Balancing the Books

inventory

I was asked this week how I got so involved in the world of recovery since I was never alcoholic or a drug abuser. I started using the 12 Steps when I was first diagnosed as having PTSD some twenty years ago. In most of that time I had little understanding of how these steps worked or how to work them These last few years I have learned so much more and am grateful to all my transparent teachers and guides.

One of the most helpful things about these steps is the prominent place self examination has in it. Early on I was introduced to the concept of a “fearless moral inventory”. The way I ‘learned’ and applied this was; I looked at my past, and present and itemised my character flaws and personal failings, I looked at those I had harmed. This came pretty naturally to me, for I am an introspective person. Like most things we learn and apply, though, I had more to learn and I did just in the past few weeks!

I sometimes find myself free on a Tuesday night and go to the Celebrate Recovery Program in our area. A little over a week ago they were focused on the concept of this inventory. The speaker shared about the need for a balanced inventory. This may well have been said in my presence before, but I heard it that night. The penny dropped! (I decided to use this phrase while there is still a collective memory of pennies) My fearless moral inventory had, rightly,  been on my defects but God’s promise is not limited to victory over these but of a new and abundant life. My new inventory will include: the gifts God has given me, the things for which I am thankful, and my reasons for hope.

After worship and a teaching or testimony, people break off into supportive groups. Usually I go to the A – Z group which is a catchall kind of group. But last week I noticed there was a group for PTSD folks, and I decided to venture into that group. It had been much easier to fade into the background with the bigger group but in this gathering of 5 of us there was no fading. The sharing was raw and intense. It was a wonderful experience to be with men who understood the issues of PTSD. I have had much healing in this area but in many social situations I can still battle a rush of adrenaline with the accompanying ‘fight or flight’ reflex. Most people do not understand this battle, but these guys got it! I don’t know what practical difference that makes but I feel a bit lighter as a result.

We are looking to establish a firm date at which Threshold House will become the permanent home for Street Hope (we plan to continue our Drop In at Stone Church). Upon that date our ministry will be assuming our share of related costs of the building and full unfettered access to its precincts. It is my hope to then have a Grand Opening this year of our Street Hope home with another event the following year as we launch our Threshold House project. All this requires continuing prayer and financial support.

An Epiphany … of sorts

After a bit of a whirlwind Christmas season, I had an Epiphany! True satisfaction in life is found in striving… but this “striving” is “Let us therefore strive to enter his rest…”(Hebrews 4:11).

Striving and resting seem polar opposites. Eugene Peterson in the Message cites Jesus as saying “Come to me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28 – 30).

When we begin to understand the freedom from worldly burdens that Jesus invites us to experience, we should be incentivised to strive.

You sometimes hear of people taking to something “like a duck to water” but I don’t think I have ever learned anything of value without effort. I have picked up bad habits with ease, but value comes at a price! If I am going to learn the “unforced rhythms of grace”, I will need to unlearn the forced rhythms which have become natural to me! I love to learn things. I relish reading and learning. Even though it takes efforts I enjoy it. However, unlearning is a difficult process! Yet if I don’t strive to eliminate the unproductive ways I leave no room in my life for the new Kingdom oriented ways.

I am about the fastest ‘one finger’ typers I know. I have tried to learn to type properly but I get frustrated because I can type so much faster ‘my way’ than Mavis Beacon’s way. I know, intellectually, that if I stick at it the final outcome will likely be a faster process but my short term need to accomplish tasks causes me to revert to my trusted one finger. I excuse myself with the old saw about “old dogs and new tricks”.

This is not a vitally important element of my life, but it is too easily applicable to spiritual areas of my life. It takes so much effort to change (repent) and truly follow Jesus in simple unforced rhythms. I need to become like a child (I think Jesus said that!) and learn as I did when I was child and began to walk and talk and care for myself and others. This slows me down and is initially filled with effort. The payoff promised makes any  struggle pale in comparison! Yet like my typing skills I have learned coping skills. Coping is so much less than Kingdom living, but I settle!

Learning these unforced rhythms makes me think of eating soup with my other hand. It is not a skill that comes naturally to me. It takes concentration, patience, and good humour. I will undoubtedly make a mess of it! In the end, though, I can get it!

I can live a contented life without ever eating soup with my ‘wrong hand’ but I can apply the image and as the writer of Hebrews says, “strive to enter his rest”.

2020 appears to be a year of change for Street Hope. We have a class of 6 of us who will be taking a 10 week course on evangelism. I believe this will mark a new phase for the ministry when people who have been in our orbit for some time are equipped to make a greater impact on our community. After that we will be offering a Finding Freedom workshop. We will also be preparing Threshold House for its next purpose as home for our Christian Community. I am going to be letting some things go in order to concentrate on these things and I am seeking prayer and counsel as I undertake this. It is an exciting time and a time, above all, when I need to strive to be in his rest, yoked with him in this labour.

 

It is About Time!

Janus

Janus, the god whose name inspired this month’s moniker, was literally two-faced. He looked backward and forward at the same time. During this month of January, we often do likewise.

Though God stands outside of time itself, the Scriptures speak a lot about time and how we should look at it.

Much of scripture invites us to look back. We are invited to recall the actions of God in history, actions of vindication and deliverance. The chief things we are prompted to recall is the Exodus from slavery and our redemption at the cross. Looking back at these divine activities is intended to strengthen us and correct us in the present.

Too often, though, we look back at hurts and harbour resentments, or we look back at some ‘golden age’ when things were better. We look back not just in nostalgia but in regret that those days are gone. This is a poor practice of looking back. Churches can fall prey to this. We remember days when the Church was full. We remember that no minister was as good as the last one. We pine for days that never really were and will never come again. This type of recollection leads to a deep dissatisfaction which is antithetical to the “abundant life” Jesus promised.

Another great theme of the Bible is the future. Much of the writing of the prophets concerns the future. Paul in Romans reminds us that all creation is anticipating the future in which all things will be made right. The Church looks and longs for the ‘Soon Coming King’. We live in hope of restoration. We are a very future oriented people!

Many churches have become obsessed with the future. The major sport is that of ‘casting vision’ for the future. Goals are set and members roll up their sleeves to pursue this preferred future. If by grace they achieve the goal they set another to work on. This can be good and can accomplish much, however it can create an unholy discontentment. Paul writes to Timothy, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6)

There is another time that Janus does not seem to note. It is the present! Today is the day! Today is the day in which we can remember. Today is the day in which we can work and plan. Today in fact is the only day we have! And yet we too often imperil today by trying to live in the past (as if we could) or living solely for the future.

I am reminded of the old Harry Chapin song “Cats in the Cradle” in which the singer squandered the present while working tirelessly for the future.

I have been giving this a lot of thought because I could easily become distracted by the future that I would miss the abundant living which can only take place ‘today’. Balance would seem to be the key. We hear most Sundays “Recalling His death (past) we proclaim His resurrection (present) and look for His coming (future).” As in so many areas of our life if we don’t get the balance right our best intentions pave our way to …..

It is about time we got the balance right.