Posts by Seth Forwood

Seth's Bio

Seth Forwood

Seth is the Education Coordinator at Harvest Farm. He is from the big city of Manhattan. Manhattan, Kansas that is. He spent his early childhood years on a small sheep farm and moved to Fort Collins 23 years ago. Seth started an internship with Denver Rescue Mission at Harvest Farm in a state of disillusionment with the church after growing up in the evangelical, suburban world. It was at Harvest Farm that he found hope for reclaiming his own faith through watching broken, struggling men trying to hold onto some grace. He finished school and asked the Mission to find a job, any job, for him at the Farm. Now, as the Lifeskills, Education and Career Coordinator at the Farm, he finds true joy watching program participants find the courage to live better, more authentic lives. His favorite quote: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” Seth’s other calling in life is to scream and sing in a rock band, but that opportunity hasn’t come up yet. He has five sisters and no brothers and is one of the last men left to carry on the Forwood name.

A New Home for 50,000 Honeybees

On April 30th, I drove back from Berthoud in the cold afternoon, parked our little company car in the mud and snow at Harvest Farm, and popped the trunk to unload about 50,000 honeybees into their new homes. In five months, we hope to have honey from these hives. One year I harvested 20 gallons. The year of the High Park fires, with most of the flowers dried up and withering in the heat, I harvested only two gallons. So, only time will tell what the season will bring.

Welcoming new bees to our farm is a practice of hope. Bees are incredible creatures, I can talk for hours about all the fascinating aspects of their lives. They’re democratic in their decision-making even though they have a queen. Their alarm pheromone smells like banana runts. (It’s true, look it up). Honey found in King Tut’s tomb is still edible. But, my favorite aspect of the honeybee’s life is its abundance. Like very few other creatures, bees work so hard producing their unique product that they provide an abundance to be harvested. It is the abundance built into the community of bees that gives me hope on the bitter cold day I introduce them to Harvest Farm, another community of abundance and hope.

 

Harvest Farm is a refuge for men struggling to make sense of life and recover from a time of self-destruction and disappointment. A vast majority need substance abuse counseling, some need to connect with fulfilling employment, some simply need a place to heal and re-orient after being homeless. We are also a working farm which provides us with lots of space and some incredible examples for describing the work our men do during their year-long stay, like the honeybee hive.

It takes as much of a community approach to work on staff at Harvest Farm as it does to succeed in its program. As individuals, we can’t help our men do what they have to do on our own. It often feels a bit like a beehive to be honest. There can be four or five staff in a room with one program participant where we are confronting, supporting, guiding and talking through all the messiness and complexity of their life. Because we need to rely on the community approach so much, it can be unpredictable. Humans are fallible, inconsistent, forgetful and have a whole host of unique weaknesses. At our best, we all are pulling in the same direction and the energy hums through our work. Other times, we struggle to understand one another, we disagree, withdraw, blame and get discouraged.

Yet, this is why the icon of the beehive is so important. A single honeybee is amazing and complex, but the abundance of the beehive is the accumulation of tens of thousands of bees at work. There will be dark times of fragmentation and isolation in all our lives. The beehive is an icon of the promise of abundance. If we can redouble our efforts to engage in community, we invite others to see that God has created abundance, not out of the work of one spectacular person, but out of the faithful and dogged work of many fallible individuals striving together.

The harvest is worth it.

Giving and Receiving

Frank's daughter, Frank and Bob (a Mission chaplain)

Katie (Frank’s daughter), Frank, Bob (Farm Chapain)

I was reminded of the importance of giving and receiving because of Frank – the man in the middle.

Frank graduated in January from the New Life Program at Harvest Farm, but his first exposure to The Farm was more than a decade ago when his brother came through the Program and graduated in 1999. During that time, Frank cared for and supported his brother, Mike, through his difficult recovery as well as the transition back into society.

Fast forward a few years and the roles reversed. Frank needed the support from his brother who was now 15 years sober and there to guide him through. Frank graduated the program at the Farm and we got to see two brothers healthy, sober and happy.

Working at The Farm reminds me that I am often unaware how much I am wrapped in this spectrum of giving and receiving. I desire to be the giver in my relationships, but my marriage has taught me I can’t hold too tightly to that role. If I do, I not only deny myself of a crucial aspect of my life, but I deny my wife the opportunity to help, support and care for me in my own times of vulnerability, weakness and struggle. I need to apply this to my work at Harvest Farm too. If I work as though I am invulnerable and without needs, I become less effective and helpful to the men I am trying to serve and more miserable in the serving.

There are those who mostly receive in our society. Perhaps the most egregious are those who have received so much—even from the womb—yet don’t recognize the gifts they have been given in safe families, patient teachers, coaches, employers, and societal advantages. To borrow from David Foster Wallace, they feel justified in living life stuck inside their “skull-sized kingdom.” Their lives are marked by endless and empty consuming. And to be honest, I can fall into this category as well.

It is often those I serve that remind me that I have failed to recognize what I have received.

At some point in our life we all will be receivers as we age, fall sick, or get injured. I believe those moments do not need to be sad or horrible. Rather, if we live life awake to the double blessing of giving—perhaps even without pity but in joy—to those who are broken and in need, and if we allow ourselves to be broken and gratefully accept the kindness and care of others, we truly acknowledge the fullness of our existence. That is what I saw in the image of those two brothers—fullness. A picture of knowing and being known. What a blessing to work in such a place.

Willpower Is Not Enough

Sometimes there are Psalms that jump off the page and into my heart. “Why so downcast, oh my soul. Why so disquieted within me?” is one of those brutally real verses that needs no interpretation, especially for those who have experienced the suffering of addiction.  I know that feeling of: something is wrong, why can’t I get it right? Why are my desires and actions a mystery to even myself?

In Saint Augustine’s words: “Who can untie this extremely twisted and tangled knot? It is a foul affair. I have no wish to give attention to it.”

I agree.

I am reading a book about how the decisions we make are often influenced by outside factors without our realizing. We think we are in complete control of our choices and actions, but psychologists and scientists have studied us and they have a different story.

Dr. Kahnemen writes of several examples:

Pro golfers putt more accurately, no matter how far away, when going for par than for a birdie. They are more concerned about getting the horrible “bogey” score than the situation where missing a putt will result in the decent score of par. Everyone performs this way, Tiger Woods included.

In a poll that asked about life satisfaction, the psychologists asked one group first, “How satisfied are you with your life?” and then asked, “How many dates have you been on in the last month.” They found that the number of dates and life satisfaction were almost totally unrelated. Then they asked another group first, “How many dates have you been on in the last month?” and then asked, “How satisfied are you with your life?” What do you think changed? There suddenly was a huge correlation between the number of dates and satisfaction.

Shoppers will routinely buy more of an item (their example was canned soup) if there is a sign that says “limit 12 per customer.”

We buy foods that say 90% fat free, yet would we buy the same food with a different framing of the facts – 10% fat? Kahneman and his colleagues say no.

Often our decisions are the product of our environment rather than our rational choice. Many of our actions are influenced by factors below our consciousness. To struggle with addiction is to become aware of that part of your mind which has nothing to do with your “reasoning,” but influences your actions nonetheless. This explains how we can think through every reason not to get drunk or high and find ourselves going out and doing it anyway. There is a part of your mind that you don’t control.

Have you ever felt a part of yourself fervently willing against something not good for you – “This is a waste!  It will destroy you!  You’ll regret it!” and a part that screams to do it – “I want it!  Do it!  Who cares!”. Or the opposite, think of a time when you told yourself you’d change, but find, time and again, that willpower isn’t enough. You fail to exercise/meet new people/read more/be patient, and stay the same, resolution after resolution, year after year.

So if we can’t control what we decide, if we have the honesty to admit that we make some horrible choices and part of our mind cannot be trusted, here are some remedies:

1) Bind Yourself to a Committed Community.

For the Mission, this is easy – stay one whole year and a month at Harvest Farm. If you’re like every other human who sometimes makes poor decisions, one thing you can do is lock yourself away from access to your vice.

If you have a healthy respect for this ravaging part of your mind that can turn on you, then you commit to a community that limits your exposure to your demons and you stick with it despite its flaws or imperfections.

2) To combat the part of your mind that talks when you’re not aware, start talking to yourself.

If a shopper sees the sign that says “Limit 12 per customer” and then just says, “Well I only came in for two, you stupid sign – stop trying to manipulate me.” I think it is likely that they will just get two cans of soup. Just the other day I spoke with a guy here at Harvest Farm who is struggling with quitting smoking. He says that whenever he passes smokers, smells smoke, sees people lighting up, or watches that bright orange flare on the end of an enticing cigarette he says to himself: “Oh, that’s gross. Can you imagine all that tar and ash going into my body? That is a disgusting habit.”  No matter how bad he feels he really, really wants that smoke. We might as well be telling ourselves what our true desires are, that other part of our mind will be talking anyway.

3) Finally, get quiet enough to hear that voice that is constantly talking to you, but you never really “hear.”

If you spend time in focused silence and reflection – praying, writing, being alone with your thoughts – you can start to bring the awareness up to the point of being aware of that elusive part of your mind that the Psalmist speaks of, “Why so downcast, oh my soul? Why so disquieted within me?”

Stick to a good, healthy community that limits your exposure to the bad stuff. Talk to yourself, remind yourself of what you really want rather than let your urges monopolize the conversation in your head. Get quiet enough, in the pace of life and in set apart moments, to hear the voice of the Lord. In the world of recovery, in the experience of behavior change, it is precisely what you don’t know that will hurt you.

Blog scripture

Come for the Pumpkins, Stay for a New Life

Come for the Pumpkins, Stay for a New Life

Ray came to Harvest Farm over a year and a half ago to buy pumpkins with his sister and her family. Learning about the work we do year-round, he made one of the hardest decisions of his life, to enter the New Life Program and confront his issues with drugs and alcohol head on.

Since then he has worked and grown in ways he never imagined. Ray is naturally gifted in technical and tactile work. He has thrived at Quick Appliance where he is learning, gaining competence, increasing his responsibilities and getting raises.

But Ray’s character really shows in his academic work.

Though Ray can spend hours trouble-shooting an appliance or on a building project, books are difficult company to keep for more than thirty minutes. Yet Ray has been working tirelessly on his GED, logging in more hours with our GED tutor, Amy Ostrowski, and in Front Range Community College’s GED Prep classes, than anyone I’ve ever seen come through the program. He even received an award from the college this last May for his commitment.

He logged 326 hours in class or working with tutors at FRCC, over a hundred more hours than any other student in the program.

And this week, Ray Biel graduated the New Life Program at Harvest Farm.

His sister’s family, the same ones that brought him to the Farm almost two years ago, were here to celebrate as he left. Ray has been such a positive influence during his time at Harvest Farm – instrumental in work therapy and a warm, upbeat presence with staff and fellow participants – that we say goodbye to him with some mixture of sadness and extreme pride. I, for one, will miss seeing him around so consistently.  I know I will not be the only one.

These pictures are from the halfway point in Ray’s program at the Mission’s graduation last year.

I didn’t have a chance to take off the robe we wear as LEC Instructors when Aneta snapped these pictures of Ray and I, though it is somewhat fitting for me to look the part of the student.  When I’m around Ray, I pay attention.  I lean in to study this man of fortitude and cheerfulness. I have learned a great deal about what a true man looks like by watching Ray grow, persevere and overcome.

 

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