Hi Friends and family:
Perhaps the most profound way in which our own awareness of the vulnerability of life dawns upon us is when suddenly we are surprised with the news that a friend or family member has just passed on.
Even worse than that, is to find out they took their own lives.
This is however happening more and more often with the opioid epidemic which is ravishing our communities. It is happening within people of all ages, all classes and in all locations. Drug overdoses has become the leading cause of death in America for those under 50, more than are killed by guns and car accidents together.
Joseph DeFino, a teacher in Saugerties, NY, had lost so many of his students to suicide he felt compelled to try to bring the community together and place a paradigm of HOPE before people and not Despair. He organized a festival, ‘Hope Rocks’ bringing together people and agencies involved with recovery in a festival like situation. There were four stages with rock music that was being played by different bands. There is no doubt in my mind that this was a breakthrough initiative. A humble beginnings to what could become a portal for awareness for people who suffer from addiction that there is hope. Also for those who are not addicted but have lost family members to this disease for them to receive healing as well.
I was able to attend the festival for two days and met and prayed with many parents who had lost their children through suicide. Even years after the loss the wounds are still deep. Many of the parents now work actively in some of the recovery or suicide prevention organizations. As I talked with I found many needed prayer to be able to forgive themselves. This can be the deepest regret that people were unaware of the nature or presence of addiction in friends or family.
Addiction is a disease and needs to be recognized as a disease by society, not hidden under the carpet as a moral weakness. People do recover from addiction if they are able to get help. There is a huge place for Christians to pick up the role for healing and helping, not only those who are addicted but their family members as well.
Just having an AA meeting in the basement of a church does not go far enough for the church bodies’ responsibility in this area. As a national crisis we all need to be aware of who and how we can be helping. The Holy Spirit is well able to direct healing prayer, especially for forgiveness. Forgiveness is often the key. As God’s representatives we can open the door for forgiveness to happen, and then very often physical healing can follow.
Forgiveness, as we know is foundational in the prayer Jesus gave us to pray, ‘ Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’. It is also foundational in the twelve step programs of recovery, step eight in AA says, ‘”Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.” That list can often include ourselves and is often the last person we approach after a fall. Certainly it is Jesus will to forgive when we have an honest desire to change. Jesus came that we could live life and live it more abundantly, more than we can imagine ourselves. That paradigm is so opposite from despair. Despair is from the devil, life and hope is from God. For those who are caught up in despair we need to show them the life and love of God in a humble and beautiful way and ask, ‘Can I pray for you?’
That’s all for this month. Christine and I send our love and prayers to you all. Be sure to read her Icon blog for her news this month.
Love and prayers,
Michael and Christine