Trophies of Grace – Roy

” Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God.  What a person plants, he will harvest.  The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others – ignoring God! – harvests a crop of weeds.  All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.”
-Galations 6:7-8, MSG

One of the first questions we ask when trying to delve into the past of someone who comes to the ARC is “What was your home life like while you were growing up?” Although there may be some common themes, no two stories are alike.  Roy’s life growing up was one of happy tales, loving Christian parents, and an active Church life.

Roy recalls walking with his mom one day in downtown Dyersburg TN; “I noticed some scruffy looking guys sitting on a bench outside the court house.  When I asked my mom about them, she told me never to associate with them because they were the town drinkers.  I promised my mother I wouldn’t, becoming one of many promises I end up breaking”.

Roy had a typical childhood, did well in school and loved the boy scouts.  At the age of 12, wanting to be like his friends, he smoked his first cigarette. “I remember reading somewhere, years later, that nicotine is the number one gateway drug in the world, and sure enough, at the age of 13 I took my first drink and got very drunk while on a camp out with some friends.  I don’t remember a lot about being 13, but I remember vividly that first experience with alcohol.”  Drinking made Roy feel stronger, smarter, and braver.  He couldn’t imagine after that “first high” why the church people didn’t drink.  It was then that Roy’s attitude towards church and his family started to change. “I thought they must have been stupid or something”.

For the next 5 years, Roy continued to rebel against his parents and God.  Popular among the party group, he drank and partied any chance he got, one bad scene after another.  By the time Roy was 18 and attending the University of Memphis, he had lost all control of his drinking.  He began having blackouts, often drinking in the morning to be rid of last night’s hangover.  He joined a fraternity and became the “Frat House Drunk”, eventually flunking out of university.  He found himself making promise after promise to his parents so that they would send him to another school.  This went on for the next 8 years (and 4 schools).  “I did graduate eventually, but I still didn’t associate my drinking with the problems I was having.  I was convinced Alcohol wasn’t my problem, it was the solution”.  The party door slammed shut, and Roy found himself alone, drinking to ease the pain in his life.  “Alcohol and drugs became my medication, starting a vicious cycle.  I drank to medicate my problems, and my drinking created more problems.  I was always chasing that first high, that magic carpet ride but I found my highs were getting lower while my problems and depression were mounting around me.  I wanted to stop, but I just couldn’t.”

Over the years, Roy’s drinking took its toll on those around him.  Failed marriages, broken relationships with children, losing jobs and homes and poor health eventually caused Roy to reexamine the way he was living.  “As the negative consequences developed, I began to try and fix me.  I went to all sorts of programs and meetings, AA, NA, CA, etc.”  Roy credits these groups and meetings with helping save his life “I found the most caring people in these groups, very supportive”.  However he was still struggling. “I still had not completely surrendered to God”.

Roy continued his path of self destruction and for many more years.  “More Pain, Jails, Institutions and near death experiences.  I was still trying to fix me.  I swapped addictions. I stopped the drinking and drugging for a while and threw myself into my work.” Money, Relationships and Materialistic things replaced the drugs and alcohol, but Roy still felt empty and miserable inside.  “And with all that pain I would sooner or later return to my medication to numb the uneasiness.”

Roy eventually found his way to The Salvation Army’s ARC program in Memphis TN. “My life was a train wreck!  I had abused my health emotionally, physically and mentally.  I had turned my back on the Lord.  I was scared and lost, had very low self esteem and little hope for the future”.

Roy walked into the program and began to watch the men, and listen to what the staff were saying.  Although skeptical, he began to notice that everyone seemed happy! As he got used to the program, and the sessions, he began to feel better.  “The blending of the 12 steps of AA and the Word of God was new, and I began to have an opening of the mind experience.”  Roy says his new beginning could be summed up in a line he once heard in a meeting. “I came, I came to, and I came to believe

As Roy got to know the other men in the program, he started asking them how they got happy. “Several of the guys pointed me to two places they said were the source of their joy.  The Bible and the Prayer Room.”  Roy desperately wanted the happiness these men claimed. “I had tried all the world had to offer, and came up empty every time.”IMG_4468

5 days after entering the program, Roy entered the Prayer Room “I simply talked to God, Bible in hand.  I confessed my sins, my rebellion and all the mess I’d made of my life.  I asked him to show me the way because I didn’t know. I believe that at that moment, after 40 years of struggling with all the lustful desires of the flesh, I made my peace with God.  I finally surrendered my life to Him, and as one of my sponsors has said, I made a turn and began swimming with the current, instead of against it.”

Today, Roy knows he has a long road ahead of him.  “Ahead of me is a lot of wreckage I caused in my past life, but I have peace and joy thanks to my relationship with God.”

Roy has graduated the ARC’s Rehabilitation Program and has entered the “Step Out” program, which allows him to work and have a safe place to live. He’s currently taking Soldiership classes to formalize his relationship with The Salvation Army, and sings in the praise band at our Thursday night Celebrate Recovery meeting and the Sunday morning worship meeting.  He’s got a great job he loves just 2 blocks from the center, his relationship with his family has improved leaps and bounds and he visits with them often.  “This year I spent the holidays with my family for the first time in 6 years”.

“My addiction caused me to be homeless and on the streets for a while.  I became just like the old drunks sitting about the courthouse I had noticed over 40 years ago but God, in His wonderful mercy and compassion saved me.”

New Years Eve

Huddled in the back of a car where he’s been sleeping since he lost his apartment. Looking through the window of some run down motel praying for daylight. Head hung low, knowing there’s so much more to life then searching for the next fix. These are just some of the ways the men going through our program spent New Years Eve’s past. Before they knew the Grace that waited for them.

Last night 94 men gathered in a small chapel. Not everyone wanted to be there. The lights dimmed, our host for the night took the stage, and no one knew what to expect from our first “ARC’s got talent” night. There were eye rolls as the first corny jokes of the night were delivered and the guys shuffled in their seats wondering if this was all that the night would hold. Then the first act took stage.

The men we serve have been told they are Selfish. Hopeless. Worthless. Useless. Defective. Broken. Alone. All have, at one time or another cried out to a God they weren’t sure existed.

One by one these men took the stage, and although unplanned, each group sung (this is Memphis, we are a music town after all) of the Mercy and Love of a Heavenly Father who has allowed them a new life, without a tally of their past mistakes or failures.

By the last act, EVERYone was on their feet, laughing, singing along, and ALL celebrating this New Year of new beginnings, celebrating a new life stepping forward.

After the talent show, the men gathered together for a watch night service, praying in the new year, new blessings, and new adventures in a sober world.

I can’t think of a better way to ring in 2013

“Only Grace”

How Are You?

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:1, 14 (ESV)
How are you, really? I was posed this question one day, but didn’t want to delve into the truth. ‘Cause truth is, there were only a few I wanted to be that honest with. And those I generally share the depths with were wading through extenuating circumstances. Filled to capacity, they needed a place to pour out.
Cupped hands caught their words, worries, wants. Until my hands and heart were heavy.
I was weary from taking in and not pouring myself out in return. I understood; they didn’t have it to give. Yet, hour upon hour of listening I wasn’t sure I had it to give either.
Irony is, my very name means “Listener.” Double irony is my life verse from last year: “Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (Prov. 11:25b NIV). But I could not take any more words into a soul that was cram-full. And I could not pour out refreshment that was not there.
I was completely full, yet totally empty.
And so I selfishly checked out in the name of self-preservation; retreated into myself, away from their words weighted with pain and trouble and questions. Distanced my being from all words.
Until the Word beckoned me with cupped hands large enough to hold my weary soul, and my friend’s worn circumstances, and the thin world.
I poured into the Word, a measureless basin in which my words rested. He asked four words my soul thirsted for, “How are you, really?”
I’m weary. “I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10b (NIV)
I feel alone. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b (NIV)
I’m tired. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28b (NIV)
I poured out, He poured in. An ebb and flow more natural than the ocean’s tides. My soul needed His words; needed Him: the Word.
Community is God-given. But friend’s and family’s ability to be leaned on will ebb and flow. Hence our soul’s deepest need: friendship with the Lord. {Inhale deeply that delight: we’re friends with God.} Friends with the unchanging nature of the Word, Jesus.
Let’s take His cupped hand, reaching out to hold ours, our cares, our friends and family members. Take His hand and take a walk through Him, the Word. Pour our truthful answers into Him and ourselves into the fields of Scripture. Refreshment awaits. He’s asking, “How are you, really?”
** Devotion by Samantha Reed

Reloved Art

Having just moved into our new house, the walls were looking bare.  We needed something to spruce them up a little, but like everyone else, spending mucho dinero on a pretty picture just wasn’t in our budget at the moment.  So like any good thrifter of this millennium I headed to the mother of all places to find ideas.  Pinterest.  I’ve spent hours drooling over researching cute puppies licking babies work related things that we could use and stumbled across a DIY wall art project that I was dying to try.

First I needed to organize supplies for the task at hand.  So off to one of my favorite places to find treasures, The Salvation Army Family Store at 2649 Kirby Whitten Rd.  In the back corner, just waiting for me to come and find it was this painting.

By shopping on Wacky Wednesday, I saved 25%!

Now to gather supplies!  A quick stop at Home Depot got me the Vinyl letters I would need, and I was able to grab a can of spray paint from the garage (Spray paint.. what can’t it do?)

Step 1: Decide on a saying for the piece.  Because I wanted it for the master bedroom, I picked a lyric from on of “Our Songs”, but you can use anything really, a Bible Verse, a line from a movie, or even a funny inside joke.

Step 2: Peel your letters and get sticking!  In hindsight, I probably would have used a ruler, but I was so excited to get started that I started placing letters as we drove home from the store.

Just to add to the style I was looking for, I left the “holes” in the letters filled

Step 3: (Probably my favorite part!!!) SPRAY PAINT!!  My Husband thinks I’m a little too into the whole spray painting thing, but.. it’s like duct tape.  What can’t it do??

For a more solid cover, give a second coat. I liked the way the colour peaked out through the spray paint so I only did one coat.

Step 4: Once the spray paint has dried (which takes no time at all, another reason I love it, because I detest waiting!), peel off the letters.  They may remain a little tacky while the rest of the painting feels dry.  I think it’s because of the material they are made out of.

Step 5:  Hang and enjoy!!

Love Love Love it!!

What treasures have you found while shopping at a family store?  To have your Refurbished, Recyceld and Reloved find featured on our Blog, send us an email at sharon_feener@uss.salvationarmy.org

Trophies of Grace – Paul

2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

So many times men come to our center broken, feeling lower than low, and sometimes it takes weeks, even months for them to understand that once they’ve made the decision to ask God into their hearts, that they are this new creation 2 Corinthians speaks of.  That their pasts, their mistakes, their hurts are forgotten, and that they have a new start at life.

When that realization comes, watching the changes in the lives of these men is incredible.  Watching a man reunite with a loved one, or accept a job offer, or even love someone else enough to say “I forgive you” is almost beyond words.  We refer to these men, these stories as out Trophies of Grace.  Examples of how through God’s Grace, we are all forgiven and given a new lease on life.  Here is one of those stories;

Monday Devotional Thought: BTS

What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.
John 13:7

Each week, a popular television show takes viewers behind the cameras to show them how a movie was made, how the special effects were done, and what happened during the course of filming.  It’s titled BTS: Behind the Scenes,  and it satisfies a certain curiosity felt by many movie-goers who ask “How did they do that?”

If only we could see behind the scenes of our lives! The hidden hand of God’s providence is directing and producing events in life that will result in our good and His glory.  His hidden angels are watching over us in more ways than we know.  His hidden spirit is refreshing us with daily joy and strength.  His Word, hidden in our hearts, is keeping us from sin.

Much of what God does in our lives is almost imperceptible.  He works in ways we cannot see, and someday we’ll understand.

You’re in the starring role of your life.  Make sure the Lord Jesus is writer, producer and director of the story.

I am not skilled to understand what God hath willed, what God hath planned;
I only know that at His right hand is One who is my Savior!
-Dorothy Greenwell

** Devotional by David Jeremiah