Tag Archives: inner healing

Are we all Addicts?

What is your drug of choice?  comfort, security, competition, praise, staying busy, controlling people, being in shallow relationships, having too much or too little money, worrying, seeing ourselves as superior or inferior to others.

The above list of addictions came from an intriguing post on Theoblogical titled “What’s Stopping Us?” which claims that we are all addicted to something and for most of us it is not substances but culture.  So, what are you hooked on?

Assuming there is some truth to this statement how do we overcome these addictions?

Theoblogical gives us this cure for what ails us:

  • a group that is breaking with the culture, the world’s systems, and providing support for total recovery from that culture [according to the post it is “in Christ” but I think my AA friends would argue differently]
  • a reconciling group of extreme diversity, especially highly privileged and severely oppressed
  • a group closing the gap between the deepening of personal faith and the expression of that faith in public political ways
  • a group seeking biblical justice in all forms, including the redistribution of wealth
  • a praying group, growing in our capacity to love, understanding that authentic love is always nonviolent.

I liked the above prescribed cure because it so closely aligns with what our Community Works groups are all about.  We are gathering a radically diverse group of people in low income communities (where the wealthy never step foot) and telling them that they (not the government), by the power of God (not human might) hold the power to change their own lives and their community.  We are breaking with the cultural messages of  that breed complacency, materialism, entitlement, dependency, arrogance, fear of the other, powerlessness, hopelessness and building up a spirit of unity, humility, advocacy,  self-sufficiency, love and generosity.

I know a number of you are in recovery from various addictions both substances and culture. What do you think of the cure proposed above?  Do you agree, disagree? Would you add to it, subtract from it?  What freed you from your addiction?  Do you think we are all addicted to something?  If so, what would you say to those who are still in denial?

While many in our communities battle addictions to substances, it is the additions to culture named in the Theoblogical post that we can’t see that are cancerous to our society and impact us all.

So, are you an addict?  Are you willing to admit that you are “powerless” over your addiction and join a group of fellow addicts who are seeking to “work their recovery” together?  If so, I invite you to join one of our Community Works groups and be embraced by a bunch of sick and suffering cultural addicts who together are finding healing.

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Maintaining Balance

Have you ever felt your life was out of balance?  Have you ever had a season when you were simply to busy to rest and reflect upon your life but later came to realize that by resting and reflecting, your life actually got easier and made more sense?  I have just recently come through a season like this.

This past week Jamie, who leads our Fairfield Court missional community, shared that when our communities gather and the conversation is more spiritual in nature, there is a real energy in the room verses conversations that more focused on the tangible stuff our groups engage in like GED tutoring or planning a clothing give away.  I have also seen the exact opposite happen in groups that spend all their time on spiritually focused things, like bible studies.  Often these groups come alive when occasionally people start to discuss how they can tangibly live out the scriptures in the world.  I think the key is balance.

I just went back to a post that I wrote August 1, 2009, titled “Empowering a Movement” based on a book about Church of the Savior.

This particular quote from the book caught my attention:

“We have found it incredibly hard to hold to the concept of the inward and outward journeys. We early discovered that not many persons want them both. Weighted heavily on one side or the other, most of us struggle intensely to keep these two dimensions in any kind of creative tension in our individual and our corporate lives.”

I think we need to be intentional in balancing these two elements of the journey in our own lives and modeling that balance in our missional communities.  I think Jamie’s observation that when the conversation is rooted in the things of the spirit, the passion and energy is present is because perhaps we have been more heavily focused on the outer journey in our groups.  If we want to get to the core of some of the issues faced by those in our communities, like hopelessness and apathy,  we have to find ways of helping people along in their inner journey.

I would love to hear from all of you regarding practices you have developed that have helped you in your inner journey.

The outer journey is obviously the easy side of the equation for me.  I am a “doer” and I have to work hard at making time and space to simply “be”.  For me, practicing stillness or contemplative prayer in nature has been the most powerful practice for me related to the inner journey.  My time spent on my ridge alone in the middle of nowhere just sitting and soaking in the presence of God does more for my spirit than anything else I have found.  I gain such clarity and discernment from this practice in addition to inner peace and healing.  I experience the same healing presence when I am alone in my kayak.  Sometimes I paddle to spiritual music which can be healing but sometimes God sings to me through the birds of the air.  Today was one of those days…blue sky and God’s love in the subtle breeze across the water.

I took a class in seminary called Celtic Spirituality which met at Camp Hanover.  We would gather in a cabin, then we were to spend the next hour seeking God in the wilderness, then came back to class and shared where we met God.  It was a powerful class!  I learned more about spirituality in that one class than I did in all my theology books.

That has been my pathway to a healthy inner journey. When I neglect this practice, I become unhealthy and the outer journey is simply no fun. I encourage you all to share your own path.  I think it may help us to discern how we can help others find their way while we learn more about one another and how God has shaped each of us.

I ask that we embark in this sharing with a gracious spirit, a spirit that respects each contributors journey as valid and equally true as any other person’s journey.  My prayer is that while we may not all have the same practices, we all can respect the practices of others and the fruit that each practice yields.

So, where do you encounter God most powerfully?  How do you find inner peace and healing?

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Filed under Leadership, Urban Ministry

The Gift of Discontentment

Do you ever feel torn between worlds?  Wanting to be fully present in two places at one time?

A while back homeless families from the CARITAS program were staying at my local church.  CARITAS provides shelter to the homeless through local congregations who host residence for one week a year.  In a large Sunday school classroom filled with cots my church was providing shelter to more than a dozen families.

I was headed into worship as the families were arriving and made a brief detour into the room where they were staying.  As I entered Shanna, a young mother of two, recognized me and said, “Hey ya’ll it’s the Embrace lady!”  I was greeted with warm smiles, hugs and words of excitement.  Gloria shared that she was exiting the shelter in the coming week and Donna announced she was coming to see me the following week for our employment assistance program.  I felt at home in that room, not because I was in my home church but because these individuals had become my community.

If my family had not been waiting for me in the sanctuary, I would have stayed in the back room with my urban friends.  As I was leaving, a dear woman by the name of Anne came up to me, took my arm, stared deeply into my eyes and with soft intense words she said “Please pray for me tonight.”  There was urgency to her words, as though her survival was dependant on my prayers.  I wanted to stay there with her but I couldn’t.  I wanted to take her with me, but I could not.  This encounter is a picture of the tension I find myself in.  My heart is in the city with the homeless I serve.  I want to stay with them, but my family and friends are in the suburbs, so I am pulled back and forth between these two worlds.

As I sat in service that day, I felt a strange sense of loneliness.  My Pastor preached on the importance of our new multi-million dollar building campaign and my spirit grieved.  I felt so disconnected from this place.  Every month I struggled to keep the doors of our ministry open so that poorest of the poor would have their basic needs met.  I have received almost no financial support from my local church and as I sat there, I felt like an alien in a foreign land.  My church is not a bad church, it is like most mainline suburban churches; it is focused on the needs of the affluent community surrounding it.

I have a third place I call home.  It is the twenty-two heavily wooded acres my husband and I purchased several years ago.  There is a small creek running through it and a steep ridge overlooking a grassy pasture on the other side of that creek.  It is the place where I experience God’s presence most deeply.  It is the place where I am reconnected with myself.  It is the place where I am most creative, where most of my ideas begin to take shape.  It is the place where I finally find the time to write all that has been stirring in my soul.  My family often comes here on Sunday.  For me this is a place of worship.  The trees, the creek and the birds sing of God’s goodness and beauty.  The sun warms me not only on the outside but deep within as I am reminded that God is in all of creation.

I began writing my first semester in seminary eight years ago.  Seminary was such an eye opening experience for me.  It has taught me much about the scriptures and the God who created us.  However, it has also taught me that we never arrive; we are always on a  spiritual journey.

One of my favorite professor, Dr. Stephen Brachlow once said “The way we know we are growing spiritually is that we are discontented.”  When we become comfortable, satisfied, and secure, we are no longer willing to take up our cross and to follow.  Following only results from a desire for change and a desire for change only comes from discontentment with where we are.  I used to think my constant journeying was a curse or perhaps a personality flaw, but I have begun to see it as a gift.  Dr. Brachlow called it “The gift of a discontented soul”.

I have reflected on Dr. Brachlow’s comment often and I think perhaps there is something missing from his statement.  As I sit here on my ridge, high above a babbling creek and watch the leaves gently float through the air in the cool breeze, I realize I am completely content at this moment and in this place.  Much of my journey has taught me to find this inner contentment.  I am totally content with who I am.  However, I am discontented with the world and its brokenness.  I am discontented with racial and economic segregation.  I am discontented with poverty and spiritual depravity.  I am discontented with consumerism and the world’s ideas of success.

I think spiritual maturity is finding contentment with ones self as a child of God, but recognizing the brokenness of this world and allowing ones self to be discontented in a way that drives us to action.  Christian leaders often refer to this as the inward and the outward journey.  We must journey in both directions at the same time.   The inner journey nurtures us and makes it possible for us to endure the struggles of the outer journey and the outer journey helps us to appreciate and crave that inner peace that can only come from God.

Teresa of Avila’s classic book, Interior Castle, teaches us about the beauty of the inner voyage.  She paints for us a picture of this journey complete with the trials and difficulty of reaching that inner place where we are totally united with our creator.  Liberation theologian Oscar Romero teaches us about the outer journey of discontentment that is willing to take up the cross and fight for justice for the poor and oppressed. Avila not only had a rich contemplative spirituality, she also served the poor in her community.  The same is true for Romero whose deep spirituality would not allow him to be content with the oppression of his people for which he became a martyr.

While my life would be simpler if I just had one home, I am thankful for all three.  My hammock on my ridge allows me time to continue that inward journey to wholeness while my time in the city teaches me discontentment and calls me to continue that outer journey to “do justice”.  My time in between, in the suburbs surrounded by wealth and waste, reminds me that we are all in this together.  We will never see an end to poverty until we take a hard look at wealth.  I must struggle with the continual cultural messages of accumulation and consumption that my neighbors must combat.  The hardest place to remain faithful to the Gospel is not the inner city with all its neediness; it is in the suburbs with all its affluence and its call to complacency and comfort.  I am thankful for my discontented soul that seeks and finds a home in God alone.

How do you find contentment for your soul?  What issues drive you to embrace your discontentment with the world?

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Yolanda’s Gift

My Embrace team may not be biological family but we are very much a spiritual family.  Only God could have brought us together and given us such a love for one another.  My sister Yolanda has a special talent for liturgical dancing.  Yesterday at the Embrace Christmas party she gave us the most incredible gift; she performed to the song “Yes”.  I rarely cry, even with all the heartache and pain I see in my work, but there was such a movement of the spirit as I listened to the words of this song and watched Yolanda move into a place of oneness with the Holy Spirit, her body and soul literally melting into God. I felt God speaking these words directly to me and was moved to tears.

Will your heart and soul say yes
will your Spirit still say yes
There is more that I require of thee
Will your heart and soul say yes

Now will your heart and soul say yes
Will your Spirit still say yes
If I told you what I really need
Will your heart and soul say yes

Now will your heart and soul say yes yea~
Will your spirit still say yes
God is saying there is more that I require of thee
Will your heart and soul say yes

Will your heart and soul say yea~
Will your spirit still say yes
If I told you what I really need from thee
Would your heart and soul say yes so just say

There is more that I require of thee
so let your heart and soul says Yes

These past few months have been difficult.  We have gone from two AmeriCorps members focused on providing aftercare support to families in transition to seventeen people and expanded into two community based missional teams.  To say I have been a little stretched is a major understatement.  They are all good people but they need direction, encouragement and on-going training.  The work we are doing is complex and there is no manual to follow.  We have to move with the spirit, build relationships with the saints who were there before us and allow our collective vision to take shape before we move into action.  It is a work of art, not something you can do in your own power.

I realized as I listened to the words of this song, that God is saying these words to me and our team continually.  Many of us, myself included, have been tempted to say “no”.  My teammates have given up lucrative careers, have sacrificed time with their families, and have literally put their lives on the line.  The enemy tempts us to focus our attention on the darkness, the danger, and the disease of hopelessness that surrounds us.  The enemy seeks to confuse us with personality conflicts and miscommunications, and lies.  Our adversary has us focus on the cost of obedience instead of the voice of God calling us deeper.

We all hear God’s voice and we have to daily say “Yes”.  Will you choose to say “Yes lord I will go with you a little farther, I will give a little more, I will not be afraid, I will not turn back, Yes Lord, Yes.”

In this season where so many focus on material gifts, I am thankful to my sister Yolanda who reminded me that the greatest gift and privilege is to say “Yes, Lord, where ever you may lead, no matter what the cost, I will follow.”

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Filed under Stories from the Street, Urban Ministry

Tough Question; Where is Jesus?

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In one of our recent discussions about the role of spirituality in The Healing Place recovery program, one of our Unity Works participants asked the following question, “I still have questions in my mind about the “God of my understanding”.  Does AA proclaim the Gospel or is the “God” a universal ie Budah, etc…..God? When and where is Jesus? I understand the challenge of needing to be non-denominational but how is Christ proclaimed?”

I spent many years in an evangelical church that taught that the only people who knew God were those who publicly proclaimed Jesus as Lord.  I am sure most of you are like me and just never really questioned that belief.  Sounded good, must be true if the preacher says so and in the book of John, Jesus clearly says “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Who could argue with this teaching?  Surely anyone who challenges this idea, must be a heretic, a non-believer, and a danger to the faith, right?

Before we all start picking up our stones and casting them at anyone who may think differently, I want to tell you a story.  It is a story that has been played out in my life over and over again.  I keep meeting wonderful people who were once caught in addiction.  Who through The Healing Place and AA groups have come to know God and who claim to have been healed of their addiction by the “God of their understanding”.  They are now bearing fruit; reaching out to other sick and suffering addicts; calling them to come to know God and helping them to be reconciled to God and their fellow man.  They are loving and generous and truly love their neighbors as themselves in ways far beyond most church going folks that I know. They are doing all this healing in the name of an unnamed God.

We know from scripture that the power to set the oppressed free is a power that Christ grants through the Holy Spirit.  I have seen that spirit of freedom break the chains of addiction; I believe only the power of the Holy Spirit can bring a healing of this nature.  So I have a problem.  Either I believe that it is all the same spirit or I believe that there is another spirit through which such freedom can be gained.

In his book “How (not) to speak of God” Peter Rollins issues a challenge to our modern ways of defining God. He writes “The emerging Church is thus able to leave aside the need for clarity and open up the way for us to accept the fact that what is important is that we are embraced by the beloved rather than finding agreement concerning how we ought to understand the beloved (as if a baby can only really love her mother if she understands her.) ”

In other words, rather than look for Jesus through our own definition of God, we should look for evidence of God’s embrace.  Without a doubt, my friends from The Healing Place, have experienced the embrace of the beloved and it has transformed their lives and through them God has transformed me.  God has gotten much bigger and far more mysterious as I have witnessed God at work through my new friends.  Some may read this and consider me a “liberal” or worse a “heretic” for believing that God could be that big; bigger than the church walls, able to work without a formula and yes, even able to free those who cry out to a God they cannot name.

Father Richard Rohr, a fellow heretic, writes in his article, “The 12-step Program as Coded Gospel”,  “Why do you often feel the very power and presence of God after listening to addicts share their stories of faith, confession, forgiveness, humiliation, and surrender?  God seems to be the one obvious and essential person in attendance at most AA meetings I have ever attended, yet there are no icons, candlesticks, vestments, stained-glass windows, or pipe organs in sight.  How can this be?  Is this perhaps what Dietrich Bonheoffer meant by the “religionless Christianity” that he saw as the future?”

Peter Rollins writes “Hence Meister Eckhart famously prays “God rid me of God”, a prayer that acknowledges how the God we are in relationship with is bigger, better and different than our understanding of that God.”

Are we willing to look for God in unexpected places and allow ourselves to be embraced by the beloved in unexpected ways?  Are we willing to accept that God is bigger than anything we ever imagined; that God has no limits?

Where is Jesus?  Only God knows.   I am learning to accept there are some things I will simply never understand.  There is tremendous freedom in letting God be God!

The Apostle Paul put it this way;

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Romans 11:33-36

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The Gift of Lonely Places

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. “ This passage from Luke 5:16 is one of many that tell of Jesus habit of seeking solitude in the wilderness.  Throughout the ages, Christians have heard and responded to the call to withdraw.  The dessert mothers and fathers, lived lives separated from the world in communion with God through nature some living in small huts alone in desolate places and others isolated in cloistered communities; all seeking the same thing, a deeper connection with their creator.  A connection that is stronger and more powerful when we cut ourselves off from the demands of this world and unplug ourselves from one another and immerse ourselves in creation. 

Some do this through a daily practice of contemplative prayer and can find that place of inner peace amidst the trappings of their life.  Some have a special corner, a chair, or quite literally a prayer closet.   I myself find prayer in my home challenging.  For me, I must literally “withdraw to a lonely place.”  On a daily basis that lonely place is a dock overlooking a lake near my house.  However, the connection to God at that place is often spotty with the interference of the daily stresses of life muffling my hearing and blurring my vision. 

Thankfully, I have another lonely place, far away from the world where there is always a clear connection and where I have never failed to hear from God.   That lonely place is a 22 acre ridge overlooking a small creek and pasture an hour away from my home.  From my tiny little cabin perched upon the top of the ridge,  I can hear the creek babble, the flocks of birds calling, and the rustling of the leaves in the tall hardwood trees of south central Virginia.  In between the melodious birds and gusts of wind that rustle the leaves, there are times, when I hear nothing at all.  In the dead of winter when the leaves have all fallen and the animals are sleeping, there is an eerie stillness that beckons all to be still. 

That is where I am today, perched atop my ridge, enjoying my magnificent view staring out at a world that has come to a screeching halt, a creation that has withdrawn and is waiting to be reborn again in just a few short months.  Soon, the grass will turn green; my view will disappear behind the growth of the forest that separates me from the now partially frozen creek. 

In it’s current state of nakedness and barrenness, this place reminds me of how life’s seasons are often short and fleeting but with each new season comes new gifts and new challenges.  With spring will come the flowers and the butterflies and with summer the black berries and the kids swimming in the creek and then fall will rush in with its magnificent color.  I love every season but am always waiting in anticipation for the one to come next.

Through the fall, Embrace was in a strange season, we have been dropping our leaves so to speak; letting go of branches in the hopes that we might grow in a different direction and in the hopes of reaching new heights.  I personally have had to go through some pruning; letting go of things that I know I am not called to do.  The letting go has been hard and painful and I have been very disappointed in my own inability to “do it all”.  In trying to hold it all together, I have reached a point of exhaustion and have felt like I am drowning. 

However, this week was a turning point; this week I was able to sit with someone much better equipped than I who will take on some of the branches of our ministry; someone much more called to those branches than I and someone whom I deeply love, respect and trust to carry those branches from here.  I do not know how long God will allow this person to be a part of our ministry team, but I know if I am to grow to become the person God has called me to become, I need to let go and there is no one whom I would rather hand my baby over to. 

Today I sit in this place feeling lighter and more hopeful than I have been in years.  Like these trees that stand before me stripped of their foliage, I can come to God today having let go of everything and in anticipation of the movement of the spirit that I know will cloth me anew with freshness and brilliant new color for a new season.

What will this new season bring?  I have no idea, but I know it will require me to grow and find the courage to try new things.  I just celebrated my 42nd birthday and I am finding growth and change to be more difficult than they used to be.  However, as challenging as this new spring season will be, I know it is nothing compared to the pain of the season of release. 

We all go through seasons of release.  For those of you who are parents of teens, you know the pain of this season all too well.  For those of you who have had to remove yourself from toxic relationships, you know this pain of separation.  I know during this difficult time many people are being forced to let go of their businessess, employment and economic stability.  And there are those of you who like me have seen your life’s work blossom and grow to the point that it has outgrown you and in order for it to continue to grow you must let it go.  No matter what you are letting go of, the pain is inescapable.  However, as I sit allowing God’s creation to teach me, the wisdom of these ancient lofty barren trees reminds me that a new season is on the way, and if we persevere, we too will receive the beautiful gifts of springtime.

I pray you all find time this week to withdraw to a lonely place and allow it to impart its gift to you.

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It’s Good to be Me; Lessons I learned from Rudy Green

In the fall of 2008, Embrace Richmond received an AmeriCorps grant which we have used to hire a number of homeless and formerly homeless men and women.  Many of these individuals are graduates from The Healing Place a 198 bed residential recovery program based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.   Rudy Green was among the first group of men we hired from The Healing Place. 

I remember the day I first met Rudy, his large sensitive eyes revealed a depth to Rudy that I doubt anyone will ever fully understand.   As a child Rudy was bright, he showed great potential.  Growing up in the projects where less than 50% of students graduate from high school, Rudy beat the odds.  He went on to college and his entire family believed he would be the one; the one to escape the generations of poverty that had held his family back from living the American dream.

Though Rudy escaped the outward indications of bondage, he had been infected with a deadly disease that steals far too many promising lives; the disease of addiction.  Rudy will tell you that he was addicted to everything;  drugs, money, guns, alcohol, girls, and anything else that helped him feel alive and on top.  He was smarter than the rest, he kept his disease under control for years. 

After six months of college Rudy dropped out and eventually joined the army.  He found himself stationed in Fort Hood, Texas, just a few miles from my hometown, of Lampasas.  I remember growing up that we were warned to stay away from Fort Hood, that it was a dangerous place.  I was warned never to go near people like Rudy and for good reason.  It was at this time in his life that Rudy’s drug use got totally out of control and he found himself being dishonorably discharged from the military. 

Rudy’s story gets a little fuzzy at this point.  He spent time in jail and somehow made his way back to Richmond, Virginia where he had grown up.  He found himself homeless, friendless and penniless.  The bright boy with a bright future found himself living in an abandoned building, begging for change on the street corner, and living day to day for the next fix.  Most “Rudy’s” never make it past this point; most die on the street.  But somehow, for some reason, Rudy found his way to The Healing Place.  He went there first to get out of the cold but was drawn into the program by those who had gone before him and who professed to have made it out.

Upon graduating from The Healing Place, Rudy choose to stay for six months and serve as a peer mentor.  He gained a reputation for being an honest trustworthy friend to all and this is where I met him.  His sad eyes revealed the depth of the hell he had survived but also held a glimmer of hope that was captivating. 

When I asked Rudy what he wanted to do with his life he answered “I just want to help people.”  For those of you who know the story of how Embrace started, you will recognize those words.  Those were the words spoken by a homeless heroin addict five years ago that drew me into this ministry.  My primary calling is that of a dream releaser; helping people find their calling in life and live it.  I could see so much potential in Rudy but had no idea where it would lead.

In the early months of his time with us, Rudy served in our warehouse.  On his spiritual gifts inventory Rudy scored high in the area of leadership.  However, it soon became evident that years of surviving on the street had undermined Rudy’s ability to supervise his peers.  There was some kind of secret code of honor that I found puzzling at first.  When given responsibility, most of my guys did not want it.  One of my men finally confessed “I just want you to tell me what to do; I don’t want to tell other people what to do.”  I caught me completely off guard.  I have always worked with professionals who were programmed to climb the corporate latter; gain responsibility and move up in life.  But I found many of my Healing Place friends, simply lacked that drive.  There was a contentment that I still so not understand; contentment with being told what to do, when to do it and how to do it.  While Rudy suffered from the “I don’t want to tell others what to do”, he was not content just taking orders.  Deep down I could sense he had dreams, he wanted more out of life but for months we struggled with one another.  Rudy seemed to be just existing, floating through his time with us and after trying multiple roles and having the same outcome, I was ready to give up.

One fateful day, we had a group of youth come to serve at Embrace from my daughters High School.  I asked Rudy to share his story and I watch as he captivated the attention of over 50 students who were enthralled with his subtle way.  Rudy’s gentle voice and calm demeanor lulled them into thinking he was just an ordinary man, but when he shared his extraordinary journey to the depths of depravity and back, I could see he made a connection that few could have made.  In those moments of sharing, I saw Rudy come alive.  A week later the youth form Monacan High School, made cards for Rudy and Tom, the other member who shared, expressing their heartfelt gratitude for having heard their stories.  I remember one said “Rudy is the Bomb”, which made us all smile.  All the cards contained honest reflections on what they had gained from their encounter with Rudy and Tom.  Rudy took those cards home and over the months has spent time reading them and reflecting on that experience.

I decided to have Rudy act as a guide for our Unity-Works training sessions and found that he had the same impact on adults.  Rudy has a way of sharing himself that brings others into his story, leads them to new insights, and transforms their minds.   I tend to be a bit loud, excited and passionate about what God has done through Embrace.  That passion can move a crowd to action but I watched as Rudy’s gentle way of sharing himself lead the group not to action but to new insight and understanding which ultimately prepared them for thoughtful action.

One of the projects toward the end of Unity-Works is to draw a picture of what you would do for God if you knew you would not fail.  Rudy drew a picture of himself teaching and leading youth.   Rudy had finally found his call.  On his picture he wrote the words “Every ending has a beginning” and he remembered that bright young boy who could have done so much but who lost his way due to drugs and alcohol.  Rudy’s dream is to help that boy avoid the things that led him astray; to guide the next generation to a better future.  As Rudy shared his dream, I felt as though the heavens had opened up and spoken to Rudy with such clarity. 

For months I had watch Rudy float through life, doing what he was told, but never finding his place.  A few weeks after he revealed his picture of working with youth, we were doing morning reflection and Rudy shared a story of how he had introduced his 12 year old nephew to the drug trade.  He shared the guilt he felt over having used this innocent child to further his own selfish gain, and how he so wanted to make amends not only to this young man but for all who could follow in his footsteps.  It was a solemn offering and we could all see the pain he carried.

I began reaching out to ministries that I am aware of who work with at-risk boys and began talking with Rudy about his future and his dream and God began to confirm that dream in Rudy’s heart and mind.  This week, I heard Rudy say something I have heard him say many times before but this time, he said it with a new conviction; this week Rudy proclaimed with boldness “It’s good to be me.”

So what did I learn from Rudy?  I learned that we must be true to ourselves.  For months, I have been trying to be something I am not; I am not a business manager of a furniture bank.  I am a minister.  While Rudy was floating on a river of discontentment; I have been paddling with all my might up stream, trying to save a sinking ship; a ship that needs a real captain.  While I am busy bailing water, a true leader could help this ship navigate to calmer waters and could steer the furniture bank onto a new course.  I have tried to be something I am not and I have made myself and everyone around me miserable.  I have worked harder in the past few months than I ever have in my life but we are still taking on water.   It is time for me to turn this boat over to a more capable seaman and go back to what I do best; helping “Rudy’s” follow their dreams.   When I am doing that, I too can say with confidence “It’s good to be me!”

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Filed under Stories from the Street, Urban Ministry