When I in Awesome Wonder


Like me, you have probably sung the words, “When I in awesome wonder…”, from the song “How Great Thou Art”. These times of awesome wonder are infrequent. I can recall a few: the first time I held my infant children and most recently my grandson, watching a whale dancing on its tail from my camp chair, and standing atop a mountain in Jasper National Park. I hope we have all had these occasions where we sensed the overwhelming majesty and mercy of God.

I got to see this ‘awesome wonder’ from a different vantage point this week. I heard that a young friend of ours had just got his drivers licence and I approached him, at our Drop In, to congratulate him. He was sitting shaking his head, as if in disbelief. “How can this be?” he kept repeating. He went on to tell me that two years ago he was living in a care home. He was expected to live out his life in such institutions. Now, though, he lived on his own! In the past two years he had successfully graduated from a Mechanic’s course at the Community College and now after weeks of Driver’s Training he had again succeeded by getting his drivers’ licence. He was now ready to get a job and move into a new and unexpected future.

He kept answering his own question “It is God. It has to be God!” He was truly amazed at the goodness and mercy of God. His awe made me want to take off my shoes, for it was definitely ‘Holy Ground’. I had experienced my own moments of awe, but it was thrilling in a whole new way to see the wonder in my young friend’s eyes.

He has a powerful testimony and he is not at all shy about sharing it. People may find other reasons for his achievements, and he has worked exceedingly hard, but he knows and gives God the glory!

Lately I have been reading a book about “The Parables of Jesus” and I was struck again by how often Jesus corrects people who are asking the wrong question. He is asked who is my neighbour?, and after the story of The Good Samaritan, he reposes the question “Who was the neighbour to the man?” As I reread the parable, I came back to the thought that I am the neighbour and that I am to be the good neighbour to whoever I encounter. Kindness and mercy are the callings of all who would follow Jesus. If our lives are not marked by these Christlike attributes we are following Him at a distance, at best.

He is “Sinner Friendly” are you?

Many of my friends, like me, are not likely company to join the Lord Mayor for High Tea. I like to think that I am emulating Jesus who was accused of being a ‘friend of sinners’. I got a message from a person I have been walking with for several years. I met this person in the Half Way House and we slowly but surely built a relationship. This friend is very rough around the edges but has come to experience an internal change of heart!

The message read, “Wow! I know I’m not perfect but I know God is good all the time. And He loves me while on my own journey.” Most of society had written this person off but God never writes anyone off. There is always an opportunity to experience his love and forgiveness, in this life. Those in the ‘Criminal Justice System’ (oxymoron?) would not be surprised by the change in my friend, they would be shocked! A life that was marked by impulsive selfishness now exhibits kindness and consideration. This is a reason to continue in this ministry. This is a reason to get up in the morning. This overwhelming grace of God which my friend experiences is mine and can be yours, as well.

I have another, long time friend, who had disappeared for a few years. This sometimes happens, for a variety of reasons but those reasons are seldom good. I make it a practice not to chase people but to simply let them know that I am going to be around when they want to return and that there will be no condemnation if and when they return. One of the most painful things is to see people make real progress in their walk, and then see them slip away. This painful experience is unfortunately, common place. It is always a joy to see folks return. Sometimes folks who are very active with us, for a while, will suddenly disappear and we experience a ‘ministry set back’, but the pain filled experiences people have during these interludes can be very educational.

One of the challenges associated with the style of ministry that I think of as ‘micro-mission’ is that the loss, even temporarily of soul, is devastating professionally but even more important personally. Over the years I have experienced this dozens of times.

Today we rejoice that our friend is back in our company but most of all that she has placed herself firmly in the company of the Saviour who loves her and invites her continual into his fellowship.

Watch Your Step!


I was out doing ‘the penguin walk’ on the ice laden lane and sidewalk this morning as I spread salt and sand to make it safe for others. I find that I am much more careful with my footing these days than before. I have learned from painful experience that I don’t heal as fast as I used to, and that my pre-fractured jaw is no longer ‘impact resistant’ but fragile. Life has made me careful!

I wonder though whether life has had the same affect on my spiritual walk. Too often, I blithely stride through life without a thought for the hazards. I walk as if on even ground. David, the Psalmist, knew better. He knew that he trod, in the midst of ‘miry clay’. In Psalm 66 he thanks God for preserving him and keeping his foot from slipping.  I find myself expressing similar thoughts when I safely navigate the ice coated side walks and parking lots, but David’s thanks were for safety in his spiritual walk.

We live in a slippery, uneven, and land-mine filled world. When my feet touch the cold floor, I begin a spiritual as well as physical walk. There are many potential pitfalls ahead and my GPS is not to be trusted! I can only look to God for wisdom, guidance, and safety. As the ancient prayer says, “for thou only make us dwell in safety.”

I am advocating, first to myself, and then to you, that we take at least as much care to ensure sure spiritual footing, as we take on the temporal plane.

My heart goes out, on days like this to my friend V. who suffers terribly with anxiety. One of the things that sets her off is winter weather. She obsessively watches the Weather Channel and worries about snow removal and slippery walks. Lately she has found a measure of help in reading the Psalms in place of weather news, and she now regularly calls to talk to Linda or me. She talks and we listen and then we pray together. It is heartening to see progress, but the mental obsession does not go away. We can help but we cannot heal. This anxiety is likely life long, but my friend is learning to trust in the faithful care of God.

We went this Sunday to hear my son preach, at his church. While there we got to spend time with our friend G. and her family. She has long been a member of the rag tag bunch who identify with Street Hope. In our early days G., who suffers from a variety of mental illnesses, prayed pleading simply and powerfully that her family would come to faith. Over the years, one by one, they have come! Recently her dad was baptised! It was a joy to see them all together on Sunday and to know that the faithful prayers and witness of this young woman who struggles through life, have been so wonderfully answered.

As we strive to stay safe in a slippery world, let’s also remember to ‘lift one another up’. We have such a faithful Father.

Gaps in the Foundation

I have gaps in my foundation! The storms came last week and these foundational issues became all too apparent. Climate change has made the ‘once in a decade’ storm a yearly event. Melting snow, sleet and buckets of pelting rain fell on unreceptive soil and the roiling mess sought out the gaps in my foundation. Fortunately I have experience (though I wouldn’t have called it fortunate when I had the experiences) and I knew where the gaps were. In one spot where a ‘well’ exists I was able to install a sump pump but the other place where the basement floor is broken is less accessible. For this area the answer is a wet vac. The 2 X 2 well filled every half hour both Sunday and Thursday nights last week and I stayed up to empty it safely. My back ached (it still does) and my mind was fogged with sleep deprivation. There was no way I could write a coherent blog last week.

I was reminded of scriptural teaching about the importance of foundations and ‘building on the rock’. Others on my street do not have the same gaps that I have but they experienced flooding. Their foundations leaked despite the fact that there was no obvious flaw and they suffered considerable damage.

I have now caught up on my sleep and am enjoying an undamaged home because: I knew there was a storm coming, and I knew my weaknesses. Spiritually speaking, there is but one who has a perfect foundation, Christ alone! Storms are inevitable in life. The winds will assail, and the tempests come. There is no avoiding them. Firm foundations are a must, lest we become musty! Yet our best foundations are cracked.

A combination of, sad experience and wisdom from God, are necessary to deal with these cracks. Where are our foundations weak. Let us not dissemble, trying to fool ourselves or God but to admit our weakness. This calls for a ruthless introspection. In AA this is called a fearless moral inventory. If my foundation remains unexamined then it is apt to be exposed at great cost.

I remember learning in Vacation Bible School that we must build our life on Jesus Christ in order to have our life built upon the Rock. Like many VBS truths, this is really only a partial truth. The fuller truth that the foundation is based on living out the teachings and example of Jesus. Merely knowing Jesus does not insure I hold sure in the storm, it is my bedrock belief in Him a Saviour and as Lord, that enables me to weather the weather.

The religious tradition that I grew up in emphasizes the importance of introspection, and definite seasons are set aside for this. These times are not for ‘self-flagellation’ but are instead times to examine and repair our foundation. Sometimes repair may elude us and instead we ought to be keenly aware of our ‘cracks’ so that we can bail when the deluge comes.

While I am grateful for the tradition that nurtured me, I am fearful for her foundations.

On another note, I’m very excited that we will be starting a new AA group “The Solution Group” out of the Out Flow building (formerly Fitzpatrick’s Funeral Home). The goal is to provide a healthy atmosphere and offer a spiritual solution to those struggling with addiction. The first meeting is Feb. 7th. Please pray.