Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The "Collateral" Damage

After my last post - "The war on drugs - a letter from the trenches" I received a comment from "anonymous".  I found it in my email, but when I looked on the blog it was no longer there.  I assume writer had some reason for deleting it, so I won't  reprint it here. 

But he/she made a very good point that needs to be heard.  This is in my words, not theirs:
The actions of the addict inflicts untold collateral damage on the lives of their loved ones. And these loved ones need just as much support, understanding and prayer, for they too are very much "in recovery".
It's true.  I've seen it in others, and I am thankful that when writing the personal story above I was able to say that it only "threatened" to tear my family apart.  The commentor said that he/she struggles personally with PTSD, grief, anxiety, depression on a daily basis.  She/he talks about the struggle to "construct a new norm"; the effort to "clean up the wreckage, piece by tiny piece"; trying to "rebuild a life that has been burned to the ground" by forces they had no control over.

 And then they ask, "So pray for the addicts - yes. But pray also for the invisible who have been damaged by it in ways that are not quite so easily put into words".

To whoever wrote me that note, I say "Thanks".  And tonight, though I don't (can't) know your pain, I join you in that prayer.

PS - If you wrote the note and want to talk, you probably know my number.  If not, you can reach me at

Monday, November 16, 2015

The War on Drugs - a personal "Letter from the Trenches"

"I am at war with drugs, 
and one of us will die 
and one of us will live"

This war is close to home.  I dare say it affects every family ... I know it affects mine; in fact it has threatened to tear us apart and leave huge gaping holes in our hearts. 

We call it the war on drugs but I suspect drugs/alcohol and other addictions are more the symptoms than the root of the disease.  I write this today to encourage anyone who finds themselves on the front-lines. You can win this.  

Below is an ongoing, current testimonial of a person who is very close to me in this life, and has been for 55 years.  It is a letter he wrote this weekend - a letter from the trenches, so to speak.   

As I read it, I want to remind him of the “punch-line” from my sermon on Grace yesterday.   
     ... “No one, and no sin can out-run God’s grace”. 

Here is his note, exactly as he wrote it except I have deleted names and references that might identify the treatment facility where he is living, or the friends to whom he refers. The writer is a 55 year old man who has been successful in many ways. It is probably fair to say that he didn't realize it was a war when he started.  It is probably fair to say he thought it was a game.  

Today I went to a cocaine anonymous meeting for lunch
            … and for dinner went to a narcotics anonymous meeting
                         … followed by a gamblers anonymous meeting. 

I try to do at least 2 meetings a day, but with the schedule here, sometimes I can only make 1.

My Dad asked my Mom why I go to so many meetings.  The answer is very simple ... I am at war with drugs, and one of us will die and one of us will live.  Make no mistake; this is a life or death battle that I have found myself in.

I do not have another relapse in me, I simply cannot.   
  • I lost 10 times more money gambling this time than the last relapse 10 years ago. 
  •  And I did 150 times more drugs, both financially and physically in the last year than I ever did when in my youth and stupid. 

Another relapse can end in only jails, institutions or death. 
There are no other alternatives, and I must remind myself of that each and every day, and each and every hour of that day. 

    • ... Jails 
    • ... Institutions 
    • ... Or death

Nobody wins this battle without complete abstinence, and it seems that the only way to get that is to follow 100 percent of the program 100 percent of the time.  Go to fellowships, do the 12 steps, find a sponsor, find the Higher Power, reach out to support both within and without the fellowships, and most importantly don't use.

  • A bunch of the guys went to a funeral on Thursday, for a guy who used to cook here.  He was found in a hotel room in another city, alone, dead from an overdose.  
  • My friend down the hall lost the guy who brought him here to get cleaned up, 
    • dead from an overdose.  
  • My friend “P…”  was murdered by a guy she took in, 
    • and he who later took his own life. 

This is an ugly world that I am in, but everyone is desperately trying to make it better.

I drove three guys to meetings tonight, all of whom have had jail time, due to their obsession with drugs.  They are now obsessed with their cleanliness.  Hopefully they can maintain it. The odds aren't that high ... unless you work 100 percent of the program 100 percent of the time.

This is definitely a war on drugs. I am definitely working 100 percent of the program 100 percent of the time, but have to be oh so diligent that I don't get complacent.  The stakes are just that high.  Keep me in your prayers

Just for Today

Thursday, December 08, 2011

What should the church look like?

The way I want the church to look - Grace Ouellette (7)

  At Winchester Wesleyan, we once were considering a major building project.   It was not driven by need for additional space (at least not at the present time) but rather by the fact that the present facility has become "tired".  (It is after all, 160 years old)

The church board had been wrestling with this for a while and was - stuck between two options.  We thought that we were getting very close to the point where a recommendation  would be made and acted upon.  In the meantime, we continued to "hum and haw" about what we wanted the finished project to look like.

Finally we had our first "info" night to begin to elicit ideas from outside the board.  One family brought their children, who played quietly during the discussion.  When I arrived at the church the next morning, I found this picture.  Obviously, we have been looking in the wrong place for inspiration.
Because at that moment I suddenly knew: this is also what I want the church to look like.

Thanks Grace!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Finding Jesus in a Coffee Cup

For the past three weeks, he has come to the HUB! with backpack full of questions. (For those who don't know, the HUB! is a Friday night youth drop-in center we run in the basement of the church.) Jeff told him that if he has questions about whether or not God is real, and whether or not God wants to talk with him, just go home and ask. Go home and pray something like this: "God, at the HUB! they say you are real. I'm not sure I believe it, but I think I want to, so if you are real, show me."

This week he came back all excited, saying "I found Jesus in a coffee cup!" We all laughed and then he told this simple story. He was at his Mom's place of work, thinking about what Jeff had told him, and he was praying that prayer. For whatever reason, he began to fidget with a random coffee cup. (You know how you'll do something just to keep the hands occupied while you think.) At some point, he looked at the cup and noticed that the inscription on it read, "Jesus is real."

Now I know that we are not talking about a miracle of huge proportions here. I know the cup said "Jesus is real" before he picked it up. I know that we can't take this story and run to the secular press shouting, "Look, look. Jesus is real. It says so on this coffee cup."

But today I'm not talking about God revealing himself to the world. (If I remember correctly, He did that at Calvary.) Today I'm talking about the desire that God has for His Spirit to talk with the spirit of a 12 year old boy. Even that boy is mature enough to know that it doesn't prove anything. He told me that God doesn't normally talk an an audible voice, but that he could use little things like this to get our attention.

But here's one thing I know. The 12 year old boy is in a conversation with God, and God is both listening and speaking intently.

Here's a few things to ponder:
  • Do you think God wants His Spirit to chat with your spirit?
  • Are you willing to sit down and listen? The Bible talks about the "still small voice" of God. We live in a world with a cacophony of competing voices, so it seems to me that it might take intense listening, focused listening to really hear the voice of God.
  • Don't be surprised if the chat begins over a "cup of coffee"

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sunday Worship

It's Saturday, and I am still very much thinking back to the family vacation (I'll write about the Reunion 2010 tomorrow). In an effort to help wean me back into reality, my daughter Sarah reminds me that it is less than 19 weeks until my house is over-run by Christmas guests!

But, back to the present. Tomorrow is Sunday, and we are looking forward to seeing all the "Winchester'ites" at worship. We will continue the theme of "Summer in the Psalms - Delighting in the Lord." Tomorrow it will be Psalm 16 - a song that I am calling "David's testimony of delight."

Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of verse 1 and 2 (The Message) says: Keep me safe, O God, I've run for dear life to you. I say to God, "Be my Lord!" Without you, nothing makes sense.

And he ends the song (v. 11) by paraphrasing "Now you've got my feet on the life path, all radiant from the shining of your face. Ever since you took my hand, I'm on the right way."

I think Peterson (and David) may be on to something: Run to God, and you'll be on the right way!

See you in church on Sunday.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hurray for Caton's Family Camp

It has been too long (for no good reason) since I posted a blog of any sort. Today (for better or worse) I am back.

What better way to restart than by re-hashing a wonderful vacation from which Lorraine and I have just returned. It had at least two very distinct parts, both involving family. Today's post refers to only the first part - a Family Camp at Caton's Island.

For $590.00 I was able to take 12 members of our family (Krista from Truro, Gina from Seattle, and Jaymie from Antigonish) along with their children (our 6 grand-kids) to what is arguably the most relaxed weekend we have ever enjoyed together. Thanks to Dean Stephenson and a wonderful staff ( for making this possible. Your team set the atmosphere where this could happen.

From zip-lines (the kids, including four year old Naima, did it while 57 year old Grand-papa chickened out) to scavenger hunts; from beaches to horse-back; from bon-fires to chapel services; it was a wonderful way for three generations of family to interact. In fact, for a while there were four generations, since Lorraine's parents came for parts of two afternoons.

Don't know if this will happen again, but this time was a great experience, and could only have been enhanced if Sarah (Pittsburgh) could have been able to join us.

If interested, pictures are available on my face book by clicking:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Too Close for Comfort

How terribly embarrassing it could have been.

I pulled out of the driveway at three minutes to 7 pm - prepared to do the Prayer of Invocation at the 7:30 High School Graduation. In case you are wondering, that means immediately after the 7:30 processional march, the Principal would introduce me, and I would say a 7:33 prayer. Nothing to it really - 33 minutes for a five minute drive, find a parking spot, stroll to the school, engage in some small talk with the big wigs, march in, and pray. It was an honor to be asked to do this, and I was looking forward to it.

Have you ever had a mysterious sense of foreboding? One of those times when you know something is wrong, but you can't put your finger on the reason? Check the gas gage! No problems there. Check your watch! Just as I thought - 7:01 pm.

But then it hit me. The 7:30 Graduation was really at 7:00! My 7:33 prayer was a 7:03 prayer! Amazingly there was a parking place close to the school. Somehow the shortcut through the grass was not too wet. Somehow I managed to look composed (I know I must have looked composed) as I entered the school. Some kind woman began to lead me where she thought I should go. But what was wrong with her. I knew I should be in the already started processional. Don't make me go down this hallway. Don't you know who I am? Don't you know we should be going the other way? But ... down the (wrong) hallway we continued. At last I saw a familiar face, and he saw me, and he knew where I should be ... but alas! it was too late. The line had entered the hall, and I was left outside!

If only that girl had listened! None of this needed to happen. If only she had paid attention. It's all her fault!

This little mishap reminded me that the Bible talks about an appointment we all must keep. It says, "for it is appointed unto man once to die ... and after that the judgment!" It reminded me that I don't want to be running up and down the hallway at the last minute saying, "But I'm sure I'm supposed to be in that other line!" It reminded me that since Jesus has made all the necessary provision, I should take care today that everything on my end is in order!

In case it matters to you, my graduation story turned out OK. The man who rescued me knew another way to get me to where I should be, and when they announced my name, I stepped on to the stage ... right on time.

In case it matters to you (and I hope it does) you can be properly prepared for your ultimate appointment. When I was late, it wasn't the fault of the woman who took me to the wrong hallway. It was my fault. I was the one who neglected to get the details. I was the one who left home late. I could have changed the whole night by being prepared.

Jesus has made all the preparations for you! Don't be late.