“This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that.” Matthew 5:45 Message
Routines are good. Routines feel safe. On Wednesdays, I plan our Sunday worship gathering. Our congregation is men living in our residential rehab program. They are believers and doubters. Catholic, Jew, Protestant, and Atheist. They are local and from far away and on Sundays they are, what some describe, our captive audience.
We don’t have Sunday School campaigns or church growth programs. We don’t have elders or deacons or church quarrels and budgets. We have truth-tellers and grace-givers. Some are searching and others are existing one more day.
Every Wednesday, I choose songs, scripture, and all the elements traditionally part of a Protestant church service. We give it a twist with throwing out all the rules when it comes to who can participate. Addicts and alcoholics are our readers and ushers. The share when it’s testimony time and their words will pierce your heart.
These are the men in our care and these are the men who we’ve become a shelter. That word takes a physical meaning in the shadow of Hurricane Irma that is pressing our way. All we know is we don’t know. There is no certainty with nature, there are only ifs.
Because of our location and best predictions, my husband and I will be evacuating with about 60 of the men to the northern part of the state. Some men will leave to be with family but most have chosen to go with us. We hope to be there no longer than the weekend but on the other side of this storm is more uncertainty. What will we have to come home to? Will there be power? Yes, we have a generator at our facility but what toll with the storm take on our community? Will be able to get food deliveries and gas for the generator?
With all of this in mind, I plan for a time of worship. I’m planning for a time of thanksgiving because why not? I have been wrought with anxiety watching the details of this storm slowly take shape. I’ve lost sleep and been worn out from the not knowing. Yet, what came to mind was we need to give thanks. I need to give thanks. I need to be reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness, even when our prayers for this to go away, haven’t been answered with yes.
It’s easy to thank God in the good times. It’s easier to forget to give thanks when all is going our way. It’s necessary to give thanks in the uncertain times.
We will gather with our men in a camp outside the little town of Keystone Heights. We will set up board games and dominoes, chess and checkers. The spade players will have the cards out and the readers will have their paperbacks.
We’ll take frisbees and footballs, a basketball and volleyball. If the sky is clear we’ll play outside and take cover in the rec hall when the clouds come. We will scatter and gather and we will look to the skies and we will give thanks to our God who rains on the just and the unjust.
We will make thanks our routine as we find our shelter in Jesus.