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Happy Thanksgiving!

In sailing, one sets his sail to catch the wind. The set of the sail is sometimes called the attitude. If one sets their attitude to capture God’s wind of grace, this combination of an attitude set to catch God’s grace fills a life full of Gratitude (Grace + Attitude) and propels them into God’s will. I Thess. 5:16-18, “Pray continually, rejoice always, in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Enjoy a thankful life!

Tom Reynolds

A Thanks For Suffering

One of my great family Thanksgiving traditions is going to a church member’s log cabin up in the hills of rural Alabama. Several of us that are living too far away from our biological families gather there every year to enjoy an old fashion Thanksgiving fellowship.  Right before we eat, we form a large circle around the entire living area of the cabin, join hands and share what we are thankful for this year.  As the food gets cold, we hear words of gratitude for wives and children and parents and jobs and health and salvation and the church and so on.  But even after the prayer there always seems be something deeper, more profound left unstated.

It wasn’t until I went through my greatest personal tragedy (up to this point), the breakup of my family due to divorce,  that I came to experience the most precious of all gifts, the Lord’s presence. I was facing incredible uncertainty about my career path, insecurity about finances, and the loss of my most precious dream, an intact family.   It was in the face of this suffering and loss that Psalm 124 spoke to my void – “If it had not been the LORD who was on our side. . .” No matter the difficulty that came, this  thought carried me through.

Suffering thrusts us into a level of spiritual maturity like warp speed sends the U.S.S. Enterprise into new, unexplored galaxies.  And for this we should be most grateful.  We should be grateful to God for the opportunity to grow and mature.

Imagine thanking God for the cancer. Not it’s cure but the cancer itself…for unemployment, for the breakup of a relationship, the loss of a parent, or deteriorating health.  These are all things that thrust us into His arms with greater dependency.

Last November, I was in Union Beach, NJ helping families clean up after the devastation of Super Storm Sandy.  I entered into person after person’s unique story of pain, suffering, and loss.  But I couldn’t help but pray quietly, thanking God for the blessing of significance.  He was giving these victims a window into their fragileness and therefore what is truly significant.  As Jesus would warn us in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth . . . but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”   I prayed under my breath and in my private moments that this suffering, as well as all sufferings, would loosen our grip on this world, so that we could grasp more tightly to Him.

Habakkuk takes us through the faith journey of suffering as he queries God as to why He is allowing all this devastation to come to God’s people.  In it, three kinds of faith are outlined. First,  Conditional Faith, an “If, then” faith that says if you, God, do this for me, then I will be loyal, devoted, generous, and grateful to you.  The second is a Thankful Faith, that says, “Because of”.  Because God has done this, I will devote myself to Him loyally out of gratitude.  But the third is a quantum leap from both of these, the one Habakkuk finally concludes in Habakkuk 3:17, 18, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”  Habakkuk concludes An Unconditional Faith, an “even though” kind of faith.  A faith that allows loss to cause us to cling even tighter to God.

So this Thanksgiving as we go around our circle sharing our blessings, let’s include the traumas that God has allowed that have drawn us ever nearer and more dependent upon Him.  So that we may learn to loosen our stranglehold grip on this world in order to cling to Him more securely.

Tom Reynolds

You Are A Son Of God!

At His Way, we teach that the life of recovery is living out the kingdom character of the beatitudes.  Jesus states that that character begins with realizing your poverty of spirit, the bankruptcy of your own spirit.  This beatitude begins our journey in the kingdom of heaven while the remaining beatitudes reflect the pattern of discipleship that Jesus calls us to.  It culminates with blessed are those persecuted for Jesus’ name because “theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.  So it all begins and ends and exists in the kingdom of heaven.

I have never seen this spirit more maturely lived out than at a resident’s recent five-month family meeting. As part of our program at His Way, we facilitate family meetings for each of our residents. Due to the ravages of multiple divorces, as well as years of family discord, this particular family was fractured.  So when it came to the five-month meeting, as our resident was nearing his time to graduate from His Way, there was tension among  all the participants.  Though they were all extremely supportive of the resident, they were not so supportive of one another.  A meeting with “one family” became divided into three separate meetings because one part of the family would not even interact with another part. It became clear that if the resident was going to reenter the family successfully after graduation, the family was going to have to attempt to heal the divisions. So, the resident insisted upon family reconciliation, and the divisions within the family agreed to meet together again to address these issues in order to fully support their son in recovery.

The meeting began with some polite courtesy, but quickly devolved into an argument about who did what when…and how that made them feel.  Accusations began flying. Tensions began rising. Fingers began pointing. Voices began elevating, and almost led to family members storming out, but the son of the family, the resident of His Way, began taking charge and calling the family to order.  He began taking control of the situation and calling out attitudes, addressing decade long resentments, demanding honest admission, requesting expressions of forgiveness, and expecting reconciliation.  By the end of our tension filled session, a drug addict who had always been the center of the family problem was now expressing his personal reconciliation through Christ…and bringing healing to a generation of family hurts.  As the session came to a close, the family was gathered arm in arm in a circle. And the resident, their son and grandson, led them in prayer.

After he finished, hugs were shared,  tears shed and healing was being experienced.  Plans were even made in order to keep the unity advancing.  I declared before the entire group that our resident, their son was truly a “son of God” because he had now expressed and accomplished the very purpose of Jesus, to heal broken people and mend fractured relationships.

I was blessed to witness the Kingdom of God come as every beatitude was expressed toward the ultimate goal of peacemaking.  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”  (Matthew 5:9)  God had transformed an addict into a son of God!  Now that’s God’s kingdom at work.

Tom Reynolds