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Never beyond redemption

By Major Barry Corbitt

Peter and Dot were beaten down and used up. I wondered just how long their prematurely aged bodies would be able to keep up the abusive practices that come with hard living. They took their cues from the bottle - the demon drink that warmed the cold, empty space in their hearts and made life palatable for one more day. Most people didn't understand why they would choose to live on the streets and in shelters, but then again, most people don't understand addiction. To drink is to live, plain and simple.

An addict cares for nothing other than the nourishment of that which feeds the habit. Every day was a war for the couple, a fight to live while walking head-on toward death. They loved each other as a matter of convenience, quite willing to sell the other down the river if the payoff was another long pull from the bottle. During the dry and sober times they made a fine couple, but they both knew the infrequent rides on the wagon were short-lived, and they always returned to their amber-colored first love.

They were good people. That's the language we use in the South when we want to excuse poor behavior for the sake of relationship. We Southerners are loyal that way, thinking of our flawed neighbors as well-intentioned souls until they give us reason to believe otherwise. Peter and Dot never gave me reason to pause or withdraw my affection. They actually were good people. They offered something to society despite their circumstantial shortcomings. More importantly, they offered something to me. They were my friends and I regarded them as more than significant to the kingdom. To God they were as precious jewels, and He held them in high esteem. The Maker cares not for the prestige of our positions but for the sanctity of our souls.

They offered to sing at church. I'll admit I was cautious in my response. The prospect was a bit unsettling because I knew nothing of their abilities. Peter spent some time in Nashville, my hometown, walking the streets with a guitar and a dream. I figured I owed him his due because he was from home, and home was pulling at my heart on that particular Sunday. The song was "Amazing Grace" and the rendition was memorable, starting slow and easy through the first and second verses, building to a soulful, frenzied climax on the last verse, reminiscent of a Janis Joplin-Richie Havens duet. Peter's touch on the guitar (my guitar) was not a delicate one, but the chords were right and the rhythm dead on as he lost himself in the purity of the effort. Together they poured out emotion upon emotion almost as if begging for the very grace they sang about. It seemed to me they found vindication in the words, that no matter the sin of their past or the pending failure of the afternoon to come, the grace of the moment was redemption enough. For a brief instant in the span of misery a drunkard calls wasted time, Peter and Dot actually believed they could shine as brightly as the sun.

I have some good news. God is in the business of redemption. He bleeds redemption. Redemption is the cornerstone of His perfect nature. It is His uttermost craving to see His children as they were meant to be - at one with Him. Grace is abundant in His plan. It is a grace that sympathizes and forgives time and again for those who struggle with vices too strong for humanity to heal. All too often we don't understand the depth of that grace and prove our ignorance by the merciless judgment we impose upon those who need grace the most. We are not better than the alcoholic or addict. We find ourselves in better circumstances perhaps, but the noble eye of God sees us all as equally precious and deserving. The blood of Christ blankets mankind with redemptive favor. By man's standard there is nothing fair about it. But then again, we never earned such favor in the first place. It is a gift of God - a gift for Peter and Dot.

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Young man is outspoken about burden of addiction on others

By Major Frank Duracher

Southern Spirit staff

Mason Wells, 11-year-old son of Bobby and Julie Johnson, has become an effective tool in sharing the effects of his mother's addiction from his childlike viewpoint.

"My mom was in a lot of trouble and even went to prison. I didn't see her for three years," Mason said.

It was only after Julie was nearing the end of her sentence and assigned to The Salvation Army's recovery program at the Carr P. Collins center, that she achieved what she calls complete sobriety. By that time, she had accepted Christ as her Savior and met the man who would become her husband, CSM Bobby Johnson.

Her successful rehabilitation convinced the court to award to her custody of Mason and his older brother, Cameron. The family is now very active as soldiers of the Carr P. Collins Harbor Light Corps. Mason recently became the first junior soldier enrolled in that corps - somewhat a novelty considering the unique corps has limited youth programs because most members are in one of the social service programs. But with more families joining, sometimes after their loved ones complete treatment, the limitation on youth programs could change.

"We hope that Mason is the first of many children of our growing number of soldiers who will comprise our youth programs," said Captain Ted Carroll, corps officer.

As for Mason, he has already found an effective job as the youngest member of the corps. He readily shares his family's story from his point-of-view, often leaving listeners in tears. The way Mason speaks about drug addiction sounds like it would come from someone much older.

"I tell them that if they think their addiction is not hurting their children - think again," Mason said. "I tell them that it hurts us kids a lot!"

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