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Symptom Suppressants

Tom Head ShotI heard this the other day, “Do you know the difference between a doctor and God?  God doesn’t think He is a doctor.”

I know that I am not a doctor either, but I do have observations of health that have shaped my personal practice.  One is that I avoid symptom suppressants.  Because our society is so pleasure obsessed and therefore pain adverse, there are a lot of over the counter medicines simply promising the reduction of negative symptoms due to illness.  While coughing, sneezing, vomiting, and runny noses are terribly uncomfortable and can hinder one’s life, they are the vehicles God designed in our bodies to get rid of negative influences.  My observation is that to limit that process only causes one to suffer longer with the illness as well as risk secondary infections due to the germ remaining in the body longer than God designed.

Therefore I try to avoid all symptom reducing medicines believing that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God, and that His process, while painful at the time, will yield His intended result.

I believe that this principle holds in the spiritual and psychological realm also.  Suppressing negative emotions such as grief, guilt, and anger will yield longer term emotional illnesses and potentially secondary afflictions such as depression and resentment.  Again, because we are in a pain adverse culture, we are quickly prescribed medications that reduce our symptoms and therefore cause us not to address the core issues of guilt or shame or grief and so on.

The beauty of God’s design is that instead of turning to modern medicine for symptom reducing medications, God has a plan to resolve these issues.  God suggests that if we have an interpersonal conflict with someone we should go to them and work it out immediately (Matthew 5:23, 24; Matthew 18:15-20).  God also gives us an avenue to resolve internal struggles.  I John says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9).  So confession to God is His answer, not medications to suppress your guilt.  He also states in James 5:16, “ Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed,  The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”  There is great, divine healing in confession to each other.

God has also established a regular opportunity for His people to evaluate themselves in the Lord’s Supper.  In I Corinthians 11:28-30, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”  The spiritual and physical maladies that are caused by unconfessed sins are enormous.

So let us not chase symptom reducing practices of denial, blame, and excuse making, but instead confession that we too may be healed!

Tom Reynolds

Mood Mastery

Tom Head ShotA plague has hit Alabama within the past few years…Kratom.  Kratom is an herbal extract derived from a root that grows in Southeast Asia.  While illegal in the countries it grows in, this substance has been imported into the U.S. and now sells in some convenience stores as a “5 Hour Energy” type product called Vivazen as well as under other product labels.

This substance has the pain blocking effect of prescription medications like Percocet and Lortabs yet is available without a prescription to anyone including children who purchase it right off store counters.  It is a highly addictive opiate like substitute.  Opiate addicts are flocking to it as a socially legitimate substitute for heroin or illegally obtained pain medications.

Currently there is a bill in the Alabama State House and another in the Senate to take this substance off the counters and make it only available through a doctor’s prescription.  While we are praying that this bill will pass the legislature and be enacted into law to protect the vulnerable and the innocent, my greater prayer is that the mindset that makes us all vulnerable to these types of attacks can be transformed.

Scripture encourages us to, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 1:13)  Unfortunately, we’ve grown accustomed to  attempting to control how we feel by depending upon substances that we intake.  When we train ourselves to wake up with caffeine, boost ourselves with energy drinks, sooth ourselves with alcohol, and put ourselves to sleep with medications, we set ourselves up to become dependent on something other than what God has designed our “fearfully and wonderfully” made bodies to do.

We also face the spiritual threat of becoming dependent on something or someone other than the Lord which puts our faith in jeopardy.  If we are dependent on something other than the Lord, we can become vulnerable to spiritual attacks from the evil one.  As James warns, we can become “a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (1:8)

Paul shares a principle that is a guiding light on this topic.  In I Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23, he states, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful.  All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything.”  All things are available to me in Christ, but I must not allow anything to enslave me to the point that it overrules Christ’s in my life.

The way I have attempted to practice this principle is to avoid any substance addictive products such as caffeine or sugar.  I enjoy coffee but I drink only decaf.  And even with that, I take periodic sabbaticals from it to be sure I am not growing dependent upon it.

Let me also add that your body has naturally designed chemicals within it that serve to wake you up or energize you or help you sleep.  When you use artificial means, your body begins to not produce these chemicals, which then automatically creates a physical dependency upon these artificial substances.  Therefore, you not only become physically dependent but risk also spiritual compromise.

You will notice that if you take a sabbatical from the product you will feel the ill effects of your dependency; that is your “detox”.  If you feel detox symptoms like headache, nervousness, low energy, and irritability, it should alert you to your dependency problem and encourage you to steer clear of these products in the future.  I assure you these symptoms will pass in a few days and your body will return to produce these chemicals naturally again.

Don’t risk your physical and especially your spiritual health on these artificial products.  Don’t risk having a divided hope, but become sober-minded and set your hope fully on the grace of Jesus!

Also please join us in prayer for the passage of HB175 in Alabama to rid our stores of these dangerously addictive substances.

Tom Reynolds

Dedicating God’s Child

Tom Head ShotIn celebration of our youngest granddaughter’s birth, we recently attended her baby dedication at my son’s congregation.  They were celebrating the addition of eighteen children to their church family in the past year.  It was a beautifully done celebration.

A special touch was that all the men who led the service were the fathers of the children being dedicated.  During the reflection prior to taking communion, one of the fathers discussed in depth the at risk birth of his son and how for many days after the birth his son struggled for life.  He ended his reflections discussing the sacrifice that God went through in giving up his one and only son for us, a feat the father admitted he could not imagine doing.  What an unfathomable, amazing love God has for us!

While I reflected on God’s incredible sacrifice of love for me, my mind began to drift in a little different direction.  What does this sacrifice say about my value?  God valued me so much that He made a decision that I was worth His only Son.  My Heavenly Father concluded that the giving up of His only Son was worth the adoption price of having me as one of His children.  God prized me that much!

God prizes you that much!

That’s a dedication

Tom Reynolds

“Matt’s Story”

Matt HarriganMatt’s story has a familiar beginning. He’s from a good family and grew up going to church. While he was a good student and played sports all through high school, his drug use started when he was only 13 years old, trying marijuana and alcohol with friends. It escalated from there.

After high school, Matt went to Auburn for two years and says, “I became a drug dealer at Auburn. I mostly sold marijuana, but eventually pills and cocaine too.” He also developed a serious addiction to pills after being prescribed a narcotic painkiller called Roxycodone after surgery. When the doctors quit prescribing them, he started buying them on the street. It didn’t take long before Matt was using drugs intravenously.

Realizing he had a problem, he moved back to Huntsville to live with his family and change his lifestyle, but was soon using heroin. “I did the junkie thing for a year and overdosed twice.” Matt went to a rehab center for a while (and was even baptized while he was there), but eventually made bad choices and was dismissed from that program. Back at his parents’ house, he overdosed 3 more times, one time not breathing for 15 minutes. Matt’s parents gave him 2 choices – move out of their house or go to His Way.

Now –  2 months away from his one-year graduation, Matt is part of the His Way Advanced Recovery Group (ARG) program, and providing leadership for the other residents. He says his life is completely different. “I always believed in God and knew about God, but I never acted on it. This time, I am trying to walk it out. The approach at His Way has been to show me that I need to let God change my whole life.” Instead of focusing on not doing drugs, Matt credits His Way with helping him change his friends, his surroundings, and his attitude. He has found a new life where he doesn’t want to do drugs anymore.

After graduation, Matt plans to move back in with his parents for 2 months and then go to scuba diving school in Louisiana, with the goal of becoming an underwater welder. He plans to stay in touch with the close friends he’s made at His Way, but is looking forward to an exciting new career and a fresh start in a new city.

When asked what he would like others to know about His Way, Matt says – “His Way can help anybody that is ready to change their life. But you have to be ready. I am very appreciative of everything His Way has done for me. I only had death or prison ahead of me. So, I truly feel like His Way saved my life.

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