Recovery Court graduate Patricia Ward receives a hug from Hawkins County Sessions Court Judge J. Todd Ross after receiving her diploma Saturday evening. (photo by Sheldon Livesay)
(Below text and photos by Rev. Sheldon Livesay. Also included keynote speaker Dr. Blaine Jones' notes.)
ROGERSVILLE — In an emotional, tear filled room, 250 friends, family and supporters celebrated with Patty Ward as Hawkins County's first graduate of Recovery Court.
Due to weather the event was moved from the Rogersville City Park to Volunteer High School.
Keynote speaker Dr. Blaine Jones gave glory to God and told attendees he felt God was answering the prayers of people beginning in 2012 and climaxing in a Prayer March in which 5,000 people participated.
Amy Cinnamon, who is coordinator for Recovery County, told the story of the Prodigal Son from the story Jesus told in the book of Luke. The son left home until he had lost everything and became homeless and hungry, then decided to return home.
Feeling his father wouldn't accept him, he returned hoping to become simply as servant. Instead his father placed a ring on his finger and a robe on him.
Amy said Patty had her graduation robe and she gave a ring to a daughter to place on her finger, symbolic of Father God's approval.
Judge Ross stated those in drug court had caused him to cry more in the last 18 months than during his lifetime. Both he and Ward shed tears as he handed her a diploma.
Robert Perry, who also is a part of Families Free, stated from just his one recovery program held at Faith Assembly Church, he counted four mothers going through the program who had regained custody of a total of 16 children. He stated, this is only a beginning.
Keynote Speaker Dr. Blaine Jones:
I want to thank those who invited me to speak this evening at the first ever Hawkins County Recovery Court graduation. I consider it an honor to be here. I want to thank Judge Todd Ross -- not in a political realm, not even as a judge. I want to thank you Todd for being a man of God and for wanting to have a Godly influence on all of those you come in contact with. I remember when the Expecting God's Help group had that very first prayer rally -- I knew then that God had some very big plans for Hawkins County - - - and boy did he! We are here tonight to celebrate the first ever Hawkins County Recovery Court graduate and all those following in her footsteps. We are here tonight to encourage Patti and the others. We are here tonight to give all honor, all glory and all praise to our God who protects, prospers and encourages all of us!
I want to talk tonight about addiction. Judge Ross and I have heard our Pastor on many occasions talk about this subject. There are a lot of aches, hurts and pains in our lives -- physically, socially and mentally. Generally when people hurt, it is natural tendency for them to medicate the hurt or pain. The medications may be in many forms -- shopping (my wife likes this one a lot); alcohol, pornography; narcotics; methamphetamine and the list goes on. These "medications" can easily lead to addictions. These addictions can in turn destroy lives and destroy families and this is where the problems start with whatever "medication" is being used by the individual. In our case tonight that "medication" of choice is usually a drug -- alcohol, methamphetamine, narcotics, etc. The medication or addiction obviously affects the individual but the big problem arises with how it affects the family.
What is the answer then? Well God's Word, God himself and Jesus Christ are all the medication anyone will ever need for any hurt, for any ache or for any pain! Jeremiah 29: 11-13 says 11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. God wants to bless us and our families. He does not want his children to hurt. He wants us to prosper. Dr. Charles Stanley recently said "Your heavenly father specializes in healing what's broken and giving new life to all who trust him". God, Jesus Christ -- that is the answer; that is the best medication; Jesus is the best addiction of all!
Have you ever seen the Hawkins County Recovery Court Guidelines (hold up packet) (review some of the guidelines). I am thinking there may need to be some sort of degree awarded as well! There is a lot required of each participant, a lot of hours they must put in. Many of the programs or "assignments" involve a faith based entity and I am very proud of the Christian influence displayed to all participants. I am however very disappointed in those in my profession who feel it is okay to be enablers to those who are suffering through and addiction, all in the name of money -- shame on you and I pray God forgives you and changes your ways. To those who have a physician that has done this to you, I apologize on behalf of those in my profession who will not resort to this terrible practice.
New life -- Stanley said that new life is given to all who trust God; God specializes in healing what's broken. I recall reading the paper that Patti said the key to her recovery was accepting Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior! Amen! A new life - - - a new beginning - - - a fresh start - - - the slate is wiped clean! Yes, Jesus does all that for us, but tonight we thank the Hawkins County Recovery Court and Judge Ross for making it possible for this graduation tonight and for those in the future to have a new beginning, a fresh start, a clean slate! Now I know that Judge Ross cannot mandate that participants come to know the Lord Jesus. It is not in the guidelines either, but I am here to tell you tonight, the key to their success is faith in God and asking Jesus Christ into their lives.
Now that you have been given that clean slate, this new beginning, what are you going to do with it? Well, I do not want to let the air out of the celebration balloon, but this is only the start of getting your life back to where it needs to be. You have been so busy with meetings and appointments, how are you going to fill your life now? What will you do with the extra time? First off, continue to fill your life with Jesus - - do this and everything else will fall into place. How about restoring your family if it needs it?
Ephesians 3:14-21 says about the family --
"14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." NIV In other words, a home knit together in Christ enjoys the privilege of praying together and inviting God's presence to transform every area of life. What about returning to school to further your education? What about loving and serving everyone around you? You know, most of us are caught up the the me, me, me attitude and we do not think about others at many times in our life. Addictions cause us to lose focus of others and not care about them, much less love them. Addictions cause us to lose focus on anything but our addiction and definitely no focus on serving others. Now that you have been given that new life, how about loving and serving all those around you -- family, friends, strangers, those in your communities? Come to think of it, that is not a bad idea for any of us here tonight -- "Love All, Serve All". That is what God has commanded us to do! You have many options before you and you have a lot of folks and a lot of support behind you! It is up to you now and how you will handle this "new life" that has been given to you. What will you do with it from here forward?
Once again, thank you for this opportunity. I thank all those who have worked so diligently to make this Hawkins Count Recovery Court possible and I thank those who have contributed into the lives of these participants. I pray tonight that God Blesses each of you participants and keeps you safe from the evil of this world. Take this new life and soar to places you have never been before! Congratulations Patti!!