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The Humble Christmas

Feed My SheepChristmas is the time of year most filled with expectations.  Some from our childhood experiences, some from our culture, and some from the constant onslaught of our media.  But I have the privilege of spending Christmas with many whose experience does not measure up to these expectations.

I am with those living in the shelter of a rescue mission, feeding those who are homeless, and ministering to men in a recovery center.  None are situations that we dream of spending our Christmas in.  So how do these experience the expectations of Christmas?

Actually, I am not sure their experience is not much closer to the original Christmas experience.  As a young virgin girl is preparing to give birth among her family in her little hometown of Nazareth, she and her husband hear that the emperor is requiring that all register for his empire’s census in their town of origin, which in their case means traveling to Bethlehem some 90 miles south.  I can’t imagine the fear and disappointment as this young couple takes on this week long trek journeying over treacherous mountain terrain away from all that is familiar.  At a time when all that is familiar would be all that mattered.

They arrive in the strange town of Bethlehem only to discover that there is no place to stay.  So homeless and broke they persuade a man to let them stay in his stable.  I am sure their hope is to register quickly and get back to Nazareth, so that Mary can have her firstborn child among her family.  But instead, she goes into labor that night in the barn.  In a strange city, her only support is her husband having to coach her through this painful ordeal.  So among the filth and stench of a stable full of barnyard animals, Mary gives birth to her firstborn son.  I am certain, not quite the way she imagined the event.

After the birth, their first guests are not family to see their first grandson, or dignitaries to see the King of the Jews, or medical professionals to lend assistance, or synagogue officials to celebrate the Messiah, but shepherds; lowly, dirty, roughneck, weather beaten shepherds.  I am sure their arrival did not improve the smells of the stable environment.  I imagine their calloused, dirty hands were not the first a young mother wanted touching her newborn as he lay asleep in a feeding trough.

The amazing thing about this whole story, as scripture reveals, is that it is exactly as God had orchestrated it!  It was God’s idea to move Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem through the instigation of a Roman census, so that Jesus could fulfill the prophesy of His birth being in the city of David. (Micah 5:2)  It was God’s plan for there not to be a reservation or place for them in Bethlehem, so that His son would be born in humility and obscurity.  God sent the angels to tell, not the city council or mayor or the religious elite, but shepherds.  These social outcasts would be the first to announce the birth of God’s glory.

Because Christmas is about humility – not the glitter of Christmas cards or the warmth of a Hallmark moment or the pleasantries of a holiday hymn or the generosity of a jolly old elf, but the reality that God left the Most High to arrive at the least low so that He could save everyone in between.

So as I stand among all those who are trying to find meaning in a Christmas this year that is far below their expectations, I come to Paul’s encouragement in Philippians,

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (2:5-8)

And I realize that this year in the homeless shelter or in the rehab, we need not resolve the humility with Christmas glitter and expensive gifts because we may be far closer to God’s  original Christmas than any expectations we had in the past.  Let us not solve our humility but embrace it.

Let us humble ourselves this season that we may find the true meaning of Christmas.

Tom Reynolds

Saying “Yes” To His Way

(taken from Tom’s Reynolds’ message at His Way’s December 3rd Christmas dinner)

Tom Head ShotHis Way is about God’s power transforming lives eternally.

He began by transforming mine.  As God led me through the greatest tragedy of my life, through the wilderness of an unknown future my unwavering belief was, “All things work together for the good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. “ (Romans 8:28)

Just last night, I shared that vision with one of my His Way brothers, Neil, who is trying to allow God to transform his life.  This passage emphasizes that as long as we keep loving God and pursuing His purpose, all things are redemptive and for His transformative purpose.  Although we may face many difficult things, nothing has to be bad!  Because “All Things” can work together for good. 

Eight years ago, through God’s leading of Clyde Jones, who had a desire and a building, and Doug Stogner, who had an experience, a passion, and willingness, I was placed in the middle to help create a vision.  Through this experience, His Way was born.

After six months of volunteering, I was asked by the board of directors, if I would be willing to leave my comfortable, secular job to commit full-time to His Way.  As I considered my lack of qualifications, my ill-prepared abilities, my ignorance, as well as my feelings of still recovering from my greatest life trauma, I prayed earnestly.  And one day, a Friday, about this time of year I went to a local restaurant to find a corner by myself to allow God to give me a final message of clarity as to what I should do.  As I entered the restaurant, I saw a friend, Jesse May.  My first thought was, “Oh, No! I want to be by myself, but I also don’t want to be rude, so what do I do?”  Well I went with not rude and sat with Jesse to eat.  He asked how everything was going and what I was up to.  I began to explain the significant decision that was before me.  To my amazement, Jesse asked, what would it take financially to make this decision clear.  I gave him an amount and he said, “If I make sure that can happen, will you do it?”  There was no clearer voice from God that I could have expected that day.  So I said, “Yes!”

I have now spent eight years saying, “Yes” to:

-Seeing over 400 men and their families touched by this ministry.

-154 graduates.  By the end of 2015, we will have had 38 men graduate into sobriety in Christ which is a 48% growth of our best year in the past.

-78 baptized into Christ.

-Every resident having the seeds of God’s transforming power sown in their lives.

Just this year:

We have had 15 men say “Yes” to Jesus in baptism

We have had 38 graduates begin new lives, like:

  • Zach going into the Navy
  • Tyler at 21 becoming the spiritual leader of his family, community, and church  
  • Thomas graduate into bringing the message of recovery hope as a nurse to the psychiatric unit of Marshall North hospital.
  •  Chad experience stability and a God directed life with his family after over one year in the program.
  • Kyle step into a lead position on a construction crew
  • Don celebrate his 70th birthday
  • Lee achieve his first “Real” job at 44 years old
  • Chris asking his girlfriend to marry him at his six month graduation with plans to get married after he graduates his one year at His Way.

On November 21st, we had three brothers who had been involved at His Way get married in three separate ceremonies.

By saying, “Yes”, I get to watch God’s transforming power every day!

It is not always pretty because God’s grace applied to the lives of men in recovery can be mesy, ugly, stressful, and confusing, but always amazing!

As the Old Testament closes, God announces a dream that will not begin to unfold for over 400 years with the coming of the Kingdom of God through Jesus.

Behold, I will send you Elijah, the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.  And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to fathers.” Malachi 4:5, 6

This vision is being fulfilled through His Way.  Parents getting sons back, but also getting brothers and grandsons and fathers and uncles.  Through His Way, families are restored, future families are created, and the gospel is entering and transforming entire families. 

At a graduation this past summer, David’s father stood up and thanked His Way because not only had his son’s life been transformed, but the gospel had begun to change their entire family through David’s change.

An entire generation that has been lost to drugs and alcohol is being reclaimed!

By saying, “Yes” to God’s work through His Way, you are helping to change lives.

Please understand that every man who goes through our program invests in his own recovery, but what he pays only covers a third of the cost.  Another third is raised through our business ventures such as “The Saving Way” thrift stores.  And your support of our stores blesses these men with the opportunity of recovery.  But the expense of this opportunity would not allow these families this experience if it were not also for your generous donations that cover the final third of the expense.

Tonight, we are asking you to say “Yes” by contributing generously to this life altering opportunity.   Please also remember us with your year-end giving and throughout the year as we continue to say, “Yes” to these families in desperate need.

Tom Reynolds


 

 

Chad’s Transformation

Tom Head ShotOn October 18, 2015, His Way celebrated its 19th one year graduate.  While one year of sobriety is a great accomplishment this graduate’s story is even more remarkable.

Chad had already suffered many years of loss due to substance abuse and the crimes that come with it.  He had spent a combined seven years in prison not including a multitude of shorter jail incarcerations.  He came to His Way on May 9, 2014.  His primary desire was to get whatever help he could possibly receive in order to avoid spending the majority of the remainder of his life in prison for pending legal charges.

He entered our program, but only lasted twenty days until he was dismissed for rules violations.  We resolved this situation quickly and he was able to return.  Having seen Chad’s track record up to this point, we had little hope for success.

He lasted another three months until he was dismissed again for testing positive for a banned substance.  We had struggled with his rebellious spirit throughout that period and were not surprised at his final dismissal.

But it was during his thirty day suspension from the program that Chad shared how the Lord truly began to capture his heart.  When he reentered for the third time, he was a radically different person.  He graduated the initial six-months of our program on April 9 2015, exactly 11 months after he had begun this journey with us, as our 131st graduate of His Way.  He volunteered to commit to another six-months in our Advance Recovery Group.  This group is designed to assist the staff and mentor new residents while continuing to solidify one’s own recovery.

During this period, Chad’s changes began to become more obvious.  He was the first to volunteer for the least popular service opportunities such as driving residents to work every day at 3AM.  He never grumbled about it, but later shared how that early morning time in the van was great personal time with the Lord.

Chad began to allow God to change his natural bent for conflict instigation and stirring up of strife into a compassionate concern for each resident’s personal recovery.  He kept his eyes, ears, and most especially his heart, tuned to the one struggling with sobriety and staying the course.

At his one-year graduation, numerous graduates returned to the program to share with current residents how Chad had convinced them to endure when they already decided to check out.  They gave much of the credit for their own success to Chad.

When I asked Chad about a week before his graduation, what changed?  He responded, simply, “God changed how I thought.”  I inquired about how that happened and he shared that he wasn’t quite sure, but that while he was out for that second time he decided something had to change so he surrendered everything over to God.

As I reflected on his explanation for this radical transformation, I was amazed with the insufficiency of his explanation.  It was too easy and simplistic, and also too incomplete to explain such a dramatic change.

As I probed him for further explanation, I was blessed with an illustration that helped me see more clearly what Chad was talking about.

I know very little about cars.  If my vehicle begins to misfire, my first reaction is to pretend I really didn’t notice it and hope that it goes away.  But when it persists, due to my lack of automotive knowledge and experience and my sheer desire not to have to deal with it, I will attempt to justify it.  “Old cars just run rough,” I reason.  Or, “Everyone’s car probably has a similar problem.”  Or, “My vehicle isn’t as bad as others I have witnessed.”  The reality is I am just trying to excuse my lack of automotive knowledge and my inability to do anything about it.

Others may respond to this automotive problem by trying to fix it themselves though lacking the knowledge, tools, or experience to do so.  These “shade tree” mechanics will usually create a greater mess, so that the vehicle may not run at all.

But the third and final option is to take it to a knowledgeable, well-trained mechanic; surrendering the vehicle and problem to him, he returns it in a few hours as good as new.  The mechanic doesn’t explain how he did it or what tools he used, even if he tried, it would be a vain attempt with someone as ignorant and mechanically declined as me.

I just drive off confident that I know to whom I can surrender my vehicle.

The internal, eternal transformation of God within us operates similarly.  We simply surrender our lives over to Him, trusting Him, and He returns it to us inexplicably changed.

So let’s stop ignoring the obvious misfirings of our lives.  Or attempt to excuse it by assuming others just have the same problem and I’m not as bad as someone else.  Some of us will flock to churches, read books, attend seminars, or seek counseling all in a quest to discover the magic formula that God has for us to change our lives.

While the real truth is, Chad’s truth – just surrender to God and let Him change you into what He envisions you to be.  As the old hymn says, “Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”  Jesus offers us all, “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.

 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  (II Corinthians 5:17)

“Behold, the new Chad!”  The transformation of Chad is truly an unexplainable gift of God.

Tom Reynolds

Do You Want What You Have?

Tiger WoodsSeeing Tiger Woods struggle shooting rounds of +4 and +3 on golf courses he dominated for years, causes questions to continually swirl regarding his future and even his present.

Golf commentator, Paul Azinger, made a statement that as an entire generation tried to duplicate Tiger’s swing; he was trying to change it.  Tragically the only one dissatisfied with Tiger’s swing was Tiger.  Over the years, Tiger has had numerous major swing changes and four different coaches and he now seems lost in his swing mechanics.

This is the fruit of discontentment.  You end up not wanting what you have while straining to get something you can’t have and thus you end up with nothing.

A number of years ago I watched a very gifted and talented friend jump from job to job because he would get tired of the position he had and the next one would look much more attractive.  But then after a few months, the luster of that new opportunity would fade and then the next opportunity would look more attractive.  In the meantime, his career growth remained stagnant.  I shared my observations with him – you look like a man who gets on a train going north only to see the next southern bound train looking more attractive, so you change trains for the next opportunity only to see the next northern bound train looking more attractive, so you jump again.  You do a lot of train changing and have a lot of activity, only to find yourself a few miles from the original train station, never getting anywhere.  This is the constant plight of the discontented.

I have chosen to define contentment as “wanting what you have.”

The much often quoted scripture of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” is the conclusion of Paul’s longer discussion regarding contentment.  He begins in verse 10 thanking the Philippian Christians for their renewed interest in helping him.  He states, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  . . I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”  The secret is realizing the strength of Christ can sustain me in every situation.

So make the faith decision today to “want what you have.”  And stop trying to become what you are not.  Stick with the original swing coach, Jesus Christ.

Tom Reynolds

The Charleston Difference

FlagThe peace, quiet, and harmony in Charleston, SC after the tragic racially motivated murder of nine African-American Bible study attendees at Emanuel AME church on June 17, 2015 by a white supremist  youth stands in stark contrast to the almost year-long protesting, rioting, and violence following the killing of one African-American youth in Ferguson by a police officer.

What creates such a difference?  The difference is created by the decision of the Christian community in Charleston to forgive the perpetrator.  Two days after this senseless crime, the daughter of 70 year old victim, Ethel Lance, said to Dylann Root, “I will never talk with her again.  I will never be able to hold her again.  But I forgive you!”

AME Bishop John Bryant stated at the memorial service, “Someone should’ve told the young man.  He wanted to start a race war, but he came to the wrong place.”

This reveals the power of Christians who choose to obediently walk in the footsteps of Jesus.  Jesus taught and practiced a non-violent response to violent, sinful, and even abusive behavior.  He taught ideals such as turn the other cheek and going the extra mile.  And followers such as Paul emphasized to “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. . … Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine.  I will repay, says the Lord.”  To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:14, 19-21)

In I Peter 2:21, Jesus’ lead apostle recounted, ”For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.”  The path of Christian discipleship is a choice of willfully enduring suffering as Christ did.  This isn’t just a good suggestion; it is a calling of Christ.  It is the calling of God!  Peter goes on to explain that in the midst of Jesus’ greatest anguish and suffering on the cross, He did not retaliate or revile, but instead graciously bore the abuse because,  He entrusted “Himself to Him who judges justly.”  The Christian faith calls us to non-retaliatory entrustment of violence, wrong, and suffering to a God who judges justly and will manage the fairness issue while we manage the obedient, love and grace issue of forgiveness.

As Reverend Nelson Rivers of Charity Missionary Baptist church in North Charleston stated, “You cannot be the thing you hate.  You cannot become the evil you seek to eradicate.  Forgiveness is not the same as ignoring the facts.  We want justice.”  But Christians entrust justice to God and do not take it into their own hands as some self-righteous vigilantism.

The fact is Jesus bore our sin in His body, so that we may be healed. (I Peter 2:24)  And, we as His followers must bear the sins of the world and carry them to Jesus that healing may come here as well.  In the context of restoring sinful people, Paul writes, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)  The burdens we must bear in fulfilling Christ’s law of love is the consequences of the sins of others.  And the only way we as frail, weak people can bear those sins is through the forgiveness of Christ.

Jesus prayed from the cross as He was being brutalized in every conceivable way.  He prayed for those who were abusing Him as they were actually abusing Him, stating, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

As followers of Jesus, we must pray the same whether in the face of great social harm or even personal slights.  It is Jesus’ path of peace.

Tom Reynolds

“I Wanted To Die” – The Fred Smith Story

Fred IIAsk Fred to tell you about his life up until now and he is pretty straight forward.  “I had a really rough childhood.  At age 15, I started drinking and smoking pot and that was the start of 43 years of mostly ‘hell on earth’. I died once that I’m sure of and was dead for 4 hours from a drug and alcohol overdose in 2009. I quit drinking then to save my marriage, but didn’t give up my drugs. I chose drugs over my family, well everything, and I saw no purpose for my life anymore”.

Fred’s life is a completely different story today, but it was a hard journey to this point. Fred knew God from a young age, and went to church off and on at different periods of his life, but says that he mostly just ignored the “little voice” he heard warning him as he made one bad choice after another. He joined the Navy at 17 and his drug and alcohol use escalated out of control. Fred was married and divorced four times, has seven children and twelve grandchildren. If you know Fred, you know his emotions are always very close to the surface, but this is particularly true when he speaks of his family. Over the years, his choices and broken promises led to complete separation from some of his children and grandchildren.

One night in 2010 while he was fishing, his fourth wife discovered him smoking a joint after he had promised that he had stopped. Tired of the drugs and lies at this point, she gave him an ultimatum: “You can have the drugs or you can have me”. Fred says through tears, “I said, ‘See ya later!’ That’s how deep in my addiction I was”.  After that experience, he lived mostly as a hermit for 3 years, smoking pot and popping pills, eating only once or twice a week and rarely showering. He tried to shoot himself several times, but the gun would never go off. “I wanted to die”, he says, “I had no purpose. All I was doing was causing pain”.

These years of hopelessness finally came to an end one day when he overdosed for the second time that month in May of 2013. During the time he was unconscious, he will tell you that God paid him a visit and showed him what hell was really like. “It was a dark, desolate and lonely place where there was no God, no love, no feelings, no happiness, no joy or hope!”  He saw himself laying on a concrete slab all alone, then he dissolved to dust and blew away. “It was so vivid and real to me, that when I woke up from that experience I did not believe anymore that there even was a God”.   But as the fog wore off during the ensuing time in the mental hospital and another rehab center, Fred says God “cleansed his heart” and he started to read his Bible and believe again. By the time he arrived at His Way, he was over 2 months sober and seeking a personal relationship with the Lord. “I didn’t come to His Way to get off drugs. I already knew I would never touch them again. I came to find a personal relationship with God, to seek his face”. He chose to read his bible and pray instead of spending his downtime watching TV or playing games and he says, “I found God’s face, grabbed hold of Him and wouldn’t turn loose until He blessed me. When He did, I claimed His promises”.

Early one morning, during his daily routine of reading his bible on the front porch, Fred says he surrendered his all to God and prayed; “Lord, You’re the potter and I’m the clay. Mold me and use me as you will”. At that moment, he received God’s Shalom, a peace like he had never known before. “People want to keep a little control for themselves, to be able to say they have some final control over things. You can’t do that. You can’t just give 99.99999% of your heart, will and trust! You have to give 100% of yourself, all your will, and trust to God! After that, just obey and continue seeking His will and claim the promises found in his word”.

Fred has since reconciled with his children and has a life full of Jesus and his family and friends, driving home nearly every other weekend to see them. He also is now on staff at His Way, calling it his “JOY” instead of a “JOB”. Having found this peace that passes all understanding, Fred wanted everyone around him to have it. But he soon discovered that he couldn’t give it to other people.  Only God does that when that 100% commitment is made. “It is so hard to see people hurting, stressing and worrying, knowing that they don’t have to experience those things”. So much so that Fred prayed to God to take away the peace, but he wouldn’t take it away. So Fred prayed to God for a better way to show and express it to people in a way that would cause them to be willing to make the 100% commitment it takes to get it for themselves.

Then in December 2014, Fred was diagnosed with Stage 4 adenacarcenoma lung cancer. This isn’t what he would have chosen for the next season of his life, but he knows the cancer has a purpose. Though he knows he doesn’t have to understand the purpose, he feels that it has opened up a door to share God’s peace with others. He does this by having a positive, peaceful and confident attitude in spite of a somber and, to most, a frightening prognosis. He started hearing from people via social media and in person how he was an inspiration to them, having this peace even looking at death soon, short of a miracle from God. Also he feels truly blessed by and through the fact that he has been able to bring laughter, smiles and hope to faces full of pain, fear and worry in the room at the cancer center where he and the other patients are receiving their chemotherapy. “It’s a dark place, and I get to bring the light of Jesus into it by sharing through testimony the power of God’s comfort and peace, showing gratitude to God even for my cancer, praising God, praying and cutting up with the nurses and other patients.  Through all these things I’ve realized that God has blessed me with this cancer in answer to my prayer for a better way to show and express His peace to others. What better way than to show Gods complete and perfect peace and even gratitude facing man’s number one fear ‘Death’!”

Though his future is uncertain, Fred is not bothered by anything the world can do to him. He says it is pretty ironic that for many years he wanted to die, but couldn’t.  And now that he has found a reason to live, a purpose, he is facing the reality that he may not have many years left. “When God’s purpose for me on this earth is done, he will call me home. And I’m ready”. Until then he will continue to share his story of hope and peace through Jesus to those in recovery and those afflicted with sickness.

Brenda Newman

Take A Picture

Tom Family III just recently returned from visiting my family in the Pacific Northwest and also attending the U.S. Open Golf tournament held in my home town of Tacoma, WA.  We were able to share some wonderful family experiences which we recorded with hundreds of photos.  This one was taken as a four generation memory of my 88 year old father, me, my son, Andrew, and his nearly three year old daughter, Adelyn.

As I was traveling back home scanning through our pictures, I began asking myself, “Why do we take pictures?”  The answer I concluded was to preserve and share memories.

Memories are critical to our makeup.  God emphasizes this throughout scripture.  In Deuteronomy 6, as God’s people, are preparing to enter the Promised Land after a 40 year wandering and training in the desert, he emphasizes how critical their memory is to their faithfulness.  He instructs them to keep His word close to them.  He says that they should constantly instruct their children about His commands, and that they should bind scripture on their hands, foreheads, and even on their doorposts.  He then explains why these reminders are so very essential:

And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you-with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill , and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant-and when you eat and are full, then take care LEST YOU FORGET the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Deuteronomy 6:10-12)

In our affluence, we can so quickly forget.  Our threat to faithfulness is not when things are bad, but when they are good.  I see it all the time.

I interview all the men and their families who are potential residents of our recovery program at His Way.  Most express a desperation and a willingness to do anything to get the help that they need.  They plead and beg for help at whatever cost necessary.  But once they enter the program and get a few days of comfortable beds, warm meals, and safety, many of them begin to complain.  They begin complaining about their roommate, or the schedule, or some of the instructors, or the food, or the rules and restrictions.  When things get better how quickly they forget.

I have seen the consistent pattern of forgetfulness, leading to grumbling and complaining out of ingratitude, and next thing you know – relapse, a loss of the faith that began their sobriety.

So here is my suggestion for us all, TAKE A PICTURE!!!

Take a picture of where you have been, what God has done for you, and how others have been God’s blessing to you.  And do as God suggests in Deuteronomy.  Show your pictures and tell the stories over and over again.  This is the only way I know for us to maintain our gratitude and in so doing maintain our faithfulness to the One who has delivered us all.

Jesus ended his time on this earth by giving us a picture to assist us in this process.

And He took bread and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them saying, “This is my body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”  And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” – Luke 22:19,20

So, let us live in gratitude by constantly and regularly participating in Jesus’ picture of His sacrifice for us through the Lord’s Supper.  “Do this in Remembrance of Me!”

Tom Reynolds

Great Article in Shattered Magazine!

Here’s an article in Shattered Magazine about Mike, a graduate of His Way!

https://shatteredmagazine.net/addiction-and-sanctification-its-about-progress-not-perfection/?utm_content=buffer74461&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

The Face Of Evil

ISISISIS is the contemporary face of evil.  Their “YouTube” videos fill the airwaves with innocents, of which many  are Christians, being brutally slaughtered publically in an effort to terrorize the world with their power and rage.

But faces of evil have always filled our social conscience whether they be terrorist leaders like Osama Bin Laden, or social criminals such as cannibalistic killer, Jeffery Dahmer, rapist/murderer, Ted Bundy, psychopathic killers like Charles Manson, or nationalistic leaders pursuing genocidal extermination such as Saddam Hussein,  Pol Pot in Cambodia, Joseph Stalin in the USSR, or Adolf Hitler.  They tend to be the faces of human moral depravity that fill our social conscience.

At His Way, faces of evil for many families enter our doors as addicts who have ravaged their families and local communities.  The stories of family terror are too numerous to tell.   But in a relatively short period of Christ influenced sobriety the distorted faces, glazed eyes, and hardened hearts of addiction yield to the tender, softer spirit that lies dormant beneath the surface.  Many mothers tearfully declare, after having not seen their son for their first thirty days in the program, “There is my fifteen year old boy that I lost so many years ago!”

But are the faces of systematic mass murder or drug and alcohol crazed men, the limit to God’s view of evil?

Jesus tells his disciples a story to explain the nature of God’s kingdom.  A king is settling accounts with his servants when one enters his presence owing “ten thousand talents” which is equivalent to 200,000 years of labor!  While the king begins to make arrangements to extract as much as possible from the servant for payment, the servant falls to his knees begging the king for patience, that with time he will pay back all he owes.  The offer is absurd.  There is no possible way the man can even begin to scratch the surface of his debt.

But amazingly, the king in his great mercy, grace, and compassion decides to forgive the debt and release the servant.  While we would expect the next scene to be a family reunion celebrating the amazing grace the man and his family had received, instead we find him strangling a fellow servant and demanding a debt paid that is mere pennies relative to the great debt from which he had just been released.  In like manner, the indebted servant begs for patience so that he could pay back the debt, but instead of extending him the same grace he had just received, he insists upon payment and has him thrown into debtor’s prison.

Jesus says that his fellow servants saw this action and reported it to the king, and the king demanded that the forgiven servant be returned to him.  The king then indignantly confronts the servant for his actions of being uncompassionate after so much incredible mercy was shown him.  The king expresses that he should have shown grace as was shown him.  The king confronts the servant with this phrase, “You wicked servant!

Jesus reveals that from God’s perspective true wickedness is not necessarily the heinous crimes that fill the front pages of our papers or the alerts that saturate our cable news networks, but the unwillingness to extend to others what God has so graciously extended to us.

Wickedness is to not forgive others as God has forgiven you.  Or not to serve your  neighbor as God has served you.  Or not to love your brother as God has loved you.

While it may be more comfortable to see evil in the face of cruel despots, the real evil may be closer than we would care to look.  It may be found in our own resentments, our own defensiveness, and our own selfishness.  The face of evil may even be seen in our own mirrors.

Tom Reynolds

 

Found Money!

Found MoneyThe stories we can tell about items we have found in our donation piles at The Saving Way thrift stores are limitless. The stuff we get runs the gamut from hilarious to disturbing and from goofy to gross. And yes, we often find loose change and occasionally a few dollars tucked into pockets of old clothes and purses. That loose change is added to the His Way scholarship fund.

Recently, one of our employees, Toshiko Wingard, discovered an envelope inside a neatly folded blanket that was donated to the store. She opened the envelope, which contained some old letters and…to her excitement, also a bunch of small bills adding up to over two thousand dollars! Larry Rice, our Operations Manager, has been at The Saving Way since day one, and was quick to point out, “Since we opened our first store five years ago, that is the most exciting thing we have ever found in a donation!

Fortunately, there were enough clues in the envelope to allow us to track down the donor via the internet and social media. In fact, as it turned out, one of the donor’s family members is a mutual friend of mine on facebook. A few years ago, before the internet, it would have been nearly impossible for us to reunite the money with its owner.

The owners of the money were surprised and delighted to receive the news that we had discovered this treasure, and as it turned out, they didn’t even know the money existed. They are in the process of cleaning out their parents’ home, and thought they had checked through all of the items pretty thoroughly before bringing them to our store to donate.

To reward Toshiko’s honesty, the Puryear’s donated enough money to the store to pay for a pizza party for our entire staff. Upon meeting them, Toshiko simply offered her infectious smile and a simple, “It was the right thing to do.” Larry and I agree that our staff at The Saving Way is the best, and we are pleased with the honesty of our employees. It shows not only a heart for this mission, but also a heart to do what’s right all the time.

Brenda Newman

Sales Manager, The Saving Way