Meekness & Hope

This week, I was reminded of a past theme, “We can all use a little hope!”  A local church is going to donate a part of its Christmas offering to support Threshold House. In looking for a ‘blurb’ about us to include in announcements it was suggested that they might include the following.

Much of the information is out of date and my good friend ‘Big Donnie’ passed away a few years ago but the idea that we can all use a little hope, continues to resonate. I no longer get to hang out with Don, but God continues to bring people into my sphere, especially now with the men of Threshold House.

In the last few weeks, it has been marvellous to see the positive changes happening in guys’ lives. As we share check ins I see it, as we sit around our chapel table and discuss God’s word and pray, I see it.

Today we looked at Matthew 5:5 and the benefits of meekness. For any of us who are seeking to ‘overcome’ or to become more like our Saviour, meekness is a key! Surrender counterintuitively is the means of freedom. Family (Kingdom) resemblance grows as we humbly submit to God and God’s will for our lives. To be an inheritor we first need to be in relationship with God. It is a general rule that strangers do not inherit. Only children inherit!

A worthwhile, useful, abundant life can be ours, yet surrender is a precondition to the promised inheritance.

There is hope! It can be realized, and it can be realized through surrender. This is not a one time only surrender but rather a continuous conscious humble yielding.

My prayer for the guys of Threshold House, for myself and for you, is that we might have a hope filled season as we are enabled by God to grow in meekness and reliance on Him.

Hodge Podge House News

The guys at Threshold House do a ‘check in’ each morning. This is a round table time where each in turn shares answers to questions like How are you physically today? Emotionally? Spiritually? What are you grateful for? This start of the day exercise gives each an opportunity to ponder and share honestly how they are doing. On occasion I get in on these ‘check ins,’ and I shared last week that I do not often sleep well. I think the group must have started to pray because from Sunday noon until Wednesday morning I spent most of my time sleeping! It seems I caught a flu bug going around!

I got back to work on Wednesday in time to meet with three applicants and it was with real joy that we offered each a spot in our community. Another fellow decided he could benefit by another month in treatment and will come to join us in January. The beds are finally filling up.

A fellow who came to us a little over three weeks ago has successfully moved on to the second phase of life in our community. He has begun part time work with a view to finding full time work in the near future.

Three of our growing community have children and so we are boosting our efforts to create a warm welcoming space for children to visit us. I am looking for folks to volunteer to be a ‘secret Santa’ for one of our Community’s children. If you contact me I will give you the child’s age and gender.

It is our goal to see our guys grow in service to God and others. This past week a couple of men went uptown on a cold Friday night and joined a regular outreach. They gave away pizza that had been donated to us. They came back excited and ready for more opportunities. On Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve, and New Years Day we are offering all those who are struggling or lonely to drop in. We hope to offer a warm beverage and seasonal snacks and share fellowship.

When I walk into Threshold House I am often delighted to hear the air filled with Christian music. Next week, a friend, Rus Blanchet will be leading a Wednesday Night Worship time. Any are welcome to join. Rus’s idea is to lead an Evening Prayer Service. This will be a new format for several of our guys and a chance to learn and grow.

Some of our folk are not avid readers and struggle with Bible reading but have become extremely excited with the discovery of the Message. They will read something expressed in plain language and ask me “Does it really says that?” This leads to lots of wonderful conversations.

It is nice being back from the land of nod as we enter this busy season. I will not soon complain about a lack of sleep.

Thank you for your faithful prayers and please continue.

Hope Realized

Like Mary, Joseph and the Christ-child we are looking forward to three new guests this December. There are definite signs of hope! We anticipate new residents coming and bringing a sense of excitement and new life to Threshold House. For too long the building has had a hollow sense to it but that is changing. There are likely going to be days when we might pine for ‘the quiet days’ but not for long and not often!

One of the great joys of my life, of late, has been informing applicants that there was room in our ‘inn’ for them. Guys have broken down in tears at the news that there is a place of welcome especially for them.

For a minimum of the first three weeks with us a new resident will be engaged full time with us in growing in community and building a new and healthy personal network.

We are busy creating a Children’s Room full of toys and activities for the children of our residents, so that broken family relationships can begin to be repaired.

The ‘guys’ will also be involved in some outreach to the poor and marginalized of our city, joining with existing ministries that reach these populations. Our goal is to create ‘Men of Hope’ who can share the hope they have discovered.

I will be preaching Sunday at our church. The church has been studying the book B.L.E.S.S. by Dave and Jon Ferguson and I plan to revisit the final ‘S’ which stands for sharing our story. In my experience this is where the whole plan so easily falls apart. I will be examining John chapter 9, the story of the blindman who is healed. We will be concentrating on how honestly and naturally he shares his story. He candidly admits there is much he does not know but is very clear about what he does know. “I was blind and now I see!” I am convinced if the Church of God would follow his simple example that the Good News would more powerfully impact our culture, transforming lives.

I am reminded of the riddle: “How is the Church like the mighty Mackenzie River? Both are often frozen at the mouth!” Too often we fear that because we do not have all the answers that we dare not say anything but we do not need more knowledge than our own experience to share our story.

Paul tells and retells his story throughout the book of Acts, but the best role-model is this blind man who simply and powerfully told his story. Some rejected his story others may have received it, the results are up to God and others, but he alone had this particular story. No one else could tell it and no one else can tell mine but me, or you yours.

A week from Saturday we will be hosting another Breakfast & a Message of Hope. We are hoping for another good turn out to hear our speaker Jon Hallewell. Jon’s church was one of the earliest supporters of Threshold House. I am sure without them we would never have completed renovations to be where we are today.

Also in December we look forward to a visit from our National Director Jonathan Clarke. It will be great to show him the vision we shared coming to fruition. Some of the guys are looking forward to challenging him to a game of pool or of Wii.

Please continue to keep us in prayers as we transition into a busier hub, that it will remain a place of peace.

Please pray for my health. My back has caused some problems and the skin covering the wound on my back is taking a long time to completely heal.

Join The Fun

I walked into Threshold House today and experienced something I have not for a long time. I remember the wonderful days of entering this building and being met by students who were thrilled at what they were learning and experiencing of God. Today the guys of Threshold House were enthused with the afterglow of a meeting the night before. God had been evident to them in the interaction of the night before. They shared a sense of excitement that this was but a foretaste!

I have long looked back to the days when the building was bustling with God centred activity and joy. I sometimes have despaired that we would ever have experiences like that again. It was so affirming to me to witness God in the midst of this nascent community.

We have welcomed a new member to the community and a fellow who will join us in couple of weeks also came to the meeting held at Threshold House every Thursday. There is a buzz.

As I begin to think about this burgeoning hope, I am reminded of the wise words of a friend. He asked me how my back was feeling, and I replied that it was feeling quite good. He then told me “That is the time you have to be most careful!”

God is good … and we need to rely on him and not coast on our ‘good feelings.’ We know community life is not idyllic. It takes work and humility. This does not stop me from noticing God’s handywork and celebrating but I need to be aware where such blessings come.

It has been a good week. We made arrangements with Little Caesar’s Pizza to receive a donation of food every Tuesday. We are in talks with other shops to make similar arrangements. We purchased a freezer to store the goods we receive.

We are looking to fling open our doors for: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day, for those who are at ‘loose ends’ during the holidays or those who struggle through these times. We are hoping to offer coffee and baked goods and we are asking for donations for this purpose.

We are creating a family room where guys can meet with their children. We are gathering toys and activities to make this a place of hospitality for little ones.

We hope to partner with a friend’s organization to reach out beyond our community and offer a turkey and all the fixings dinner for the hungry and marginalised.

Besides my studies Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, we join a Men’s Study at Forest Hills Church and I have begun an ‘in house’ study based on the Sermon on the Mount.

Lots is going on and there is a sense of life and hope, but we realize we need God and His community. Please pray for us and consider how you might join the fun.

Every Day Flatware

This week a friend spoke of his anxiety about attending a ‘family wake.’ He has put his faith in Jesus and now his values and lifestyle are quite different from his family’s. He dreads the language and the coarseness that he expects. He realises that now that he is ‘in Christ’ he is not the same and he could not participate in the same old ways. His thoughts revolved around being ‘set apart’ and being ‘in the world but not of it.’ He felt a deep sense of separation from those who do not yet share his faith.

Such feelings of differentness or peculiarity are natural but though I want to pay attention to this dynamic, I want to remember that Jesus was incarnate and “a friend of sinners.”  No one was more set apart or holy than Jesus, yet he identified with sinners. He did this in his baptism and in his friendships. In fact, if Jesus had not befriended sinners his life would have been a frightfully lonely one and ineffectual. Sometimes we think of the sinners that Jesus ate with as ‘repentant sinners’ and contrast them with the unrepentant pharisees peeking through the windows. Not all at the party would have been Jesus followers when the came in the door, but these were the very ones he came to ‘seek and to save.’

The tension of being a Jesus follower is the same he met. How do we continue to not only associate but genuinely befriend those who are not yet in the same relationship with him as we are? It is not easy! It requires humility. We lay down our agenda and actually listen to hear our friends. The onus is on us to ‘as far as lies within you be at peace with all people.’ We cannot demand others change especially since they have yet to tap into the power necessary to change. We cannot enter into behaviour that would enmesh us in sin and damage our ‘witness,’ but neither can we isolate!

I advise my friend not to swear or enter into crude behaviour but not to absent himself either. We are not the good silver only brought out in polite company. We are the everyday flatware ready to serve on all occasions. Paul writes “We have this treasure in earthen vessels.” In his incarnation Jesus gives us an example to follow and a cross to bear. Crosses are not easy nor are they intended to be. How we navigate these uncomfortable encounters make all the difference.

My prescription is to begin with prayer, long before we meet others. In prayer we ask for help to avoid giving or receiving offence. We ask for hearts set to listen to others and for a guard for our tongue, that we might be quick to listen and slow to speak. We pray to for the power of the Holy Spirit to guide and guard us. Then we risk being uncomfortable for Christ’s sake!

In the world of recovery, we learn of the dangers of isolation. If we Christians retreat and isolate from the world  we endanger or relevance and our friends’ opportunity to witness the difference Jesus is making in our lives!

Meetings especially with family ought not to be thought of as ‘one off events’ but one of many opportunities. We are not under pressure to unload the whole message when our friends have not yet developed a ‘thirst.’ We continue to build friendships and trust that God is at work, even behind the scenes. It is not my business to convert anyone. God makes those who are dead in their trespass and sin, alive! God alone can.

Lessons From a Fish Tank

This week I have been trying to get back to “normal.” I have a friend who struggles with some significant mental health issues who reminds me “Normal is just a setting on a dryer!” It has been an extraordinary rather than ordinary week. I learned some valuable lessons this week and like many of life’s lessons it was learned through challenge difficulty and seeming failure.

Yesterday during a visit to the Christian addictions centre, Village of Hope. I was given an illustration that let me put my learning into perspective. One of the key leaders there spoke of moving fish from one tank or environment to another. He told of the shock to the system that can kill the fish if they are simply removed from one pool of water and plunked into another. This tragic ending is avoided by including water from the previous tank in the transfer. This simple step enables a safer, healthier transition!

The past couple of weeks we have had to deal with the fallout of someone who did not do well with us and relapsed. While I fully acknowledge that individuals make their own choices, I feel a responsibility to provide an environment for people to thrive rather than struggle. This will mean we will have to make some changes. We will have to include ‘some of the water from previous tanks. By this I mean that during the initial period with us (a minimum of three weeks) our residents will have a much more structured environment, similar to that of their previous experience at recovery centres. This will give us the rest of their “Year of the Lord’s Favour” to work toward a transition to recovered life beyond our walls.

To accomplish this, we will need to add a staff position with responsibility for “Recovery Programing.” This will require additional finances and faith, but we trust God is leading!

This week we also had a visitor to Threshold House. Moni currently works at Harvest House in Moncton and has a wealth of experience in both addictions and homelessness. He sees himself as a missionary to Canada from his native Samoa. He has been a wonderful prayer partner over the week and a great source of wisdom. It was a delight to go to Village of Hope with him yesterday. There we met a gentleman that Moni had know while working at a homeless shelter. This gentleman then seemed hopelessly lost in his addiction. It was such a joy to see these two meet and for Moni to witness God’s act of transformation. This was the fourth former client he met during his visit and all four are walking with the Lord in sobriety and service! This is what God does! Moni was encouraged and his encouragement was infectious. We may not always be given the joy of seeing God’s work, yet He is certainly at work. One day we will see if we do not weary in well doing.

On a person note, Victoria’s funeral and visitation turned into a ‘super spreader’ event. Our son, his in-laws, our daughter, and Linda were all recipients of the virus. Somehow I have tested negative through it all and been able to get back to things as “normal.”

We will be processing some new applications in the days ahead. Please pray for us and the prospective residents.

What A Week!

I have a reputation in my family circles as a “Eulogy Poet.” I feel like I fell inadvertently into the role. When my father-in-law died I had my jaw wired shut and my pen was my only real opportunity to express my remembrances. Again, when my mother-in-law passed away I found myself staining paper with ink, as well as tears. Last week my son asked me to write something for the bulletin of his bride’s funeral service. I asked with trepidation, “When do you need it?.” “Not until tomorrow.” came the reply.

That afternoon I sat before the dreaded blank page. I did not want to let him down. I prayed and started and restarted on repeat. The following was the final result.

It has been an emotionally draining week, but it has been wonderful to feel upheld by so much prayer! I was so very proud of our children as Judith stood with her brother throughout the week!

Meanwhile life went on at Threshold House. Steve stepped up so wonderfully while my attention was elsewhere. He had to deal with a resident who relapsed and became difficult to deal with. He finally drove this fellow all the way to Mirimichi to a rehab that had a bed available. Throughout the week of chaos at Threshold House Steve did marvellously. We have learned much through this trial!

We have hopes that very soon we will have several new residents. I will be working at furnishing bedrooms. If any local readers have bedroom furniture or bedding, please let me know. Donation toward this project can be sent to financial@thresholdministries.ca . Please note Threshold House Furniture. You will be given a tax receipt.

On October 22nd we are hosting our second monthly Breakfast & a Message of Hope. Krista Bastarache has kindly agreed to share her story of God’s goodness and Faithfulness. Again, local readers are welcome/encouraged to come. Some thought this was a “Men’s Breakfast.” It is not! All are welcome. There is no charge. We will provide an opportunity for a free will offering. Let me know at reed.fleming@thresholdministries.ca if you can come so I can know the numbers to expect.

Thanksgiving is upon us, and I am aware of how much I have to be thankful for. I hope you have time to reflect on all God’s blessings in your life. A thankful heart is a joy filled heart!

A Sad Day

I wanted to write briefly from a heavy heart.

With every phone call and every email, I find myself in puddles. Many years ago, I buried a child, and I would not wish that on anyone, and now my son is ‘saying so long’ to his bride and his in-laws are laying to rest their daughter.

On her 30th birthday Victoria found herself in hospital fighting a rare infection that resulted in the loss of her leg. Over the last years these same struggles have taken her to hospital time and time again. Now on her 36th birthday her system was so compromised she could fight no longer.

I have this lovely image of her standing before her Saviour as He waltzes her into her new abode. She is pain free for the first time in God knows how long. She is sporting a new ‘heavenly’ body!

We all know that and still it is a loss difficult to bear!

I know there will be a time when tears are dried, but that is not today. I invite your prayers for David, and Victoria’s parents Kim and Bruce, and her sister Kate. These are difficult days.

Below is the prayer Linda and I said daily.

“Father, surround Victoria with your love, in waking and in sleeping, in joy and in pain, in longing and in waiting. Enfold her with your peace. Encircle her with your protection. Embrace her with your compassion, and fill Victoria with your hope.”

God has fully answered our prayer. Now we must put other names (including our own) in this dear prayer.

Ode to Blessing

The other day I found myself humming and then meditating on the Hymn “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” Henry Van Dyke penned this poem to be sung to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” I sat with the first bit of verse three “Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing ever blessed.” I pondered God’s nature particularly as a ‘blesser.’ It strikes me that this is an essential quality of God. God is a blessing God!

I went on a bit of a word search and arrived at a definition of the word ‘bless’ which scratched my itch. To bless is to invoke God’s very presence and power inviting that presence into a given situation for the good of those being so blessed. God’s very presence is the ultimate blessing because God is Love and by nature the Divine Blesser.

Such an invocation is a powerful thing! Indeed, it is the hope of the world.

All this crashed powerfully on the shores of my mind because I have been a part of a study and a group that has determined to be ‘blessers,’ after the character of God as revealed in Christ. If an act designed to bless someone actually invokes God’s presence in a life or situation, then there is nothing small or trivial about blessing others. A simple kindness done in Christ’s name becomes a means of invoking God’s Kingdom.

Time and again in scripture we read of God’s loving kindness. We of the Church often want to be involved in ‘grander’ schemes when the powerful and simple example of loving kindness shines from page after page!

I recall to mind the mandate we had for Up Town Church during its hey days, that we all were being called to a ministry of kindness. It seems we never graduate from this for it is God’s means of invoking his presence i.e.. Ushering in the Kingdom of God.

Patrick in his famous ‘Breast Plate’ demonstrates the power of invocation! Like Elijah before the prophets of Baal we invite God and his Kingdom tangibly to be evident. Nothing I can do or say could rival that in its bower to change circumstances.

In advocating for a life of ‘blessing’ do not hear what I am not saying. We still bless with our words! The Good News is the greatest blessing we can share. What I do suggest is that acts of kindness, both big and small, create openings to the Kingdom of God.

Peter in his Epistle fully expects that when we align with God’s heart, that we will be asked. When by our lifestyle of kindness in Jesus’ Name we invoke such opportunities we are to prepare to point to the Ultimate Blesser.

I want to tread carefully here, but I want to say that ‘social justice’ done for any other reason than in Jesus Name, however good it may be, does not invoke God’s Kingdom. Equally words proclaimed with no evidence of blessing lack Kingdom power.

We of the Church make ‘ministry’ seem beyond many but God in His Kindness has made powerful ministry available to all! Kindness is our chief tool to help our friends and neighbours. Loving kindness is a chief weapon against forces of this present age which would keep people blind and enslaved.

How can we neglect so great an instrument when it is easily used by all!

On another note.

We are going through  a time of difficult time at Threshold House. Such times are not unexpected in a community of recovery, but they are challenging, nevertheless.

In October we will begin a workshop on Tuesdays on the Foundations of Recovery.

Next week we hold our first Breakfast & a Message of Hope. We hope for a nice turn out with a view to making this a monthly event.

The wound in my back is healing nicely but remains very itchy and uncomfortable which makes sleep difficult. I find myself dragging through the days and with heavy eye lids in the evenings.

Please pray for Steve, our new Night Assistant as he settles in. Pray for God to supply all his needs, and for our partnership.

Chuckle At The Palace

The strange story of “The Chuckle In The Palace” had an unlikely beginning. Though we lived in a tiny prairie town near the Manitoba Saskatchewan border, I was somehow picked to travel to London and meet the Queen! It was a major anniversary for the Church Army and the Canadian branch was sending a delegation to an International Gathering. The Queen had a long-standing role as ‘Patron’ of the Church Army and a visit to Buckingham Palace to meet her was on the schedule.

The strangeness of the tale does not end there. My son, David, was reading “Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader” and there discovered that the Queen like crossword puzzles. When the whole family drove me to the Winnipeg airport, David disappeared for a time and came back brandishing a Crossword magazine. “Give this to the Queen for me!”  I shoved it into my carry-on luggage.

The day came and our bus pulled up in front of the Palace. We were ushered through the throng of tourists and through the iron gates into Buckingham Palace itself. We were arranged in a horseshoe greeting line and told that the Queen would walk the horseshoe and greet each of us. I was told by the Church Army fellow who was in charge of protocol not to give the Queen my son’s gift. It was inappropriate apparently! As the Queen entered and began to make her way around, I was deciding whether to heed those directions or honour my son’s wishes. I finally decided that I was unlikely to ever meet this protocol guy ever again, but I would have to face David and explain why I did not pass along his gift.

Finally, it was my turn to be introduced. As we shook hands I reached inside my suit pocket and presented her with the magazine. She was very gracious (just like the song we used to sing affirms). She passed it to her Lady-in -waiting and said, “I hope it is not too difficult.” The protocol people had told us we must not quote anything the Queen said privately to us, but I feel freed by her passing to share. In answer to her question, I broke yet another norm as I, touched her shoulder and replied, “The answers are in back.” We both chuckled. It gladdened my heart to bring a bit of laughter to her lips that day.

After the Gathering was over I flew the miles back to Manitoba and our humble Prairie existence, then one day another extraordinary event happened! Two letters from Buckingham Palace were in my mailbox at the Post Office. The post office employees had noticed and there was a bit of a buzz in the community.

One letter was addressed to me, and I ripped it open. It was from some Palace staff informing me that the Queen “commanded” to thank me for the thoughtful gift and that she would indeed enjoy the puzzles. The other was a letter to David informing the Queen “wished” her to thank him for his gift. I have often since joked with David that “his wish was my command.”

Today I ponder this unlikely tale and think fondly of the kind and gracious Queen who made a prairie tween feel so honoured. I admit that I am not a Monarchist, but I will always have a special place in my heart for this particular Royal.