Reclaiming Who and What We Are: The Power of Symbols

A few hours ago in my full time work as a street outreach crisis counselor I had the opportunity to facilitate a gang intervention with a young person. There were many positive seeds planted in this young person’s life before what occurred this evening, and for that I am grateful. There was also a lot of weeding out negative seeds that were planted in this young person’s life before what happened this evening, and for that I am even more grateful.

Life, for each of us, is about tending to our personal garden. Weeding out that which hinders and chokes the life, dreams, truth and beauty of who and what we truly are. Tilling the soil. Planting wholesome, loving seeds. Allowing the sunshine of laughter and bliss, as well as the cleansing water from tears of both sadness and joy to work in their beautiful unison to grow the love that’s been planted. It’s work. A beautiful work. A labor of love. When we’re children we lovingly tend to our garden and help others do the same. For some, over time, we begin to pull away from tending to our garden because of the voices of lies that come through some people. Lies told through people like, “You’re not good enough.” “You’re not pretty enough.” “You’re not handsome enough.” “You’re not smart enough.” The list of lies pointing out all that we’re not goes on and on, and it’s sad that it does. Remember: fear always lies within lies, and lies always lie within fear. Only the fearful tell themselves and others what they’re not. Only the courageous tell themselves and others what they are. And the truth of who and what you are is beyond words, however the best words I know to remind you of who and what you are, are the same four words that every youth and young adult I’ve had the honor to serve in my twenty-six year career are: sacred, blessing, miracle, gift. Yes, you’re a sacred blessing, miracle, and gift. We all are.

There is no script for interventions, whether the intervention is for sex trafficking, drugs, alcohol, gangs, violence, homelessness, or suicide. An intervention is truly walking the razor’s edge, simply because interventions are life or death situations for the person you are serving, as well as for you, the interventionist. In situations where you have minutes, sometimes seconds, to get a person to put down a loaded gun, drop a knife or box cutter, not jump into traffic, or make an exodus from a lifestyle that is certain to end in early death or incarceration, but is the only lifestyle the person thinks can meet their basic needs, a life they’ve become used to, and sadly, is often something that isn’t any less dangerous or painful as what the person experienced behind the walls within the house they lived in as a child. 

There are only two things that are a must for me whenever I facilitate an intervention. The first thing is that I need to make sure I am not the one who is facilitating the intervention. I get out of the way and pray, “God, You know what this person needs, not me, so please, You do this through me. Use me, Lord.” The second thing is that the first words the person hears from me is, “You are a sacred blessing, miracle and gift.” And these are not mere words, it is as close as words can get to describe who and what that person truly is. And in a world where we are bombarded with all the things we are not, when someone hears a sincere reminder of who and what they are, it penetrates deeply, beyond the mental, it’s a connection that is felt and not just cognitive, that interrupts someone’s pattern of crisis and opens the door of dialogue, pacing, leading, and de-escalation. Like being funny or knowing how to fight, an intervention cannot be faked. The words you are a sacred blessing, miracle and gift, have to be from such a deep, heartfelt, Spirit-led place of sincerity that they penetrate the lies and instantly remind the person of their truth and worth of greatness and beauty. For me, if someone cannot see you as a sacred blessing, miracle and gift, they cannot see you. Again today, by the grace and guidance of God, I witnessed this transformation happen with a young person who was on the fence about leaving gang life. I was called in, so I called God in, and it happened.

When that young person heard the words you’re a sacred blessing, miracle and gift. You’re not a gangster, you’re a Godster. You’re a child of God, she shook and tears welled up in her eyes. She instantly remembered when and why she stopped believing that about herself, and because she was being seen as the sacred blessing, miracle and gift she is, she was willing to see, hear and believe that about herself again and reclaimed her truth. She made the internal transformation and wanted the internal change to be matched with an external change, so she gave me all her items that were gang affiliated. One of the items she gave me was a rosary she wore only because its color matched that of the gang she was previously affiliated with. In exchange I gave her a tree of life necklace, so that she now has a symbol to wear that represents healing, positive growth, beauty, and positive transformation. She’s also going to get a new rosary, not to wear, but to use to pray and remind her of what she is whenever she’s bombarded the lies of what she’s not.

Symbols bypass the conscious mind and go straight to the subconscious mind, creating a strong current of direction within a person’s life. Are the symbols you’ve allowed in your life, be they words, items or thoughts, reflecting the truth that you’re a sacred blessing, miracle and gift? If not, then it may be time to weed your garden of any lies and anything that represents lies, and take that seventeen inch walk from your head back to your heart.

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The First Step is Always Purification

There was a young man who had made many mistakes but he wanted his life to be better. He wanted something different, positive and good. He wanted to smile again. The young man approached an older man who he knew had made many of the same mistakes as him. The young man asked the older man, “I know you’ve made many of the same mistakes I have and now your life is good. You’re living positive and helping others. You smile a lot. I want that. I want my life to be good. I want to live positive and help others. I want to smile again. How do I do that?”

The older man smiled, “The first step is always purification. First, go to God and pour your heart out to Him. Ask God to purify you, cleanse you, and put all the broken pieces together to make you whole again. Ask God to take you back to your heart to remember and reclaim your vision, dreams, and purpose.”

Looking discouraged the younger man said, “Well, I guess my life isn’t going to change anytime soon because it’s been many years since I’ve spoken with God. I’ve made too many mistakes to approach God right now.”

The older man smiled brightly and asked the young man, “Do you go to the soap when your hands are clean or when your hands are dirty?”

“When my hands are dirty,” the young man replied. As soon as the young man spoke those words he smiled again and went on his way to have a long overdue conversation with his Maker.

Purification

It’s About Your Soul, Mate

sound bites, bumper sticker psychology,
freeze dried spirituality,
140 characters marching us further apart

No room for mystery in an age of information
that’s missing substance –  depth – connection
Conventional wisdom tells us nothing
in videos that are three minutes or less as standard
catering to a modern day attention span
As the Caterer delivers cotton candy –
sweet with no substance
hype with no how
Vines that bear no fruit
only chocking out the time and room
Unconventional – original- stardust wisdom needs to grow

Like being handed the nine numbers
to call your soulmate
but the numbers aren’t in order
So we spend our lives in frantic busyness
with endless streams of information
mistakenly thinking that it leads anywhere
other than nowhere

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Marches Marching Past the Point

Another weekend of marches has passed us by, and another weekend of marches marched right past the most significant challenges we as humanity face – the millions of youth and young adults who are homeless, missing and exploited, and the millions of victims of domestic violence. Every single day and night around the world, those of us who work in the field of street outreach crisis counseling, emergency youth shelters, domestic violence shelters, and violence intervention, see that every emergency youth shelter and domestic violence shelter is almost always full.

My colleagues and I are willing to walk through the broken glass. We’re willing to carry the tears and blood on our shoulders. We’re willing to have the echoes of the screams of children replay in our minds when we least expect it during moments that we have to pray through, write through, and reach out to each other to get through. We’re willing to attempt to get the youth or young adults to give us the gun, knife or box cutter, and most of the time they do, and then we transport them to safety. We’re willing to be run off the road by pimps, have guns pointed at us or put to our heads, and be shot at. We’re willing to maneuver through gunfire to get a child to safety. We’re willing to intervene and interrupt violence by breaking up fights while large groups of people just watch, instigating or use their phones to record. We’re willing to stop a young person from throwing themselves into traffic and in the process almost be killed. We’re willing to walk into an abandoned building where the smoke from crack cocaine is so dense, that our tongue immediately goes numb and we want to vomit, yet somehow we push through because we’re focused on the young person we are there to serve, so we get that young person to go outside with us, break their glass pipe and allow us to transport them to a drug rehab. We’re willing to meet a mother and her children in the middle of the night and drive them to a domestic violence shelter because that’s the only time the mother can do it without being beaten or killed by the abuser she lives with. We’re willing to go to the hospital in the middle of the night to meet and connect with the young person who was a victim of gang violence to reduce the possibilities of retaliation, thus preventing more deaths and more parents having to bury a child. We’re willing, able and have done these things and so much more, and will continue as long as God allows us to do so, because it’s not work, it’s a calling.

My colleagues and I understand that not everyone is called to do what we do. However, not everyone is called to live in the Arctic and facilitate research on climate change, but articles, quotes and memes about climate change get millions of posts, shares and views on social media and all media. Look at that in proportion to the amount of posts, shares and views regarding homeless, missing and exploited youth and young adults and victims of domestic violence. The birth of a giraffe gets more attention than the homeless, missing and exploited youth and young adults and victims of domestic violence. Why? Possibly because the numbers are so staggering and so overwhelming that instead of people volunteering or becoming employed with the local emergency youth shelter, domestic violence shelter, violence intervention teams, street outreach teams or search and rescue teams, it’s easier to march for a couple of hours and make sure the plastic and biodegradables are separated.

Yes, simply put, it’s easier to not be in the trenches. The work is heartbreaking, trauma-filled and exhausting. Yet, the work is also filled with the most amazing moments of miracles that you could ever possibly experience. And please tell me what challenges we as humanity face that are more important than finding, rescuing and bringing the millions of homeless, missing and exploited youth and young adults, and victims of domestic violence to safety?

If any march marches past the homeless youth, it marched past the point. If any march marches past the emergency youth shelters and domestic violence shelters struggling to keep their doors open, it marched past the point. If any march marches past the hotels, houses, apartments and streets where predators are buying and selling children, it marched past the point. If any march marches past the marginalized, hungry and hurting, it marched past the point. If anyone can find a way to make time to organize, travel, attend, speak at, talk about, or write about a march, but cannot find the time to share a post about a missing child, they’ve marched way past the point.

For me it’s sad that we live in a world where quotes from politicians and celebrities capture the attention of millions and billions of people, but the 1.3 -1.7 million homeless youth in the United States, the millions of homeless youth worldwide, the 600,000 – 800,000 women, children and men bought and sold across international borders every year and exploited for forced labor and commercial sex, the two million children who are subjected to prostitution in the global commercial sex trade, the 20.9 million victims of sex trafficking worldwide, and the 10 – 20 million victims of domestic violence are marched past on the streets and on social media.

Please, if you’re unwilling or unable to do anything else, just share one post a day on your social media accounts about a missing child and/or information about where victims of exploitation or abuse can call or text to get help. It can save a life. 

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The Perfect Key is You

We’re created 
in perfect key – 
the frequency 
of Love 

Listening to fear
will make you tone deaf 
to God, Love and yourself 

Everything strikes 
a cord
It just depends 
in what key
someone is playing
and in what key
someone is listening 

Like tuning forks
in the road
calling us 
more deeply
into what we are 
or what we’re not –
Love or fear

The perfect key is Love
The perfect key is You 

 

 

Love & fear are Both Hiring, Which Company Will You Choose?

When a child falls and hurts themselves, many surround them, help them up and help them heal. When an adult falls and hurts themselves, many surround them, point out what’s wrong with them, try to decide if the person is worthy of help, and reminds them about their fall.

The Creator of your understanding has chosen you and you’ve agreed to be here to do something that only you can do. Through prayer and meditation we can go deep inside our hearts and get our own performance review from our Boss. As we review our job description with the Boss, we find our job description is our vision, dreams and purpose. Our individual job descriptions may differ in how but the what is always the same, and the what we are supposed to do is love. There is not one person, past or present, who our Boss has ever given the job of judgment to – deciding who is or isn’t worthy.

Our job is to love, nothing more, nothing less. If we find that we have been doing things that are not in our job description, we’re not doing our job, thus missing the mark and our calling. Perhaps we changed companies and didn’t even know it.

The only two companies we can keep and work for is Love or fear. They’re both willing to have you work for them at any moment you choose. I assure you that you are much more qualified to work for Love, since it is Love that created you exactly like itself. Besides, I heard an inside scoop that the more of us that decide to work for Love, and accept the jobs of healing that Love offers, the more others will too. And in doing so, in just a little bit of time, the company of fear will be bankrupt, because in the spiritual economy, every investment in Love withdraws everyone away from the illusions of fear, and all the jobs of destruction fear offers.

~ Walk in Beauty

Anthony Goulet

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Your Road to Damascus

Acts 9:3-9 New International Version (NIV)

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

 So there Saul was living his life, mercilessly persecuting those who believed differently than he did. Along the road to Damascus he was struck blind and heard God say, “Why do you persecute me?” He didn’t ignore this, or try to write with some type of scientific explanation. He understood the importance of that moment, and began an intimate relationship with the Creator. In this intimate transformation, he became Paul, and a disciple of Jesus Christ. His sight was brought back to him but with a renewed vision, this time living from his heart and following the intimate and personal voice we all hear from deep within our hearts. 

What was your road to Damascus? If you haven’t had a road to Damascus experience thus far, it can be challenging to appreciate those who’ve had this type of experience.  

The lives of every person we encounter are never as simple as presented. In a facade-filled society where protecting perceived prestige and titles is a norm, it becomes challenging to appreciate those who are willing to reveal their past mistakes and challenges.

Those who are willing to share their testimonies are sometimes labeled in negative ways. The very urge to label someone who has the courage to share their testimony with others demonstrates how sharing our personal testimony stirs a remembrance within others about the roads to Damascus some hold secret. Thoughts or statements in response to someone sharing their struggles such as “I would never”, “I can’t believe she did that”, or “Why would he share that?” come from many who claim various forms of religiosity as bedrock for their lives. It’s interesting how those who claim Christianity as their religion will quote various individuals, who, before their moment of transformation had bad reputations from less than honorable lifestyles. If it isn’t obvious, the irony is simple: people will quote scripture from those they themselves would have labeled as “undesirables” and “criminals” but who are now considered spiritual leaders, yet will reject people who have come from the depths of prostitution, gang life, drug dealing, alcoholism, and incarceration among us right here, right now as living, breathing miracles, and in-your-face testimonies of the true healing power of our Creator regardless of religion, but exclusively dependent upon Spiritual Relationship. 

It’s in the complete and honest dialogues of our challenges and shortcomings that true teaching-learning experiences blossom. I am not advocating indiscriminate & complete personal disclosure; we have to be careful with that. I am advocating that our personal road to Damascus experience can be the greatest foundation of compassion we have with ourselves and each other. To a greater or lesser extent we all have our own personal road to Damascus. A moment we saw beyond our physical sight and beyond ourselves with great perception in order to glimpse the impact our thoughts, words, and actions are having upon our family, community and world. Never underestimate the power of your personal road to Damascus, and never demean someone else’s personal road to Damascus.  

For anyone reading this that views others in our communities who are currently or were previously afflicted with alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, gang affiliation, drug dealing or any other forms of negative lifestyles as “less than” perhaps this writing is a personal road to Damascus of sorts for you. A moment for you to reflect upon any self-righteous indignation you may carry towards or about those you would consider “less than,” “beneath you,” “unreachable,” or “beyond help.” Carrying this type of view about anyone is a poison that blinds us to the reality that the Creator has placed within all of us. A reality we must see in one another so that we can remind one another of the greatness placed gently within everyone by the hands of The Great One.  As disturbing as it may be to your ego, your labels, judgments, and opinions cannot hold the translation of anyone’s life, including your own. The Creator alone holds the final translation about everyone and everything.

Perhaps if you take a moment to go beyond your physical sight and look deep within your heart you’ll see nobody sets out to become a prostitute, addict, and place more value on money than human lives. Perhaps within your heart you’ll hear a still, small voice saying, “They are my children and deeply wounded. You might have wound up exactly like them if you went through exactly what they did. If you’re so perfect then shouldn’t you have more than just labels and judgments to place upon the altars of my hurting children’s minds and hearts? Don’t you see them as a part of Me? Don’t you see them as part of you? Why do you persecute yourself? Why do you persecute Me?”

Hurt, pain, loss, tragedy, condemnation, and persecution in various forms is what moves our youth into negative lifestyles; offering the exact opposite is what’s required of us to bring them back.

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