The Gift of Disappointment


Disappointment is not something any of us want to experience, but it is inevitable. Things do not turn out as we expect or hope. For this we should be truly grateful. Disappointment often come as unwelcome guests but can be unexpected blessings.

I was 9 or 10 one Christmas Eve when I experienced a crushing disappointment. Each Christmas Eve after we returned from church, we were allowed to open one present before going to bed. I had my eye on one particular present. It had a distinct shape, different from all the others. I had imagined that it contained a little pin ball machine that I had seen in the Eaton’s catalogue. I chose it to open, though my mother tried to steer me to others. I ripped off the wrapping paper with enthusiasm and ….. it was a desk lamp. I was more than disappointed, I was devastated.  I had that lamp for some 15 years! I read late into the night and at early hours. Under its glow I visited The Shire, Narnia, the Jungles of Africa, the High Seas, the Purple Sage and thousands of other enchanting locales. What was initially a disappointment blessed me and I became the person I am, at least in part, due to that lamp.

Over the years I have experience the “gift” of disappointment on many more occasions. When our first child died, I thought my dreams of fatherhood were dashed. I did lose a precious gift and in return I was given an empathy for the hurting that was not mine before.

When I was “let go” as principal of Taylor College. I was devastated. I had never failed on this scale before! Through this experience I learned a humility that was absent before, and that loss led me, eventually, to Street Hope.

We had just finished renovations to our Street Hope home and had great dreams for growing the ministry in that facility when we were told the building itself was to be torn down. For many of us this was a difficult time, but we learned to trust God even as we became nomads. The loss of our building certainly stunted our ministry’s growth in some ways but in others we grew. These were ways we might not have otherwise progressed. On the horizon is a new home for Street Hope as we look to move to Threshold House as a base for most of our ministry (We still hope to have our Drop In at Stone Church). We may not have been open to this exciting new venture apart from the painful loss of our previous home.

Disappointment is painful (there is no sugar coating that), but under the management of God disappointment becomes a pathway forward. The Apostles were bitterly disappointed that their Messianic hopes were dashed on Good Friday. It became Good News that their dreams were smashed. Their hopes were too small. God had a better plan.

The great sage, Garth Brooks, was right as he crooned “Some of God’s greatest blessings are unanswered prayers.”

Perhaps you are experiencing some level of disappointment. Our personal Christmases seldom match the Hallmark ideal! Let me assure you, from my own painful experience, that “hope does not disappoint” God is in the redemption business. He can redeem our experience and bring good to and through the most disappointing experiences. We look forward to that Great Day when He will wipe away all our tears and make all things right. Even so come quickly, Lord.

Hardly Silent!

heavenly host

I love Christmas Carols. I grew up with “Silent Night” and “Away in a Manger”. Both these songs evoke the silent awe that the first Christmas inspired, however I do not think the actual events were silent or without crying. The little town of Bethlehem was bustling as evidenced by the packed inn. A great Davidic family reunion was going on. Anyone who has attended a reunion knows that ‘silent’ is a seldom used descriptor of such occasions. Raucous and full of revelry would better modify the event. My limited experience with birth also suggests to me that silence is an errant description. I recall the baby’s first cry as a moment of great relief. The maternity ward nurse assured me that the baby had a good set of lungs and I heaved a sigh of relief. Meanwhile outside of town there was little silence as a whole host of angelic choir members broke into song. The skies were rent by the glorious sight and the ether was filled with songs commemorating the momentous birth. Silent, that night was not!

When I think of silence, I think of the great silence between Malachi and Matthew. The world waited wearily for redemption and silence seemed the lone answer. I think of the silence of grief and dashed hope between the crucifixion and the resurrection. These were deep and poignant silences! They were silences of pregnant expectation. The world seemed as if on tip toe in expectation and hope. It was a silence filled with longing for a brighter future and dismay at the current state.

Here in the last week of Advent, we wait in silence. We mourn in lonely exile here and await with an eager anticipation, the One who will make things right. We are not looking for a Baby King but to a glorious Conquering King. We wait in anticipatory silence but when He comes with the last loud trumpet call, the wonderful glorious song of Heaven will once again be heard abroad in the land.

That is the reason for hope. That is a future well worth waiting for! Enjoy a silent advent, and have a Merry Christmas.

There’s a Whole Lot of Eating Going On!



There’s a whole lot of eating going on!

This month when people ask me what I’m up to when I reply, I understand if they think I’ve gone into the catering business. Tomorrow begins a series of events centred around food, with the kickoff of our Street Hope Christmas Festivities.  We are hosting a free breakfast for the uptown community. Next Friday we are hosting a Turkey Dinner for the community. Both these meals are being cooked and served by local youth basketball teams. It is such a privilege to be able to offer these caring young people a venue to share their care for those who have less than they themselves have. It is a joy to see them interact with folks they might otherwise never meet. On the 28th we will be hosting a lunch for the community. This is being put on by a well-known local businessman and some of his friends from his Coffee Group. These folks enjoy putting on a lavish meal for our friends from the community. My main task for these three meals is to unlock the building and hopefully supply a crowd. These tasks seem easy enough. Besides these two duties I also undertake to see that these events are girded in prayer.

On the 21st we will be taking part as Threshold Ministries sponsors a Christmas Banquet.  A group of local Threshold Evangelists and our wider circle will be having a fun time of fellowship as we ready the food and room for this fund-raising dinner. Money raised will go toward our new Threshold House project and besides hearing an update on the state of Threshold across the country we will be sharing something of the vision and progress of this new project.

There is indeed a whole lot of eating going on! Perhaps we should recall all the times Jesus was found eating and the part food played in his ministry. One of the accusations hurled at him was, “He is a friend of sinners and eats with them!” There is something wonderfully levelling about sitting down at the table. I think of poor lame Mephibosheth who was invited to tuck his broken limbs beneath the King’s table and be a full participant in the royal banquets. The table rather than being a place of judgement is a place of acceptance and belonging.

Christmas Festivities offer us the opportunity to “build a longer table”, and to go into the highways and bi-ways and convincingly invite people to find a welcome at the table as we sinners celebrate the wonderful gift of salvation, full and free!

I am also mindful of those who are in grief and mourning at this ‘joyful’ time of year. The table is open to them as well and space is offered for them to bring their authentic sadness with them. Together we will look forward to the Return of the King, when sorrow and sighing will be no more. For we all need to eat!

“Breaking Free”

We just finished our 13th, or maybe 14th, Recovery Workshop. I do very little at these. I open the door. I usually remember to put on coffee. I open and close with prayer. Otherwise I only add the very occasional observation as my friend who has much more authority on the subject shares his hard-won wisdom. The key to becoming sober and recovering or discovering a new life, that is both worth living and useful, is a spiritual awakening and a new spiritual walk. Each workshop begins with greater numbers than we see by the end. Not everyone is ready and open to this experience, but the ones who are begin a journey of wonderful transformation.

I write all this to say that I believe it is time I took a bigger role in fostering this transformation. I will be starting a phase 2 series. There are issues that led people to turn to substances as a solution. Theses substances turned out not to be an adequate solution and now that our friends realise this, they become open to spiritual help. During their career of abusing they may also (probably have) experienced additional trauma. All of this leaves wounds that need healing and past behaviours that need recognition and repentance.

I plan to offer an opportunity to “Break Free”. We will do this through a wholesome look at truth, for substance abuse is a disease of misperceptions and delusions. We will examine scriptures that tell us about our Creator God and about who we are, in Christ. I will teach about God’s power to forgive and free us. I will share scriptures of deliverance from those things we have opened ourselves to, in the past. We will pray for forgiveness and freedom and we will declare it for ourselves and others in the group.

I share this because deciding to do something is not the same as doing it! The Epistle of James teaches that action (being a doer) is where faith is really lived out. I do not have dates or even a venue for this, but in the New Year I will be putting on our first “Breaking Free” workshop. I’ll keep you up to date. I believe this will require a good deal of prayer cover; St. Paul says it well “There is a door open for effective service but there are many adversaries.” (1Cor. 16:9)

This last week I spoke at Christ Church in Pennfield. Lately I have read a lot about dismal Church growth prospects, but this church is growing significantly. I do not think it is about programing, but it is more like what was said of the Early Church as quoted by Tertullian, “See how they love one another”. The affection and acceptance in this little country church are entirely evident. Laughter peals early and often. These are, I believe key ingredients to growth. They do not come from a video series, or even a teaching series. It comes through hearts that are open to the gentle work of the Holy Spirit, people who are obedient to the Spirit of Love’s prompting. It is no small thing to be in the presence of such love! I look forward to returning again.

Things are moving ahead on our Threshold House Project. I have been knocking on doors of potential partners in this. Jesus advises “Knock and keep on knocking”. This requires patience. December is not the time for meeting with busy people in the religious world, but the New year will provide lots of opportunity. Please pray that this project meets with favour.