Resembling the Father this Advent



Something I do not always do well, is wait. At my age, I’ve had lots of practice, so you’d think I’d be better at it … but alas I am not. Waiting is something we all must do. The other day my grandson repeated a line I have often heard from his mother and from my own lips “I can’t wait…” I replied to him “What else are you going to do?” Waiting for things that are out of our control is an inevitable eventuality and our impatience brings it no closer.

The season of Advent reminds me of the important place waiting has in our life of faith and I propose that, how we wait (and wait we must), demonstrates our very resemblance to God. If Christlikeness is our goal, then waiting in anticipation is a skill we should hone.

In saying this I have the Parable of the Lost Son in mind. While the son wanders in prodigality the Father (the God figure) waits! I picture him gazing toward the horizon each day, patiently waiting, eagerly anticipating the return of his erring son. As we read the parable, we may be in suspense about the willful son’s homecoming, but the Father faithfully and hopefully awaits his return. When the boy does come home, he finds the house ready for him, and a party is quickly put together, probably according to a well thought out plan.

We wait not for a capricious errant child but for a faithful promised King. Our waiting is not laden with the risk that the Father takes in waiting for his wandering children. The outcome is not in doubt and so the comparison between the ‘waiting’ of the Father and ours pales drastically.

I can imitate my Father by faithfully waiting, scanning the horizon in eager expectation all the while preparing for the return of the King. Such waiting is spiritually anticipatory and practically pro-active. So many of the other parables illustrate the active waiting of good stewards who upon the return of their master are commended. Such servants are “found faithful” upon his return. The servant not ‘found faithful’ has given up hope for the master’s return and has given over to living solely for this day rather than for ‘that day’. This deceived attitude is too readily my default and so the reminder of Advent, to wait well, to wait actively, is so very necessary for me. I believe I am not alone in this.

I am seldom more like my Heavenly Father than when I am involved in just such a holy wait. Care to join me?

This latest project, Threshold House, tests my waiting skills. I am used to having a project where I can put my shoulder to the wheel and bring to a result in a relatively short time frame. This one is an 18-month project and so much relies on others rather than me. While some of the outside work on the physical plant ‘Threshold House’ is imminent, I remain in an information and promotional phase. We will only progress as we have funds and other support and it is this base that must grow. All the while we have an end result in mind and we keep actively pursuing the Kingdom in the here and now, as best we can. It is a time of active waiting. Care to join me?

Counter Cultural Role Model?

beautiful day

In a very literal sense, I must confess that I never liked or appreciated Mr. Rogers. When my children were small, I would quickly turn the channel. I could not stand his sweetness. His gentleness and his soft-spoken-ness grated on me. We turned to something faster paced, funnier, more violent! I suppose (now in hindsight) that I resented Mr. Rogers because he was much of what I wasn’t and should have been.

In my professional life I have often advocated that the Christian Church ought to be more counter cultural. That we are missing our vocation to be a “peculiar people”. I espoused that we live more radically, more in line with the teachings of scripture.

Last night I had my eyes opened to see a truly counter cultural character. Linda and I went to see “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood” and I met Fred Rogers! In the movie Mr. Rogers demonstrated amazing courage. He was not the namby pamby I had thought him. He could face any topic with a faith and humility that bespoke iron that, like Joseph, had entered his soul. In the face of hostility and ridicule he continued to love. In the teeth of fame and adulation he humbly continued to love. In the movie his love was especially evident towards the ‘unlovely’.

I realize now the things that repulsed me so many years ago are the very characteristics I so admire about Jesus. It shames me to think that as a Jesus follower, I was so antagonistic to these Christ-like attributes. Last night I had an epiphany (Isn’t it wonderful that at any stage or age God can reveal new truth?), that persistent gentle love is the best tool in our evangelistic tool kit.

Eloquence, bombast, and dramatic presentation pale in effectiveness compared to the unrelenting gentleness of love.

I have no intention of making Mr. Rogers an idol. I do want to follow him, though, as I see him following Christ. I’m glad for the chance to sit with my grandson and watch Daniel Tiger (Mr. Rogers for this generation) and know that I’m making some progress.

I do recommend this movie. Please know I have not given the story away in this writing. In Mr. Rogers we recognize someone who is truly counter cultural, while I have been merely counter cultural-ish.

The call to live out the Sermon on the Mount is ours, as Christ followers, and we need more clear examples of how we might do this. I would like to be but Fred Rogers surely was!




Completing the 3rd Story

Threshold pc

When I was relaying the story of the founding of the Church Army, now called Threshold Ministries (in Canada), I wrote about the determination that spiritual revival was the indispensable ingredient in any hope for recovery. As I wrap up this “Three Story” account of the vision for Threshold House I want to circle back to this vital element. As I address myself to the program and groups facet of the vision, the spiritual solution is paramount.

At the heart of Threshold House will be our chapel. Here we will have regular times of prayer and study. I will be transferring my time from the Men’s shelter to Threshold House, once we are operational. I also hope that other church leaders and teachers might occasionally lead these times. Prayers will be centred on the residents and their needs, the programs and needs of Threshold House, and prayer requests from the wider community. While we expect that residents will be the core for these times, Prayer and Study will be open to anyone (male or female). It is also our hope to host a monthly (perhaps more often than that) worship and fellowship time, with speakers coming from the wider community and a time for any to share about what God is doing in their lives.

The chapel is also important as a place set aside for quiet contemplation. All successful Christian living begins with an openness to God’s will and a willingness to submit. The challenge in the midst of the busyness of life, is to discern what God’s will might be in our individual lives, and to check with Him our motivations. Confession first to God and often to another human is essential and the chapel will provide a space for these sacred activities.

Besides the chapel we will have space for meeting, both for the residents and the wider community. Only ‘House Keeping’ meetings will be restricted to residents, all other meeting will be for the wider community. We plan to open the facilities to a variety of groups who broadly share our goals, at no cost. We hope to see the building used well and often, by like minded groups.

In addition, we hope to host interns for Threshold Ministries, and offer practical and spiritual training to them. We hope that others, either from our group of residents or from the wider community might like to take part in this equipping. Right now, the idea is to do an online discipleship course “Zume”, which would involve watching the videos doing some ‘homework’ and participating in group discussion. The beauty of this is that there is no set classroom time and we could even hold some discussion on a dedicated Facebook page if not all of us could get together. We might even be able to include people ‘at a distance’ in this training.

So, you see the multiple layers of our vision for Threshold House. It is a big vision, far beyond me. We believe God is in this and invite any who read this to ask God how you might be involved.

December 21st we will be hosting our first fund raising event, a Christmas Banquet. Tickets are $20. If you would like tickets let me know or if you would like to donate so others of our Street Hope friends can attend, such a gift would be tax deductible.

Please keep us in prayer. <><

2nd Story: Building Community

Threshold pc

It has been a busy last few weeks. I try not to let the pace of things get out of hand. I do not see business as a virtue as I once did, but occasionally events can overtake us. I had let the deadline for writing Threshold’s Prayer Calendar sneak up on me just as I was consumed with our new project. I now have that writing in the rear-view mirror and am back!

I had an amusing thing happen last week. I had been invited to address a Bible Study about our new project. This was an ideal group for me to enlist because one of the key goals is to connect residents of Threshold House with the wider community. The men of this study are all retired. The years of serving with hammer and nail are past. They have though, the kind of wisdom that comes only with age. We feel we have a special place for them to build relationships with the younger men who would reside at Threshold House. Often addicts desperately need such fathers to help them to become useful and responsible citizens.

Allow me to interrupt this description of our 2nd story “Building Community” and interject my anecdote.

About 35 years ago I finally decided to “get with it”, all my evangelical friends were using the NIV (New International Version of the Bible) and though I liked my NAS (New American Standard Bible), I broke down and bought an NIV. That Bible has travelled over 100,000 miles and sat on hundreds of pulpits. It has travelled into prison and down alleys and streets. It now resembles a Red Green concoction. It is held together with layers of duct tape.

Last week I took this well travelled Bible with me to this study. An older gentleman asked to look at it and I handed it to him. It turns out that he too had a ‘duct tape Bible’ and he had mislaid it. He convinced himself that this was his Bible. He became more and more agitated about it and by the time I was ready to leave it was obvious that he would not take kindly to my leaving with ‘his’ Bible. Though I was particularly fond of that Bible (it seems to open up to the very passages I want) I knew I had a dozen Bibles at home, so I left the book for him and was able to depart in peace.

Over the next few days he found his Bible and his mortified wife arranged to get mine back to me. I hardly missed it but was happy to have it back. (I’m preaching this week and it has been a long time since I preached with another Bible). I was pleased with the opportunity that was presented to me, not to assert my rights but to show compassion. It is only true compassion if it costs me something.

Back to my 2nd Story “Building Community”. Threshold House will not just house people, the goal is to form a community of compassion, a community of Jesus followers. The idea of Community does not end at our door because people will not live their lives in Threshold House, they will be preparing to live their lives outside, in the wider community. It is our goal that each resident be connected to at least 8 people in the wider community. In arranging this we create a web, not a worldwide one but a local and personal one. People will take this web or network with them after their stay at Threshold House.

These are not one-way relationships. The individuals, groups and churches that form this intricate web will be enhanced as well!

We hope to have people from outside our Threshold House Community participate in our work and worship and our fellowship events. So that Threshold House becomes a hub in the web. With each new resident and with each new supporter the network grows, making it less and less likely that someone ‘slips between the cracks’.

Without this 2nd Story of Community, like a house built on sand, the whole edifice will fall.

To see Threshold House, succeed will require more than money (though it will require that). It will need people with a whole variety of gifts, people just like the gentlemen I met with last week.