family and the physical daily needs of drugs can deplete a soul to the point of survival mode.

  Addiction is a wrong path because Jesus is not guiding this path. Jesus leads us to still waters and down right paths. We only reach the "green pastures" and "still waters" by following him.

  So how can a soul be restored? Physical needs of sleep, food and shelter need to be met. Spiritual needs can be restored. Getting on your knees to pray to God, reflection, quiet and diversion of the lifestyle all can restore the soul.

  Psalm 119:105 tell us, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and light for my path.” In Jesus, he guides us down the right path. Addiction is a hard life circumstance although Jesus is shining his light the brightest in these dark times. Look for him in his word, in prayer and he will light the way to righteousness.

Lynn Mance, Contributor

Remember in Prayer: Those who feel lost and pray the Lord will restore their soul.

Click Here PDF - Day 20 Devotion

Local Resources — Somerset County
Somerset Single County Authority (SCA) for Drug and Alcohol
  300 North Center Avenue, Suite 360, Somerset, PA 15501
  Phone: (814) 445-1530          Fax: (814) 445-1524
Accessline: 1-800-452-0218
A 24-hour toll free number to provide human service information and referral.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lenten Devotional - Day 19

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
“If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,” (1 Cor. 12:19-22)
  In teaching congregations about evangelism and hospitality, I have often emphasized that today’s visitor may be that special person God has sent us who will be essential to the future life and ministry of the church five or ten years from now. God often takes a long view of our church’s ministry, rather than just addressing or meeting our immediate, short-term ministry needs.

  In 1 Corinthians, Paul invites church members to realize and act upon their essential unity in Jesus Christ, instead of focusing on our differences in status, opinion and practice. In 12:12-31a, Paul continues his line of reasoning about the proper use of the gifts of God's Spirit within the life of the church. God's Spirit has chosen and empowered individuals to work closely together for the common good (v. 7). No one person has everything the church needs, and no one gift is possessed and used by every person; thus, every person's spiritual gift is needed. Diversity and unity are held together in Paul’s imagery of an individual as part of a collective, working together for the same purpose.

  Paul uses the parts of the body as an illustration for what it means to be the church and looks for ways each part of the body can function at its best. We are the eyes, ears, feet and hands. We are part of the body of Christ. We are dependent upon each other. We function best when we realize that despite our differences we all work together toward the same goal.

  Often churches want to increase their church membership, but they want people who are just like them. Unfortunately, the supply of people just like us has been depleted. Paul is telling us, we can’t all be feet, we need other body parts to be whole. The church that is faithful to their mission is the church capable of encouraging people who are much different than themselves with different stories, experiences, talents and skills. They can and will teach us many things about God we have missed and breathe new life into the church’s life.

  Each of us needs to accept our role and celebrate others role which are different than ours, and work for the common good of our calling in the Holy Spirit. We each have experiences, stories, views unique to us, which has the power through the Holy Spirit to impact the world around us. As Paul reminds us, “On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,” (v. 22) The stories and capabilities of those in recovery can play a prominent role in the future ministry of our church. God sends us others who will join with us in a common ministry and can help us recapture what it means to go and make disciples.

Lee McDermott, Contributor

Remember in Prayer: The ability to welcome those with different gifts.

Click Here PDF - Day 19 Devotion

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Lenten Devotional - Day 18

Scripture: Psalm 51:12-17
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit…. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Ps. 51:12, 17)
  We don’t like to admit that there may be aspects of our lives where we have little or no control. Twelve step groups frequently speak of surrender, the action of a person who acknowledges that they have lost control and are powerless over their continued use and behavior. A “broken spirit” is a good example of this surrender. Surrender is not easy, people want to believe, they are in control even a little bit, but without complete surrender they will always fall back to old, destructive patterns. The surrender that leads to recovery starts in the same way the psalmist states, with “a broken and contrite heart.” (v. 17)

  Psalm 51 are the anxious words of one who feels desperately cut off from the presence of God. The psalmist here is broken by sin and guilt and is pleading with God for restoration. Many individuals, not just those suffering from addiction, share the same brokenness described by the Psalmist. Individuals in the depths of their brokenness who will hear the words that we preach and are convinced that God is justified in abandoning them. Their addictive behavior has surrounded them with their guilt and shame and they are certain that sin has rendered them utterly unworthy of any communion with God. What words do we offer to the desperate? Do we offer confirmation of their worthlessness, by driving home the destructive consequences of their sin?

  Lent is a season in which all of us are called back to a right relationship with God. For some individuals, they are certain that not even repentance will lead them on the path toward restoration. Restoration will only come when they are freed from the guilt that has for too long crushed their soul and spirit. The Psalmist offers to the desperate the solution to our epic problem of restoration with God: steadfast love and abundant mercy, a God who is eternally “for us” with the endless love of a mother for her child. The God whose everlasting love will never abandon us, no matter what our guilt says. Steadfast love and abundant mercy not only heals us of the stain of sin, but also of the lie of our worthlessness. Who among us doesn’t need to hear that word?

  The psalmist then prays for the power not to sin again
(vv. 10-13). He wants a clean heart that can stay clean. He understands that such an action is beyond his human ability, but is available from God, who has the power to cause the change of human hearts. Our calling in season and out of season is announcing that restoration between God and his people is possible, restoration to our relationships with others is possible, restoration to God’s salvation is possible, restoration to church and community is possible. Lent is calling us to acknowledge our own restoration and how it is possible for our neighbor through the steadfast love and mercy of God.

Lee McDermott, Contributor

Remember in Prayer: Families with broken hearts because of the heroin epidemic.

Click Here PDF - Day 18 Devotion

Monday, March 20, 2017

Lenten Devotional - Day 17

Scripture: Isaiah 58:1-12
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” (Isa. 58:6-7) 
  It’s hard to share. Any preschool teacher or parent will tell you that it’s difficult for a child to let other people play with their things. In the preschool setting, if a child walks into a play kitchen, the one who is already in there is told to share. If a child is playing with blocks and another wants to join, what happens? Someone steps in to make sure they share and cooperate.

  But if we think about it, we lose that emphasis on sharing as we age. As we move into the independence of adulthood we go the opposite direction. High school students all have their own books and materials. As adults we have houses full of things that many of us don’t share. Can you imagine someone walking into your kitchen or garage uninvited and wanting to use your tools? Is there anyone there who insists that you share?

  No. Our decision to share or not is internalized from lessons learned in preschool and God’s words to us about what it means to be faithful. The prophet Isaiah tells us that God wants us to share—our food, our homes, our clothes. This is the devotion that God would like to see.

  There are so many ways we can share. We can invite people in our kitchens, our churches and our lives. We can offer people, especially those with addiction in their families, the nourishment and love that they need to get through each day.

  Maybe there are days that we need to think of God as our teacher. The one who gently walks a new people into our lives and churches, leading them forward with a hand on their backs and saying to us, “Remember to share your things” or “Why don’t you welcome her into your game?” or “This is my child.”

Sue Washburn, Contributor

Remember in Prayer: Churches who are honestly seeking to answer the call to lift the yoke of addiction and set free their communities.

Click Here PDF - Day 17 Devotion

Informational Resources
Easy-to-Read Drug Facts

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Lenten Devotional - Third Sunday in Lent

Today’s Scripture: John 4:15-17
“The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, 'I have no husband';” (John 4:15-17)
  Most AOD dependent individuals and their families find it difficult to face the truth of their current lives. Our ministry in the church is to provide a safe and secure environment where they can face the truth and find the “living water” that Jesus tells us about.

  The woman in this story is willing to be honest with Jesus about the state of her life at this moment, “I have no husband.”

  When the woman bares the truth of her life, she and Jesus can begin to talk honestly and the work of healing can begin. 

  The first casualty of addiction is always the Truth. I ache for the "little" lies addiction causes. They get bigger and more frequent and erode relationships away. They destroy trust between loved ones and friends. I think that one of the BEST things about a 12-Step Group is that there are other people there who tell you their stories. You can see yourself in their stories, and you know that you are not crazy. And you are not alone. Only another addict can voice what you are going through, and when they say it – it has the unmistakable ring of truth. Truth has a holiness and authority all of its own. Jesus said, "The truth will set you free" - and it really does.

Donna Havrisko, Contributor

Remember in Prayer: Those drug dependent individuals who are facing the truth of their behavior and the pain this creates.

Click Here PDF - Third Sunday in Lent Devotion

Local Resources — Westmoreland County
Westmoreland County Drug and Alcohol Commission, Inc. (WeDAC, Inc.)
  1 Wendell Ramey Lane, Suite 120, Monessen, PA 15062
  Phone: 724-684-9000, ext. 4446       Fax: 724-684-3489
  Hours: Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
  In Case of An Emergency Call: 1-800-220-1810, Ext. 2

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Lenten Devotional - Day 16

Scripture: Matthew 6:19-21
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:19-21)
  For some people, it is difficult to admit they were wrong; others have trouble making an apology. For me, the most difficult words are these: In the depths of his addiction my son stole something from me. Both money and sentimental items were gone, but they weren’t the really important issues. The loss of control over my life, the loss of trust in my child, fear for my son’s wellbeing, and the speed at which this new reality hit literally stunned me.

  Most remnants of my pride were gone by the time I asked for help for my son. But there was still an elephant in the room. I could not bring myself to reach out to friends – people in our neighborhood, our congregation, and others close to my heart. Pride remained, battered but intact.

  It was only when a friend reached out to me in her pain that I was able to break out of my self-imposed prison of silence. My friend’s child was addicted. I shared our story with her – the pain of discovery, the uncertainty of the treatment journey, and the joy of recovery – and I think we both received some measure of comfort from our conversations. We were able to put into words that our children are great gifts from God, and they are the treasures that we seek to protect – not our pride, not our community standing, not our checkbooks, and not the opinions of those around us who might not understand our journey. Acknowledging my fears and pride allowed me to then accept and examine my weakness. And I was reminded that “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5: 6) There I was, there was my son, and there are we all.

  Once I gave up on the worry about how my loss of earthly treasures would be viewed, I joined my son in becoming a recovering addict – I still care too much about how others view me, my family and my child – but I walk each day with the faith that God’s view is different from ours. If my son can recover from his addiction to drugs, I can learn to live without pride.

Susan Perry, Contributor

Remember in Prayer: Mother, Fathers, and Grandparents who struggle to find peace as they face the addiction of one of their children.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Lenten Devotional - Day 15

Scripture: John 3:5-8
“The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." (John 3:8)
  Some years ago, I read a story about Dr. M. Scott Peck who became a Christian late in his life. He was often asked by others, if he was a born again Christian. He responded by saying, if he was born again, it was a prolonged and difficult delivery. I have since come to understand too clearly exactly what Dr. Peck was saying, many experiences of coming to faith are prolonged and difficult deliveries.

  While conducting workshops among faith communities, I have had church leaders tell me that if the AOD dependent person would just give their life to Christ and be born again they would be healed and their problem gone. As important as I know spiritual formation and faith are to recovery, I found that the delivery is far more difficult. Most AOD dependent people would love to have God do all the heavy lifting, but we know life doesn’t always work that way. What is worth having is worth working hard to gain and keep. Generally, what the AOD dependent person wants is that God will remove the consequences of their usage, but allow them to continue their use as before. It just doesn’t work that way.

  Jesus is telling us we need to experience a new birth in the Spirit, but we need to gain a reliance upon the movement of the Holy Spirit. We need to learn to listen to the changing movements of the Spirit among us. For us to be lead to a new birth in the spirit, we will discover the spirit will blow us to destinations where we might not wish to go and ask us to quietly rest in the silence, to hear the sounds of the Spirit working among us. Silence is difficult for the AOD dependent person because they have grown accustomed to the noise which surrounds them.

  If we are willing to reach out God’s spirit will go with us, but we might not discern how it is working to bring new life. Being born again will not solve all our problems, it will often lead to a difficult and prolonged journey to discover our role within God’s world. Though with the help and reliance upon the Spirit it will be a journey worth the time taken. The recovering person needs to learn to discern the movement of the Spirit just as the church needs to continuously discern the Spirit’s movement within their members lives together. It is how we are born refreshed and new each day.

Lee McDermott, Contributor

Remember in Prayer: Our ability to discern the Spirit’s movement around us.

Informational Resources

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Lenten Devotional - Day 14

Scripture: John 9:8-12
“The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, "Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?" Some were saying, ‘It is he.’ Others were saying, ‘No, but it is someone like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’" (John 9:8-9)
  In my early years as an addictions counselor, I was amazed by the transformation; physically, emotionally, and spiritually that occurred with people in recovery. A few years into their recoveries many were unrecognizable compared to their former selves. One day, I was shopping with my wife when a woman run up and gave me a great, big hug. I had no idea who this woman was and my wife also wondered why some strange woman was hugging me. The woman told me who she was and I barely believed it, I had not seen her in five years when she completed treatment. She was 33 when I first met her, but she looked more like 55, because of her addiction. Now five years later, she looked her age.

  Recovery has a major impact on many, bringing back renewed health, strength, and appearance. In the reading from John, people could not believe this was the same man who was once blind and a beggar, “Others were saying, ‘No, but it is someone like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’" (v. 9) His encounter with Jesus transformed his life. Often, people are unable to recognize a person in recovery. Many people nevertheless remain afraid of even interacting with recovering people, if known.

  I provided pulpit supply among many congregations when I worked as an addictions counselor. I introduced myself and revealed my full-time job. After worship this lead to many interesting conversations. People would seek advice about someone’s addiction. Often, someone would introduce themselves as a person who had been in recovery for 5, 10, 15 or more years. I asked if others in the church knew about their recovery and usually the answer was no. They often stated they had not shared this information, because they did not want to be identified by their old, former self. They hoped to only be identified as the person they now were in Christ. They were also concerned how others in the congregation might respond, if others knew.

  These individuals had a wonderful story of transformation, renewal, forgiveness, and grace to share, but they were fearful that others might not see it the same way. A chief reason for not speaking was that they did not know where the congregation and particularly, the church leadership stood on the issue of addiction. The church never let it be known where they stood on the problem of addiction in the community. They were afraid that if knowledge of their recovery became known, others would only see them through the eyes of their former selves and not the person they had become. We sometimes give silent signals that we don’t believe in stories of transformation into new creations through Christ. Where does your church stand, have you ever spoken about it, what silent signals are you unknowingly communicating, and what do you want your community to know about you?

Lee McDermott, Contributor

Remember in Prayer:  Individuals in recovery who keep the secret for fear that other will find them objectionable if their secret got out.

Click Here PDF - Day 14 Devotion

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lenten Devotional - Day 13

Scripture: Psalm 51:1-11
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.” (Ps. 51:10-11)
  I am including a Holy Reading Psalm 51:1, 4, 6, 10, 15-17 and then a devotional stretch so as to pray with your body.

  Have mercy on me O GOD, according to your steadfast love; According to your abundant mercies blot out my transgressions. You desire truth in the inward being; therefore, teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

  Create in me a clean heart, O GOD, and put a new and right spirit within me.


  Hear me, O Merciful One (legs hip distance apart, slowly raise arms to the stars)

Inhale: Quietly express your prayer with your body, heart, and soul. Clear my conscience in your love (arms extended to the side slowly twist from side to side keep knees slightly bent)

Exhale: breathe out guilt, shame and blame. Your truth Permeates my whole being (grab opposite elbows behind back, press heart forward, stretch throat and let head drop towards back)

Inhale: With open heart, inhale God's truth. Your wisdom fills my heart (Raise arms to the heavens, press palms together, slide hands to the heart and bow)

Exhale: Bowing down, thank GOD for the wisdom to know love from fear. Fill me with your loving Spirit (slide hands to back of calves pull chest towards thighs, forward fold)

Inhale: Be inspired, renewed, and revitalized as you inhale. Cleanse my heart of wrath, greed and gluttony. (arm's reach out touching floor with fingertips tailbone lifted)

Exhale: feel lightened, emptied, and open for God's love. Rid my lips of lies and deceit, O God (sitting on floor, softening face, drop chin, soften jaw, hands pressed together at heart center)

Inhale: lift your chin, soften your lips, open your mouth to receive goodness, truth, and beauty. Let them instead declare your love (stretch arms out taking hold of your pant legs and lower nose towards knees)

Exhale: Bow your head to a love that never fails. Accept and heal my broken spirit (on all fours drop belly, bring eyes up towards the heavens, tailbone up, then arch body like a cat, chin to chest, tuck tailbone)

Inhale: Look up and offer you soul for comfort and healing. Teach me to be humble of heart (knees out wide, forehead to the ground, arms stretched out, child's pose)

Exhale: Be the child of God that you are: loved, loving, and loveable!

  May the longtime sun shine upon you, all love surround you, and the pure light within you, guide your way on. - Irish prayer

Andrea Falcone, Contributor

Remember in Prayer:  Individuals who live each day in recovery, let us hear their stories and rejoice in their new life.

Click Here PDF - Day 13 Devotion