Finding peace that is like unto a river

Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments!
    Then your peace would have been like a river,
    and your righteousness like the waves of the sea;

~ Isaiah 48:18 – ESV ~

We all look back and remark on the many regrets of missed opportunities, mistakes, and chosen paths we have taken. Our thoughts revolve around the idea that if we had made different choices – life may have turned out better. If only had we chosen rightly would we have experienced blessings from God.

Many tend to ruminate on how, if they had done things radically different how much better their lives would have been. In some way, we shift the blame from our own failings, and willfully wanderings, back onto God. In some way, we convince ourselves God has let us down. However, the real truth is we have let God down when we failed to live up to His guidance and counsel.

Our selfish and prideful convictions led us down path’s that have led us away from His divine love and sovereign grace. It is the reason we have not fulfilled our desires and dreams. It is the futile rebellious spirit of our humanity that have led us into captivity. Yet, despite our own failings, we desire to come back to Him. Return to the path and find restoration in our lives. We want to be at peace and not in turmoil.

Through restoration of our relationship with our divine Heavenly Father, we may say to ourselves, If only and God responds with Now you are able. Despite those lost times, misadventures, and past mistakes; we are redeemed with hope of experiencing bountiful opportunities for growth. Here is where our trust in surrendering ourselves over to God’s divine grace and care provides us with direction. As long as we choose to follow Him and His counsel. It is our trust in God that brings us peace that flows like unto a river.

Burying our swords of rebellion

… all the people were assembled together, they took their swords, and all the weapons which were used for the shedding of man’s blood, and they did bury them up deep in the earth.
~ Alma 24:17, Book of Mormon ~

When one comes to the awareness of their powerlessness over substance use, and the subsequent inability to manage one’s life, it behooves the individual to follow through and recognize the greatest need of reliance on God. Not only recognize our greatest need to rely upon God, to fully come to a place and realize our need to surrender ourselves and our lives over to His divine care. This sums up the foundational principle of any 12-step program.

There are a variety of ways an individual surrenders their will over to the care of God. Today’s inspiring message comes from an Ancient MesoAmerican ceremonial sacrifice. It is contained in the Book of Mormon and comprises Alma chapter 23-24.

Stained swords made cleaned and buried deep in the Earth

Now, my best beloved brethren, since God hath taken away our stains, and our swords have become bright, then let us stain our swords no more with the blood of our brethren.
~ Alma 24:12 ~

Coming to Christ is much more than seeking God’s forgiveness. Surrendering our will and life over to God. It is a ceremonial sacrifice where we engage in a renewal of faith and hope. This occurs through the sacred ordinance of Baptism (see Romans 6:1-23, ESV). The efficacy of baptism cleanses us. It is a form of purification ceremony and ritual.

For the people to be so-converted that they willingly buried their swords deep within the earth as to not take them up again is a remarkable commitment to turning over their lives to God.

These Lamanites weren’t satisfied with stashing their swords in the closet or covering them with a little dirt. When they decided to change their ways, “they did bury them deep in the earth.” (See Alma 24:16-17.) Not just IN the earth, but DEEP IN the earth! The ways of the past were no longer an option. They knew it, and they new that the Lord knew it.

This ceremonial sacrifice involved action on their part. It also showed great courage. faith, and commitment to no longer return to their previous way of living. However, the story of these ancient people does not end with their conversion and commitment. They still had to face their enemies.

Facing our enemies with renewed faith, hope, and strength

And their hatred became exceedingly sore against them, even insomuch that they began to rebel against their king, insomuch that they would not that he should be their king; therefore, they took up arms against the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi.
~ Alma 24:2 ~

The gravest tragedy is those who return to retrieve their weapons of war in order to engage in battle. Recovery from substance use disorder means that we learn to refrain from returning to our previous habits, despite the temptations that come to us.

What many may not realize is that when we surrender our lives and will over to God’s care, we are also giving Him permission to come to our defense. We learn to act in more honorable ways. We develop a way to walk with integrity. Our spiritual growth moves us from a life of reproach to a life worth living.

As we read the story of the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi: We come to where the Lamanites came against them. The people rather lay their lives down than to take up arms and engage in bloodshed to honor their commitment and sacrifice.

Through this act brought about another change. Those who came to destroy the people began to see that there was no resistance. Some of them began to awaken to their own sins and treachery. Those who saw the travesty of their own nature put down their own swords.

We resist the urge to return to our former ways. Instead, we seek God’s divine guidance and counsel. And, when those who come to tempt us, revile us, and attempt to cause us to engage in old behaviors; we stand resilient and resist them. Despite the slaughtering of our character.

What are the swords we need to deeply bury?

In recovery, and in life, there are those things that we need to rid ourselves from. These “swords” that need to be deeply buried vary from individual to individual. However, they include:

  • Disposing of items which we have used while in active substance use
  • No longer going places where we have engaged in using behavior
  • Disassociating ourselves from people who continue to use and may enable ongoing use
  • Filling our time with activities that are productive in helping us heal and not destructive
  • Pairing up with an accountability partner so that each keeps the other accountable to not go back to our old behaviors and old way of living

And, despite those who may come against us and our recovery, the more we stand in peace with our convictions and surrendering our will and life over to God’s care; they will come to realize our recovery is genuine and real.

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Many sides made whole in Christ

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
~ 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, ESV ~

The greatest miracle of humanity is the redemption through Jesus Christ whereby we receive forgiveness, salvation, and a promised abundant life. When we come to realize our need for grace and surrender unto Him, we bring with us many aspects of who we are. It is not just the individual suffering from various trappings, chains of bondage, and past trauma’s. We bring many different gifts that help facilitate our spiritual growth and restoration of our true sense of self.

Parts of ourselves are highly developed while other aspects of ourselves are not. Yet, our greatest fear is turning to the new side of identity through Jesus Christ and exploring it. However, as we turn to Him – daily – we begin to open up those sides of ourselves that were once closed off. This is because we were once lost in a world of our own suffering of substance use and co-dependency. Where we had fewer options, we have gained access to our personal strengths and heightened sense of self in order to discover those new parts of our identity.

One of the greatest discoveries is our relationship and kinship with others on their own spiritual journey of healing and growth. Collectively, we become part of a community where there is encouragement, empowerment, discipleship, and growth. It becomes reassuring that we do not need to hide any aspect of who we are when we start living a life of integrity and authenticity.

Today, show gratitude to God for the many options He is revealing to you in this renewed life.

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Reason the Opioid crisis needs discussion within the Christian Church

When it comes to social issues – the one conversation this writer does not believe is happening – has to do with the opioid crisis that our nation is facing. It seems the Church has faltered in addressing this issue. And, that is a very tragic and fatal mistake.

According to the U.S. National Library Medicine’s website:

In 2016, more than 20,000 deaths in the United States were caused by an overdose of prescription opioids, and another 13,000 deaths resulted from heroin overdose. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death in U.S. adults under age 50, and opioids account for more than half of all drug overdose deaths.

On June 23, 2019, Tim Kershner write’s an article on the United Church of Christ’s website how an urgent action is needed regarding the crisis. The National Association of Evangelicals has published a podcast regarding the opioid crisis and how Christians are able to respond. Another great resource for Christians and Churches, within local communities, on the crisis and how to respond, is published by Park Hill Baptist Church.

Real practical solutions provide real success in recovery

With all this information, what is the best and realistic practical solutions Christians and community Churches are able to utilize and implement? Here are a list of steps needed to work with individuals (within and without the faith-community):

Access to ongoing treatment and support is critical to one’s recovery

With opioid substance use disorders, that are moderate to severe, require a three equally parts of successful treatment. First, getting connected with local clinics and agencies that provide Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT). These agencies are compliant with federal and state government legislation to provide Methadone, Suboxone, or Subutex medication.

Second, these agencies (and medical clinics) provide person-centered and individualized care through therapeutic counseling. Typically with a Substance Use Disorder Professional who is assigned to meet with the individual. Group therapy may be required and recommended. Random observed or unobserved urine analysis testing. Medically managed and monitoring of a person’s dose for stability, potential risk factors for over-medication, and medically assisted detoxification.

Third, an aspect of any person in treatment and recovery from any form of substance use disorder, is the peer support of family and friends. Having a solid connection with caring, compassionate, and non-judgmental and critical individuals in a person’s life may facilitate greater success in recovery. This is not a sure-fire guarantee that a family member or loved one will be successful. However, it greatly increases the efficacy of their treatment and chances to recovery from opiate substance use disorder.

While, as Christians, we recognize the role of centering our faith and hope on Jesus Christ; we must also face the reality that there are professional resources the Christian community is able to connect with and provide referrals for members of their faith-based congregation struggling with opioid use.

In fact, one of the questions asked on the biopsychosocial assessment is a person’s spiritual and religious upbringing. Where they brought up in a home or Church? Majority of the patient’s I have conducted assessments on in the past 7+ years always affirm some Christian upbringing and affiliation. This question is followed up with, Are you connected with a faith-based community? Do you participate in any religious ritual? Do you pray and/or meditate daily?

Out of those that are assessed for treatment to manage and recovery from opioid substance abuse may have some spiritual abuse and trauma that they have personally experienced. Therefore, getting them connected to treatment facilities that will provide ongoing continuum of care for substance use related issues is the first step in helping those struggling.

Mental Health services and Case Management for continuum of care

Addressing substance use related disorders, specifically opiate use disorder, also draws attention to the need for mental health services and case management. In the social human services field, this is referred to as co-occurring disorders and getting individuals connected to mental health treatment and services is also a great resource.

Combining both, MAT-treatment for opiate replacement therapy and counseling, mental health services and treatment, will help facilitate greater success in recovery and establishing a sustaining and stable life.

Mental health services includes addressing trauma informed care, Post accute withdrawal syndrome, borderline personality disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, adult children of alcoholics and family dysfunctions, and any other mental health related issues.

Most treatment facilities have medically assisted treatment with mental health services. Other clinics provide MAT services and refer out for mental health services.

Abstinence based recovery verses harm reduction intervention and recovery

The old school way of treatment involved the tough love approach and the misconceptions that substance use related disorders are merely a lack of volition (will power) and reduced to “you can choose to not use just as much as you can choose to use.

This old way of thinking is no longer valid and true. Granted, there are a minuscule of individuals successfully white-knuckling, Jesus taking the wheel, and cold turkeying from active use: the vast majority, especially heroin and opiate dependent individuals, need more than stop, drop, and peace out from their using.

In harm reduction, it is working with the individual and recognizing the progress they are making toward establishing abstinence. And, many people in early recovery do not see much of a progress. Let alone, feel any pride in moving further and further away from there use.

For instance, on average, an individual is assessed and admitted into a Methadone Maintenance Treatment Program. While they are moving toward a therapeutic stable dose, their reduction in use of heroin typically subsides and decreases in frequency and amount. Here is an example.

A patient comes in and reports using approximately 1-2 grams of heroin a day. Typically using, on average, about 4-5 times per day. Within about three weeks, they may cut down to using 1-2 times per day and using on average .1 or .2 grams of heroin a day (via injection). They may only be at about 50 mgs for methadone dosing, however, their use has decreased significant in amount and frequency of using.

Is this person completely abstinent? No, however, is there a progression in moving toward abstinence? Yes there is. Harm reduction is also not about a person’s substance use. Harm reduction is all-encompassing regarding their living environment, level of productivity (are they employed, seeking employment, volunteering, seeking any form of assistance and help?) Is their peer support increasing in them moving toward healthier goals? Are their family supportive and actively involved in their treatment? What about their significant other? Are there parenting needs?

Recovery is not merely about getting people to stop using. It is addressing the whole-person: mind, body, and spirit. Harm reduction, with the utilization of therapeutic interventions of motivational interviewing techniques, cognitive-behavioral therapy approaches, peer support group therapy sessions, peer support community based recovery groups, and faith-based community and family support all play a part in assisting a person’s success in recovery and treatment.

Relapse Prevention and protection of sobriety

One of the greatest travesties a person faces in recovery is when they start moving forward and transforming their lives: Family and friends may no longer recognize this new person. As part of relapse prevention and protecting an individual’s sobriety is the family of origin engaging in recovery as well. Understanding that the person they used to know no longer exists.

As Christians, we understand this when someone comes to faith, has a sincere and genuine spiritual birth and comes to faith through Jesus Christ. Their life transforms to a whole new person. The old person is being put to death. Yet, we as Christians neglect to understand this when it comes to individuals in treatment and recovery.

It may look something like this:

An individual comes into recovery and treatment, they start working, establishing abstinence and improving their overall quality of life. Addressing the emotional and mental health related issues, learning to develop better financial responsibility, repairing and restoring broken relationships, healing spiritually, eating and exercising to become healthier individuals.

Family members, and the Faith-Based community at large, does not accept them. Instead, they hold onto the old person, waiting for the old Jim to show up any day now. Because this is what family and faith based community members are used to. The lying, deceiving, manipulation, stealing, etc.

Forgiveness plays a huge role in recovery and is one of the many reasons it is part of the 12-step program. It is also integral in our Christian Faith and commandment from Jesus Christ himself.

Or, it may be something else along these lines:

Enabling them to have a little bit of alcohol, or take a pill to help with the pain. Maybe even disregard treatment and 12-step recovery participation all together.

Supporting those in recovery is understanding what risk factors are going to move someone closer to relapse. It is also being educated and aware of when someone appears to be moving toward relapsing.

Getting back to the practical solutions – what Christians are enable to do to help those in recovery

As stated, understanding the nature and problematic issue with the Opioid epidemic is critical. Becoming aware of people’s individual’s needs, having available access to resources to assist individuals in getting treatment, and supporting them in treatment is essentially the practical solutions Christians are enabled to do.

We are not in the business of judging those suffering from opiate (or any other related) substance use disorder. Our goal is to reach out and meet them where they are at. Offering the person hope, resources, encouragement, and any other support necessary. All it takes is what the Apostle Paul taught – Compassion, love, and charity.

Please contact me via email: regarding any of the following:

  • Resources and professional treatment facilities for recovery within the Greater Seattle/Washington Area
  • Local Church, Ministry, or Pastoral Staff looking for training on prevention and intervention
  • Interested in setting up a Damascus Way Recovery Men’s Discipleship program through your Church Ministry and Outreach Team

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Only when we surrender unto Him are we truly alive

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
~Luke 9:23-24, ESV ~

The very inspiration of a mindful Christian life brings us the possibilities that do not come from our own interests. They originate through Christ. It requires daily surrendering in order for us to free ourselves from captivity of our own flesh. We are restored to a more spiritual state where we are in community of others who are growing and maturing in their own faith.

Prior to the Christian spiritual awakening and rebirth, we were lost in our own ways. Driven by passions and self-indulgences, we became ashamed of who we were. This is due to our inadequacies of escaping the trappings of our minds, our hearts, and our pride. The inability to see outside of ourselves prevented us from seeking help. We only believed that surrender meant defeat and humiliation.

The many times we’ve strove to find ourselves, defined who we are, and develop some sense of meaning and purpose became lost when those desires and passions continued to hold us captive.

True Christian spiritual living requires us to sacrifice our self-interests and surrendering unto God’s divine grace. Only then, are we truly alive in Christ. Today, let go of the life you thought you have planned out for yourself and recognize the need to surrender. Knowing that each passing day is the day to give ourselves over to the care of God so that Christ may reign through us.

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Deep Inner Work is the Heart of Christian based Recovery

Where it all begins

One of the most beautiful passages of scripture is that of John 3:18-21. Jesus is conversing with Nicodemus. In this conversation, we are intimately taught that Christ is the light that has come into the world. Yet, many of us rather remain in the darkness, avoiding the light. Because we remain in our own darkness means we do not want to become aware of our own weakness and frailty. Our personal vulnerabilities are revealed. Insecurities, fears, and the many toxic trauma we’ve lived with are now exposed. The light becomes our own awareness of how sick we are. The light reveals to us the deep and entrenched shame and guilt of who we have come to believe we are.

Personal condemnation comes from deep rooted shame and guilt

In his post at The Elephant Journal, David Baumrind writes:

Shame is hard to talk about because while we know how it feels, we aren’t always sure what it is. Simply put, shame is the intensely painful feeling that there is something profoundly and deeply wrong with us. We want to hide ourselves away, afraid that what’s inside is so ugly we don’t dare show it to the world.

As Christian believers, I believe this is really true. What is also true is that those who do not share in the struggle of deep rooted shame and guilt are afraid to come into the light of understanding because of their own inherent fears.

Struggling with shame and guilt is no easy task. It is also a two-edged sword. On the one hand, we do not want to expose ourselves to the reality of how deeply these wounds are. Yet, on the other hand, we desire genuine freedom from the very wounds of our personal trauma that has produced deeply held sense of shame and guilt.

Baumrind continues his thoughts:

We’re pulled into a shame spiral when our deepest shame is triggered. Our fight-or-flight response activates, causing a physical as well as an emotional response to our trigger. Our thoughts swirl faster than we can process as we begin to spin story after story supporting our worst fears. Never mind that the stories we tell are not rooted in reality—the pain we experience is real and traumatic.

Our very own response is to lash out through anger. It causes us to withdraw from any social activities, impacts our ability to manage and maintain healthy relationships with others. That inner critic continually engages in critical, judgmental, and condemning thoughts we believe and adopt as a sense of reality and truth.

Baumrind is also correct in that shame is the core reason for our own suffering. And, it is because of this suffering, many gravitate toward substance use, unhealthy and impulsive eating habits, and potential unhealthy and impulsive risky behaviors.

Much of the shame and guilt we experience comes from toxic and dysfunctional upbringing. In fact, one of the symptoms associated with Borderline Personality Disorder has to do with childhood trauma. This may include bullying within the organic family unit – as well as schoolyard bullying.

Overcoming condemnation moves us into the Light and Love of Christ

If you are wondering as to the reason I stated that John 3:18-21 is a beautiful passage of scripture: It is because we come to understand that the previous verses shares this insight –

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

Who did Christ come to save? And, in what capacity are we brought into the light? The Gospel of Luke 4:18 provides us this answer:

The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor: he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering the sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.

In order for the healing process to occur, we need to recognize how we are condemning ourselves. And, once we overcome the condemnation that perpetuates our petulant shame and guilt, we move into the light and love of God so that we are able to be set free and experience the healing process that is needed.

Healing from shame and guilt takes work

It is one thing to finally overcome our own self-indulgent condemnation. It is another to give ourselves permission to step into the light and love of God. Yet, it is totally different to realize that healing begins with us taking the necessary steps to work on moving further away from the toxic shame and guilt.

Awareness is the first step in the healing process. Becoming aware of our own self-grandiose condemnation and self-perceptive sense of worthlessness is where we start. What also comes to light is the very thoughts and emotions underlying our own flogging.

In every instance of scripture that we read about Christ healing someone, there is the required action taken on their part. The invalid is called to take up his bed and walk. The lame is asked to stretch forth his arm. The Roman Soldier with a sick and dying family member asks for Christ to speak and it will be so. The light only exposes us to the reality of truth. However, through Christ, and our own faith in Him, we are empowered to work toward healing those deep wounds of our own shame and guilt.

Baumrind states it this way:

But regardless of where it came from or whose fault it was, it’s our responsibility to heal ourselves. Like so many things, the amount of healing we do is proportional to the amount of effort we put into it. The work will look different for everyone—it might be therapy, group meetings, or whatever works for us.

The work we do, through our faith in Jesus Christ, is manifested at the level of our commitment and desire to move further into the light and love of Christ’s revealing and liberating grace.

The Apostle Paul, writing to the Roman Christians, expresses his thoughts in this manner:

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

The nature of sin, in the context of the Biblical worldview, merely means hamartia and refers to the idea of missing the mark.

Because we have come into the Light, and through faith in Christ, we endeavor to shed ourselves of the former perceptions of self in order to be established as a whole new person. This is the ongoing work of any Christian believer. More so, those of us who were brought up in homes where there were toxic and family dysfunctions, we have greater work and healing. Especially when it comes to distancing ourselves from the toxic shame and guilt we have carried with us from childhood.

It requires great work and mourning the loss of our former self. It also requires greater work to begin anew and restoring a whole new sense of self. All of this, through our faith and deepening relationship with Jesus Christ.

Are you struggling with shame and guilt that prevents you from living a life that is liberating, genuine, and spiritually rewarding?

Understand and know that it takes great courage, a step of faith, to bring ourselves into the light. It also takes great courage and resolve to commit ourselves toward working on overcoming our own insecurities, doubts, fears, and condemnation in order to put to death our old self. Yet, the reward is a new life where we experience liberty and freedom from the captivity of our own shame and guilt.

Share your thoughts on how you are struggling with shame and guilt in your life.

Check out How to Release the False Story of Shame

Also, check out How to Heal From Feelings of Guilt and Shame

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Problems with preventing homelessness and substance use disorders

Right opinions matter

The Marysville Globe published an opinion regarding the social epidemic of homelessness and substance use disorder. According to this piece, “A better route would be to stop the problem before it even starts.” It seems quite simple. Find solutions that may work to curtail potential increase in our homeless population. Work toward establishing prevention campaigns to address potential risks associated with active substance use disorder. However, there are certain problems with the ideology of implementing ways to work toward prevention of homelessness and active substance use disorders. Right opinions matter when it comes to public policy associated with supportive campaigns and resources to help prevent rather than work with those already suffering.

Let’s set the record straight

When it comes to those helping individuals experiencing homelessness, who may have diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health related issues, and those suffering active substance use disorders; the Marysville Globe observes:

Places like Marysville, Arlington and Snohomish County are doing a great job dealing with the homeless and opioid epidemic through their embedded social worker programs.

That’s when a social worker goes out with police into the woods and other places homeless people congregate. They talk to them about getting help through various programs. Homeless people can get clean and sober, housing and even jobs.

That is a wonderful program, and there are other programs nationwide – both public and private – that help addicts and homeless.

Metropolitan cities are doing things different, and more proactively, in relation to helping those who are homeless and suffering. Grace Guarnieri published an article on Jan. 21, 2018 for Newsweek regarding how one Texas city pays its homeless to help clean and maintain the streets.

Regardless of these social service outreach programs, the Marysville Globe Opinion piece addresses the lack of educational support for prevention:

However, there has to be a better way. As is often the case nowadays, society is focused on trying to help those in trouble. A better route would be to stop the problem before it even starts. That takes education, at a young age and continuing throughout school.

The Op-Ed article goes into discussing the Drug Abuse Resistance Education that was prominent in all schools nationwide. I grew up with the generation of D.A.R.E T-shirts, bumper stickers and slogans. Not only was this program prominent, most schools had Students Against Drunk Driving. I was not only a member, I served on the S.A.D.D. committee. All of these programs were targeting prevention and awareness to students about the issues related to substance use. Unfortunately, there were no prevention curriculum associated with preventing potential generations of young people from becoming homeless.

Setting the record straight, the Op-Ed article never focused on ways to curtail and implement public policy when it comes to homelessness. Instead, the article appears to mainly focus on addressing prevention of drug use and abuse within the local community by adopting prevention programs and curriculum.

Both social issues deserve appropriate attention and better policy making decisions. Let’s start with addressing ways to prevent homelessness in the first place.

Lack of funding, resources, and discrimination to prevent homelessness

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness a new 2019 Report shows that Washington State has experienced approximately 22,304 individuals experiencing homelessness on any given night. The report goes on to say that for every 10,000 people in any given general population state wide, are 30 homeless people. In Everett/Snohomish County alone, 858 – or, 10.7 per 10,000 people of the general population – experience homelessness on any given night.

Any individual is at risk for potential homelessness. All it takes is a medical/health crisis, financial crisis, or other types of stressors where an individual, or individual families, may experience homelessness. This is exacerbated by the higher rates of housing, and rental costs to move. For instance, if an individual loses their employment because of downsizing, or any other reasons (whether it is at fault or not), that individual is at a high risk to be evicted.

Imagine losing your main source of income. Imagine lack of financial support to maintain present housing cost. Let us say you are renting an apartment and end up being evicted from that apartment. Despite your best efforts in seeking stable and gainful employment, you are now homeless. Not only are you homeless, you are now having to carry the eviction on your financial record.

Are there programs out there to help people facing evictions? Actually, there is not. Working with individuals who are in treatment for substance use disorder, facing evictions, calling 211 does not connect them with a housing navigator through Volunteers of America. This is because of the policy that:

An individual must actually be homeless. Either living in the bushes, in their car, or other places not designated for human habitations.

It is only when the individual spends one night homeless are they able to access housing navigator. Even then, depending on the individuals situation, depends on whether or not they are appropriate for Rapid re-housing. For instance, a single mother with a young child has a greater chance of utilizing rapid housing resources than a single man with medical issues. This latter goes into the nature and conversation of who has the greater need and more specific: addressing underlying discrimination through housing resources to address homelessness.

Not only is there apparent discrimination in resources designated to assist individuals who are facing potential homelessness. There is underlying discrimination perpetuated by society toward homeless individuals:

The homeless are a vulnerable population in many respects. Those experiencing homelessness not only experience personal and economic hardship they also frequently face discrimination and exclusion because of their housing status. Although past research has shown that identifying with multiple groups can buffer against the negative consequences of discrimination on well-being, it remains to be seen whether such strategies protect well-being of people who are homeless. We investigate this issue in a longitudinal study of 119 individuals who were homeless. The results showed that perceived group-based discrimination at T1 was associated with fewer group memberships, and lower subsequent well-being at T2. There was no relationship between personal discrimination at T1 on multiple group memberships at T2. The findings suggest that the experience of group-based discrimination may hinder connecting with groups in the broader social world — groups that could potentially protect the individual against the negative impact of homelessness and discrimination.

Therefore, to work toward preventive strategies that may help individuals sustain housing is paramount to decreasing homelessness. In addition, the National Alliance to End Homelessness recognizes that creating a Coordinated Care Strategy is proven instrumental in reconnecting individuals through rapid rehousing programs. This requires collective and collaborative work through citizenship and business owner participation. Adequate funding, increase access to affordable housing, assistance with rental deposits and move in costs, employment resources and job coaching, and connecting family’s and individuals to available mental health and supportive case management social services. All this regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual identity, religious preference, or political affiliation.

Preventing substance use disorder

There appears a sense of detachment in the Op-Ed article of the Marysville Globe. I say this because substance use disorder is a more complex issue and social epidemic where simple solutions of preventive strategies are not going to be helpful. No matter how well intention they are. This is based on the following factors associated with the nature of how substance use disorder is developed:

Complex contributing factors associated with active substance use disorder

Some of the most prominent contributing risk factors are associated with development of adolescent substance use disorder. This also corresponds with potential mental health/trauma related issues that adolescents may carry into adulthood:

  • Abuse, including childhood mistreatment and sexual abuse.
  • Social problems, including dysfunctional peer relationships.
  • Individual variables, including genetics and the presence of mental health issues.
  • Family problems, including divorce and parental substance use.

Addressing these complex and contributing risk factors require more than just simple educational programs and curriculum. It involves developing and implementing comprehensive case management to address extensive bullying (in person and online). Working with those who are developing social problems and are feeling isolated from any family and peer support and connection. Understanding how genetics play a role in potential risk factors. Active substance use in the home and it’s impact on adolescence emotional and spiritual growth.

This latter part address parental permissiveness of allowing their kids to experiment with alcohol and marijuana use. As well and good such intentions are: parents who are permissive in allowing their kids to try alcohol or marijuana is like giving them a loaded gun without any understanding of its harmful effects.

Finally, family stress of financial issues, relational conflicts, divorce, and other issues have significant impact on the well-being and health of a child. Working to address these issues will need to be implemented in any prevention and educational program.

What is the right solution to prevent homelessness and active substance use disorder?

Unfortunately, with all the best programs, education, support, and comprehensive case management – homelessness will continue to be a social issue and epidemic. Active substance use disorder is going to be problematic and extensive in our communities.

With that said, the most prominent solution is both – prevention and proactive social services. Prevention to help educate and work to establish core strategies to address risk factors associated with homelessness and substance use. And, more proactive funding campaigns to support active social services, bring together coordinated community care services to connect individuals with housing resources, employment services, and actively promote better treatment assistance for mental health services and substance use disorder.

Homelessness and Substance use disorder is not just an individual issue and problem. It is a family and community issue as it inevitably impacts all people.

Announcement and Updates

Apologies in order

I want to first apologize as my life has had some interesting turns and changes going on. The intent was to provide daily devotions throughout the year regarding recovery, spiritual insights, discipline, and encourage individuals to grow spiritually mindful each day. Unfortunately, a new employment opportunity meant new office hours (which has worked out much better). In addition to the new employment opportunity, my schedule had to also change regarding self care. With all of these changes, my focus had to shift in reorganizing life.

Sabbatical and Fishing

Part of my self-care and re-oriented life involved my re-connection with fishing. This included time with my youngest daughter and spending time with her on fishing trips. She prefers to catch and release.

Moving forward

Damascus Way Recovery has not changed in its mission, values, and purpose. Going forward, time will be designated in publishing daily devotionals, inspiring articles, and running campaigns for donations to help support this ministry.

Yes, this is not merely just a website that I have developed. It is the foundation to a discipleship program for Christian men struggling with recovery due to homelessness, substance abuse disorders, mental health related issues (i.e., depression, rejection/abandonment, anxiety) from a Christian and Biblical based worldview. This website is the first part in fulfilling the mission and ministry I have in working within the local and online community.

Hence, donations are not just to help maintain this website. Your donations go to support this ministry in helping men get connected with needed resources, provide one-on-one individualized mentorship and discipleship through bible studies, and recovery coaching services. Donations will also go toward paying for content from other individuals.

Along with maintaining this website, engaged in ministering to men, there is also a greater need to provide relevant information to pastors, lay ministers, and Christians in general regarding the homelessness, mental health, and substance use related issues facing our communities today. Donations will help set up speaking engagements in the Greater Seattle Area to train up Christians in how to respond to and minister to individuals who are marginalized.

Always grateful

Without your comments, your readership, your donations, prayers, and feedback, this may not have been possible. Always grateful for people who share these articles, engage in the conversations regarding pressing social issues, and cheerful give to assist in reaching those who are broken, lost, and have no sense of direction.

Examination leads to a worthy life

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
~ Matthew 7:3-5, ESV ~

Spiritual awakening gives us an opportunity to examine our own lives. It is an opportunity to get to know who we truly are. It provides the foundation for us to begin the necessary work to put to death the old man in order for the new man to grow and mature.

One of the natural tendencies we struggle with comes in the form of judging others. We dismiss our own behaviors, vulnerabilities, and motivations. Instead, we continue to focus on other people. The things they are doing wrong. The errors and mistakes they make. Our desire is to correct other people through examining their morality and decisions. It is welcoming distraction to become absorbed in other people’s behaviors and choices.

Spiritual growth requires us to detach from our desire to fix other people around us. Once we detach from this form of temptation, we can begin examining our own behaviors, choices, vulnerabilities, and morality.

Therefore, we must first turn our attention to those beams in our own eyes. Work to remove them in order for us to gain a greater sense of clarity. Only then, are we empowered to work with others in removing those specks from their vision.

Through our own self-examination, we begin to heal, to grow, and to experience life that is worthy before God. Today is the day to make a clear separation between what is on your path versus what path other’s are traversing.

The first step is honesty

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
~ 1 John 1:6, ESV ~

We convince ourselves that by shutting the door to the reality of our past experiences – we believe ourselves ready to begin a life of living honestly and with integrity. We forget that through our pride, dishonesty continues deep within our soul. It is this ember of dishonesty that keeps us living in our lies, prevents us from practicing truth, and keeps us meandering in darkness.

The first step in spiritual awakening, and healing, is authentic honesty. Without this principle pillar of truth, we are incapable of growing. It is not up to us to define our sense of truth. Honesty brings us to the edge of our false sense of self in order to accept the reality of our own past experiences. It humbles us to move toward surrendering ourselves, our will, and our very lives over to God.

True honesty, in facing who we truly are, is not something that feels good. It is quite painful. It is the pain of our new birth of becoming a true and authentic individual. Through our own painful rebirth, we are promised a deeper sense of integrity and receive peace from our true acceptance of fellowship with God.

Today, are you willing to surrender to the truth, accepting reality that presses for attention in your own life? Are you truly ready and committed to letting go of yourself in order to walk in truth and light?

Please consider leaving a tip

These daily devotions provide insight into living a more authentic and mindful Christian life. If you find these daily devotions helpful, inspiring, and thought provoking, please leave a tip.


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