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The Secret of Contentment

Tom Head ShotI was leading a Bible discussion at the headquarters of General Foods.  It was a very interesting group because we had executives, middle management, and line workers all together discussing God’s truths on a weekly basis.  It was a very special time.

One week I began the discussion with a question for everyone to answer, “Assuming that the value of a dollar remained constant forever, what annual salary would you need to be paid in order to be content forever?”  Of course some of the initial responses were outrageous amounts like $1 million or half a million, but then some answers began to moderate – $100,000, $35,000.  I expected the grand amounts, but I was surprised at the more modest sums.  But then I asked the follow-up question, “For which of you would the amount you mentioned be the amount you make now or less?”  Can you guess the answer?  NONE!

No matter how extreme or how modest our ideals are, all thought that contentment would be attained with just a little bit more.

But that belief is the foundation of discontentment – the continual quest for more!

Paul in Philippians 4 states, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (vv.11-13)

The secret of contentment is realizing that all I need I already have in Christ Jesus.  As Peter declares, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence.” (II Peter 1:3)

The realization that all God offers me in Christ is a present possession that creates a spirit of gratitude.  And gratitude is the only attitude that will create genuine contentment.

Gratitude Attitude Picture

Contentment is wanting what you already have!

So, this Thanksgiving begin a celebration of gratitude and don’t ever let it end. Continue it throughout the year and the remainder of your life.  This is the secret of contentment.

Tom Reynolds

Love Lifted Me

At His Way, we welcome any man who is committed to overcoming addiction, but we were not sure about Mike.  Mike’s professional diagnosis coming out of jail made him well beyond our capabilities.  He had spent the majority of his adult life incarcerated. He had been labeled with some extreme psychological dysfunctions. He had deeply embedded grief issues that appeared to remain unaddressed. And, numerous social and relational difficulties.  Through much prayer and the unwavering faith of believing that God can do far more than we can ask or imagine, we agreed for Mike to come.

Upon Mike’s arrival, we quickly realized that his issues far exceeded our capabilities and training, but we were thankful that he had the support of the mental health community as well.  His grief issues were deep.  He had lost his mother and his son in two separate tragic car accidents, both while he was incarcerated.

Mike, also, had had a traumatic childhood.  At twelve, he was seriously injured when he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle.  Three times he was declared dead while doctors worked to save his life.  He recovered from that accident, but was never quite the same again.  The trauma had changed him.  He also grew up as an only boy in a home without the influence of a father.  So by the time he arrived at His Way, it was evident that he craved positive male attention.

Though Mike was extremely intelligent, he lacked the ability to succeed in a traditional classroom environment and chose to drop out of school at a young age.  Over the years, he had made vain attempts to complete his education with a GED, but was never able to stick to the process long enough.  Typically, frustration and self-doubt would force him to quit.

Over his time in and out of institutions, he had never stayed long enough to get help.  He would eventually feel uncomfortable for some reason and run.

But at His Way, Mike found the loving fellowship of Christian brothers that helped him grow.  The unconditional acceptance he found helped him work through many of his social and relational difficulties.  He was able to openly address and work through his grief issues as he told and retold the stories of tragedy in his life.  Some days Mike would be found sitting alone watching and re-watching the DVD of his son’s memorial that was played at his funeral.  He would invite us to watch with him as he would reflect over those special times.

Early in his stay, he would face difficult issues and would contemplate running.  But his brothers would stop him and persuade him once again to stay.  There were numerous staff discussions warning us of Mike as a flight risk.

Through much cajoling, Mike was encouraged to begin GED classes in order to complete his high school education.  Mike was extremely hesitant.  He had tried it a number of times before without ever completing it.  While he has yet to finish, he has a passion and resolve to see it through this time.  He has enjoyed the assistance of many coaches, tutors, and encouragers among his brothers at His Way.  He is well on his way to reaching this success.

He is also dedicated to a job that he loves and that loves him.  I hear constant praise for his strong work ethic and commitment to a quality job at The Saving Way Thrift Store.

All of his attention getting habits and idiosyncrasies have been met with loving understanding, support, and care.

Above all, Mike has grown in his passion for Jesus and his truths about who he is in Christ, truths that he has actually experienced through the fellowship of the staff and residents of His Way.

Mike graduated His Way after six-months on November 6.  He has moved into a house of Christian fellowship while continuing in the job he loves and is nearing completion of his GED.

Though Mike’s diagnosed issues were well beyond the scope of the professional experience of the staff and residents of His Way, they were not beyond the unconditional love of God expressed through the fellowship of His people.

Mike was also humble enough to be willing to accept the help and support of others.  He accepted their vision for his life and confidence in his abilities even when he didn’t see it and self-doubt could have quickly overwhelmed him.

Peter encourages Jesus’ followers to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (I Peter 1:22) because “love covers a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8).  Unquestionably, God’s love has overcome Mike’s history of sin, his personal idiosyncrasies, and the tragic sins that were committed against him in his past.  As we celebrated Mike’s graduation accomplishment from His Way, I could not help but reflect on the chorus from the classic Christian hymn, “when nothing else could help, Love Lifted Me!

Mike’s transformation was brought by the power of God’s love and his acceptance of it.  And so can all of ours!  May God’s love lift you as it has Mike.

Tom Reynolds

This Is My Beloved Son

The halls of Alcoholics Anonymous are filled with desperate addicts seeking hope. They begin every meeting with, “Hi, I’m ____, and I’m an alcoholic.” This is a way to keep the addict openly confessional and never losing sight of the humility that keeps him in recovery. It is a great and very needed method within AA.

But, in the halls of His Way, we have a very different confession. Instead of the constant reminder of our past failures, we focus on our new identity in Christ, and tether ourselves to our solution, not our problem. So, our meetings are filled with, “Hi, I’m ____, and I’m a new creation in Christ.”

The reality is key to defeating sin. Satan came at Jesus three times in the wilderness challenging Him to sin by proving His identity through some miraculous stunt. “If you are the Son of God…” (Matthew 5:3-11). Jesus simply defeated Satan’s efforts with citation of scripture. As Satan tried to break Him down, Jesus was fortified with one clear truth that He received from heaven some 40 days previously. As Jesus rose up from the waters of the Jordan, God spoke announcing to the world, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17). These words were the resonating confidence that allowed Jesus to fight off Satan.

Satan will use self-doubt and insecurity to tempt us to prove ourselves. To guard ourselves from falling victim to his devices, we must claim the promise Jesus claimed by announcing that, “I am God’s child.”

Let’s enter into the halls of victory claiming God’s promise, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:20)

Tom Reynolds

What Is An Adult?

On Monday, June 16, 2014, it was announced the great hall of fame baseball player, Tony Gwynn, had passed away of salivary gland cancer at the age of 54.  Tony played his entire career of 20 seasons for the San Diego Padres.  He won 8 batting titles and ended his career with a life time batting average of .338 with 3,141 career hits.

In the sports world, Monday was a day of remembering a great man and his baseball career.  By Tuesday, the focus shifted to the cause of his death, cancer due to the lifelong use of smokeless chewing tobacco.  On Wednesday, it was a debate about whether baseball should ban the use of smokeless tobacco by players during games as they had smoking a few years previously.  The primary argument had to do with the example they were setting for the children.  Most kids will start imitating baseball players by putting a wad of bubble gum in their cheek and spitting periodically.  This imitation many times turns into chewing tobacco when they get older.

As the debate heated up, one man e-mailed a comment to a national radio host stating something to the effect of “come on, we are all adults!”  In protest to major league baseball creating another rule regarding player behavior.  That comment sent my mind racing – what is an adult?

When I was a kid and adolescent, an adult was someone who could do whatever they wanted to.  No one told an adult what to do.  I used to think, and even some times say, “I can’t wait until I’m an adult, so I can stay up all night and go to bed when I want to!”  Or, “I can’t wait until I’m grown and I can eat what I want to, when I want to!”

Now I am an adult and I do go to bed when I want to…about 9PM (and usually I wish it could have been earlier).  And I try to eat what my doctor tells me to so I can avoid negative health risks; so much for being an “adult”.

When I reflected on this comment, “come on, we are all adults”, I realized that is a child’s view of adulthood.  As an adult, a mature perspective usually is a deep concern for others.  Mature adults choose actions that benefit others, not themselves.  Parents wake up with concern for their children all day long.  Most of their time and effort is spent trying to benefit their children.  Mature business owners feel the constant pressure of creating a living for their employees and their families.

Being an adult is not about getting what I want when I want it, but having the freedom and power to bless the lives of others and doing what benefits them.  Scripture says in I Corinthians 14:20, “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking.  Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.”  The Hebrew writer expands on the idea of explaining maturity, “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (5:14)

Maturity is about training one’s mind through constant practice to discern what is right and best.  Maturity is about waking up every morning and thanking God for the new day and then beginning to think about who can I serve and bless today.  Serving others is the ultimate training ground and expression of adulthood.

Paul encourages us to, “grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15) that mature manhood is “the measure of the fullness of Christ”. (Ephesians 4:13)

So baseball, maybe we are all adults and should start acting like it by being concerned first and foremost about the influence we have on others, particularly the kids.  Let’s grow up and think of others before ourselves today!

Tom Reynolds

The Faith To Finish

On April 10, 2014, Justin was our 107th graduate of His Way.  It took him seven months to graduate our six month program.  But here is why.

Due to circumstances beyond his control, by the time Justin’s six month graduation date arrived he was nearly $1,000 behind on his recovery fees.  Therefore, he was unable to graduate, because His Way rules clearly state that all recovery fees must be paid in full in order to graduate.

Two contemporaries of Justin’s faced similar situations and chose to leave early because they saw no way that their fees could be caught up by their graduation date.  Justin faced the same uncertainty, but chose to stay trusting that somehow things would change.  He just knew that God would not have brought him this far without providing a way of success for him if he just trusted.  He had absolutely no idea how, but he trusted.

A few weeks later, his fellow residents held a fund raising car wash to help the brothers who were behind on fees to catch up.  That loving act of service helped Justin with part of his dilemma. Plus, better than average paychecks and some money left over from a family vacation helped Justin come up with the money he needed just three weeks after he was to originally graduate.

On the day of his graduation, Justin taught our daily Bible class on faith.  But it was a lesson already previously taught to the entire house through Justin’s faithful waiting upon the Lord.

The Hebrew writer in Hebrews 11:1 gives us the definition of faith, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Then the writer continues by listing numerous Old Testament examples of faith.  Some call this chapter, the “Hall of Fame of Faith”.  I would like to nominate Justin to be inducted into this great hall.  Because Justin had the faith to finish!

Tom Reynolds

It’s Easier To Quit Than Fail

One of our volunteer instructors gave a personality test to our residents a while back.  One of the residents was astounded that he came out as a “perfectionist”.  He came to me and asked if I could believe that he was a “perfectionist”.  I was more puzzled that he was surprised than that he was a perfectionist.   It seemed pretty obvious to me.

Most addicts, at the very least, have perfectionistic qualities if they are not full blooded perfectionists.  They have high expectations, a great fear of failure, and a very strict, even harsh judgment of their failures.  They tend to be their own worst critic.

That’s why in the treatment of addiction the transformation of one’s identity is the critical key to success.

One of our residents in class the other day astonished me with the bold proclamation that, “It’s easier to quit than fail.”  I have pondered that thought constantly since he revealed it.  I think about students who quickly withdraw from classes in college to avoid a failing grade.  I consider all the employees, whether celebrities or just ordinary folks, who choose to resign a position before they are fired…or break off a relationship before the other breaks  it off with them.  We call it a preemptive strike, but isn’t it just quitting before one has to face failure and rejection?

In John Maxwell’s 2006 book, Failing Forward, he quotes H. Stanley Judd, “Don’t be afraid to fail.  Don’t waste energy trying to cover up failure.  Learn from your failures and go on to the next challenge.  It’s ok to fail.  If you’re not failing, you’re not growing.”  There is a lot in that quote, but what strikes me most is that growth comes through failure.  I have observed that most addicts are stuck at the maturity of their initial entry into addiction, typically around 13 to 15 years old.  At that point, the next challenge of maturity becomes to interact with the opposite gender and overcome one’s feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.  Sadly, for many addicts, their fear of failure here drives them into the security-masking behavior of drug and alcohol use, what some commonly call, “Liquid Courage”.  Tragically, this dependence on a false security stifles one’s growth and keeps them stuck in a self-destructive quitter pattern always deathly afraid of failing.  Like a pilot who remains in a constant holding pattern for fear of the judgment of landing.  Eventually they just crash.  Addicts quit before the result, in fear that the conclusion will be failure.  Though they may be only one step away from success, they quit.  Thus, they never come to know real success.

Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx and first female billionaire, shares that her father challenged her and her brother to fail.  In fact, she says that the question around the evening dinner table every night was, “What did you fail at today?”  Her father believed that not being afraid to fail was the key to success…that failure is the building block of success.  Thomas Edison, famously said, “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  And thus came the light bulb!

The winningest golfer in the world, Jack Nicklaus, lost 81% of the time.  The best hitters in baseball fail over 2/3 of the time.  Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time stated, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career.  I’ve lost almost 300 games.  Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.”

I have heard it said that “Winners never quit and that quitters never win.”  But remember all winners fail.  Don’t be afraid to fail.  Land your plane!

Ask yourself, “What have I failed at today?”

Tom Reynolds

AA & Me

After a good meeting, I was inspired to write a few things. One person in particular sparked a part of me that needs to listen at this time. On speaking of going through the steps, this man repeated that if you are having trouble with a particular step, it is probably not that step that’s the problem, but the step prior. The steps are in fact numbered and in order for a reason. Hmmmmm! With that in mind, I’ve been contemplating my life as it is at this time. And, I’ve come to compare myself to a child with toys.

When raising a child, we tend to get them as many playthings as we can because we love them and it makes them happy…thus, making ourselves happy. We try to teach the child to take care of these playthings, keeping them in repair, organized, and in order. I have to look at my life in terms of my “playthings” – work, recreation, material things to sustain a lifestyle of my choosing.

When we see that our child is overwhelmed to the point of not maintaining their toys and such, it becomes necessary to perhaps trim down the quantity to a level where they can properly take care of these things with diligence and care, so that they may have more as they grow in responsibility.

I too must trim down my things at times less they too become overwhelming to me, causing unnecessary strife…perhaps leading me to “solutions” not conducive to my sobriety. Back in balance with Good Orderly Direction, can I now move on like the child and achieve more.

Like a parent, God gives me all…including myself, to take care of and maintain, just as we do with our own children. Today, I will take care of my blessings from God, so that I can live and enjoy a happy, joyous, and free life in sobriety.

Steve Hughes

Steve, a His Way graduate, passed away on June 8th, 2013, at the age of 55. This article was taken from one of his writings while he was at His Way in 2011. 

A Father’s Affirmation

My 87 year old father had just put out an email request to the family.  He recently had to change his vehicle license plate and received a new number, AOF 0073.  In my father’s always creative way, he wanted the letters “AOF” to mean something.  He had decided that the “OF” would best represent him by standing for “Old Fogey”, but he wasn’t sure about the “A”.  He requested that the family submit suggestions for the “A” for a vote.

A number of email exchanges followed suggesting such thoughts as “Active, Alert, Abominable, Aberrant, Absent-minded, Alive, Almost, Animated, Aviator (my father was a WWII pilot), or Awesome.”  A late suggestion came in, “Accellerando”.  It was admitted that it probably wasn’t a word, but sure captured the spirit of my father’s driving habits.

I watched everyone jumping into the discussion, but I had not ventured in.  After a few days and no thought on my part given to it, I felt as though my family and particularly my father deserved my investment in this discussion.  So I cracked open a dictionary to the “A’s” and began jotting down ideas.  I then put out an email mentioning a number of suggestions.  Some were obvious like American and Authentic.  Others emphasized certain aspects of my father’s personality or experience, such as, Artistic (since he still is a very active and passionate musician) and Ambulatory (since he has been and still is a very accomplished and active walker).  But the one I finally settled on as my personal submission was “Aspiring” because of its double meaning.  On one hand it captures his very active and youthful spirit by not committing him to total “Old Fogey” status yet. He’s an “aspiring” Old Fogey. On the other hand, this description emphasizes his most admirable trait – his zeal to keep aspiring to new challenges even at 87.

Later that evening, my father broadcasted throughout our family email network that he had selected my submission of “Aspiring” as the winner.  As silly as this whole process seemed, and as insignificant as the meaning of letters on a license plate are, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride over this selection.  It wasn’t the license plate or the family debate or my winning nomination that mattered. I realized that what welled up inside was the significance of my father’s approval even at 55 years old.

I realized that like most of us, we never outgrow a desire to be the apple of our father’s eye, the exhilaration of having our Dad’s approval.

It brought me back to a passage in Matthew when after Jesus’ baptism by John in the River Jordan, the clouds parted and the Spirit like a dove lighted upon Jesus and a voice from heaven spoke saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  Even Jesus needed his father’s approval.

The great news is this – even if your father is never able to express his approval, you can have a Father in heaven that is ready and willing to say of you, “This is my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.”  This is the most significant of all approvals.  One that can well up a confidence and joy within you that will carry you into eternity.  We all need our Father’s affirmation.

Tom Reynolds

A True Anointing

Sims was sharing his testimony of deliverance through Jesus Christ with the other residents at His Way.  Every resident before they graduate the first six months of our program must teach a graduation class.  Usually the class is a personal testimony accounting the ravages that addiction brought their lives, what they have come to understand and live over the past six months, and encouragement to the others who are on a similar journey…encouragement that there is hope and better days on the horizon.

As Sims revealed his pain filled story of personal loss, the death of dear friends, and his own numerous brushes with death through overdoses and accidents, he began to talk about God’s purpose and calling through these tragedies.  He shared that he believed that God was calling him into some type of ministry through these experiences.   He believed that these painful experiences were not in vain, but to prepare him to help others.   He particularly felt a pull toward reaching out to teens to alert them to the dangers before it is too late.  As he shared these revelations in his life, he then turned to a passage that he had just read days before that he called “fire”.  It was a passage that he believed summed up best what he believed God was calling him to, a passage of true personal inspiration.  He then proceeded to read to us with impassioned fire Isaiah 61:1, 2, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

As he closed his Bible tears filled his eyes as expressed how this best summarized his calling.  My jaw dropped and heart leapt.  I quickly flipped in my Bible to Luke 4:17-21 with my heart bursting with joy.  Sims without knowing it had just read the same passage Jesus had selected to read in his own hometown synagogue to announce his ministry and purpose.  This was not just some random inspirational scripture that Sims had run across, but in fact his own Savior’s personal calling to ministry and summary of his purpose.  This was no random incident, but in fact a true anointing of God’s call on a young man’s heart.

I shared the Luke passage with the class, and Sims in particular, and just for a moment, I felt I was truly on the holiest of ground as God was corralling a young man’s heart into a life calling.

A true anointing!

Tom Reynolds

What God Cannot Do

In this journey that we call the Christian walk, I have experienced the indescribable joy of being on the mountain top, enjoying intimate fellowship with my Creator. I have also known the fear, doubt, guilt, and shame of enduring seemingly endless valleys when God seems to be far away. Through all of this, it has become increasingly clear to me that there are many things that God simply cannot do.

Through his own declaration, the revelation of His Word, His nature is revealed to me. At the very core of His nature is love (John 3:16, 1 John 4:16). He is merciful and full of grace (Ephesians 2:4-5, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Hebrews 4:16). He is forgiving (1 John 1:9), generous (James 1:17), and kind (Luke 6:35). This is but a glimpse into the incomprehensible nature of God revealed in His Word.

His Word also tells me in 2 Timothy 2:13 that “even when I am faithless, He remains faithful, for he cannot deny Himself“.

But maybe most importantly, Hebrews 6:18 tells me that it is impossible for God to lie, specifically in regard to His promises and His nature. It would follow then, that it is impossible for God not to love, and to not be merciful and gracious. It is impossible for Him to be unforgiving, greedy, unkind, unfaithful, or anything else that is contrary to His nature.

So, precious Savior, when I am on the mountain top, let me never cease to thank you and praise your name for all you have done for me. But, when I am in the depths of the valley, when my faith is fading, and you are difficult to see, even then…especially then…let me never cease to thank You and praise You for the things You cannot do. Amen.

Scott Camper, His Way Resident