In the Storm


These days we often hear, “We are all in the same boat.”, in reference to these vastly different and difficult times. I must say that I do not agree. I believe that we are all in the same storm but in a whole variety of different boats. Each of us have our unique circumstances. We have our own storms within the storms. The boats of the well and the well off are in quite different condition from the boats of those not so well or well off. Some ride out the storm secure in watertight even luxurious vessels while others bail furiously in storm tossed coracles.

In the midst of the storm questions arise. One such question I have been pondering is “What is Jesus doing in while some of us bail?” Scripture, as always, helps me as I seek an answer to this query.

Jesus has just sent the disciples off in a tiny fishing boat when they find themselves in the midst of a gale. The are rowing across the storm-tossed lake in obedience to his orders. As they pulled on the oars making little or no headway while others probably bailed furiously, they must have asked my question. “What was Jesus doing while they suffered in the storm?” Was he oblivious to their peril? Was he uncaring in the face of their need? Why didn’t he do something? In their ignorance they may have asked all these things as I would have and in fact have! I say ignorance because though they may not have been aware of it, Jesus was doing something. He had ascended a mountaintop to pray!

Today in our storm and in all the individual storms within that blast, Jesus prays. He has ascended to the very right hand of God where he “ever lives to make intercession for us.” We read in Hebrews that Jesus having shared our human experience can sympathise with us and pray for us. James tells us that the prayer of the righteous “availeth much”.  Though Paul in Romans reminds us there is “none righteous no not one” John in his epistle gives Jesus the title “Jesus Christ the Righteous”. Knowing that the fervent prayer of the righteous has such power I cannot think of anything I need more than for Jesus to be praying for me in the storm.

Jesus warned us of the storms “In this world you will have trouble” and then he invokes peace “I have overcome the world.”

I cannot be sure of much in this turbulent world, but I can be sure that sink or swim “I am my beloved’s and he is mine.” He may speak “Peace!” to the storm but knowing that he continues to pray for me He has spoken “Peace!” to my heart.

I have friends in much smaller and leakier boats and perhaps I help best when I join Jesus in prayer for them.

On another note, this week Street Hope Saint John moves into our new home. We had planned to do this with a bang. We had hoped to have a Grand Opening accompanied with a support raising campaign. None of that has happened but we are going forward, nevertheless. This will stretch us beyond anything we have yet experienced. We will be assuming expenses of operation of the building and renovations necessary at what may seem the worst time to be doing so. Please pray for us, and if you can help us financially we would much appreciate it.

Let us keep praying, after all it is what Jesus is doing!

Black Dots & Thankfulness

This week the big thrill was getting together with our small house church group. There are only 5 of us most nights. We meet share our week, pray, and look at the Word. Our gracious hostess suffers from anxiety and the isolation has not been good for her. She had not been included in anyone’s bubble and meeting with us brought her great relief.

We spent some time looking a Psalm 100 noting especially that the means of entering into the Lord’s presence was thanksgiving. We saw that thankfulness is both the opposite of anxiety but also its antidote! We began to list things for which we were thankful, and those things began to multiply as we continued the exercise.

Scripture tells us to be thankful because our natural fleshly tendency is to look at the negative. I remember a preacher holding up a white sheet of paper and asking what we saw. “A white paper!” was our reply. He then took a marker and put a small dot on the page and asked again what we saw. “A black dot!” we cried. Though it remained a white piece of paper all we focussed on was the dot. Such is our nature, but God calls us to live by his Spirit rather than our nature. We begin to do this when we choose to be thankful.

This little exercise did wonders for our hostess, but it also was most helpful to me. There are several ‘black dots’ in our lives these days. Staring at them makes them seem bigger! As I instead choose to look on those things which are good and pure and lovely, the ‘dots’ fade. The old chorus advises that we “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” with the result being that “the things of this world will grow strangely dim…”

We meet together because we need to remind each other and be reminded that we can chose his Spirit or we can wallow with the ‘black dots’, and we encourage people to thanksgiving and lives of hope instead.

Some readers may know that our National Director Jonathan Clarke has contracted Guillain-Barre syndrome and is quite ill right now. While he recovers I have been asked to fill his rather large shoes. Please join me in praying this will be a short and uneventful experience. Pray for his recovery and rehabilitation. So much for my sabbatical!

I have been doing a Bible Study Monday – Wednesday mornings and my audience has grown considerably from the 1 – 2 folks I used to get at the Men’s Shelter. I just finished a study on James, and I am thinking of starting a new study on the Gospel of John this week. Feel free to drop by my Facebook page or the Street Hope Saint John page it is made public on both.

Litany of Excuses

I have decided the easiest thing to write about this week is my litany of excuses for not having much to write about.

A couple of weeks ago I decided that I would continue my Bible Studies even without an audience. I can not meet with my friends from Street Hope, so I began to just video a study and post it on Facebook. Where I used to do the study with ones and two now there are many people who at view at least some of the study. These studies used to provide regular fodder for musings in this space but now that they are already ‘out there’ they feel unavailable for blogging.

I have sporadically nursed a grievance with God as friends enjoyed sabbaticals to pursue special study or projects. I have never been in a position to do this and secretly (not so secretly with the God who knows all my thoughts) envied those who did. During the enforced isolation I felt God say “Now is your time! Stop your whining and get on with it!” So unbeknownst to the rest of the world, until now, I am taking this pandemic as a sabbatical. I have always has had the perhaps narcissistic idea that I could write a book and have decided to use this time toward that end. I am writing about maturing as a follower of Jesus using the story of Gideon as vehicle. Obviously, this kind of project requires a bit of cogitating and it would be premature to be blogging those thoughts before finishing the project. I might be wrong on this it might help refine the work but still I hesitate.

I spent two days on a Threshold Zoom meeting. It was great to see the huge “Brady Bunch” like group of Evangelists from across the country. We studied together, shared with each other,  prayed and worshipped together. It was fun and uplifting!

My final excuse is that I have not been well this week. I am happy to report that I am much better today!

All this to say I have little to share with you on this blog. You would think that might give me pause but I have decided to plunge on despite the paucity of material.

God is at work in our hearts as He is at work in the world. I found myself sharing over Zoom that God is not taken aback or taken by surprise at Covid. We can look to him and trust him for today and for the future. I was just reading a wonderful couplet from Max Lucado.

“Evil will have its day to have sway,

But God will have his say and ultimately win the day.”

A Little Hope

T.S. Eliot penned the line “April is the cruelest month of all.” I have a different experience though. I often find May most difficult. In May I recall the birth of our son, Jamie, and I often succumb to a blue, blue funk as I miss him, and all the might have beens. I also think a lot about my mother. I am glad that she is not around for this virus. She was a very anxious person and these times might have unhinged her. As I spend time in isolation though, the thought still comes “I should call, Mom.” It is just a fleeting thought that flickers and passes but like a jet over head it leaves a vapor trail of sadness.

I have a lot of time lately to nurse these thoughts! It would be easy to let the melancholy overwhelm me. My usual tools for staving them off involve busily engaging with those who are in need, and I can’t do that as I used to. Instead the chief and only effective tool for battling despair is “hope”. I have a plentiful supply of that! The scriptures are replete with promises of God and perhaps the dearest is that He is with me in and through it all! Hope has a name, and his name is Jesus!

Hope though, is not plentiful in the world today. The things people had put their trust in are failing or have failed them. In this world things gain value primarily through their scarcity. The hope I have in abundance is in short supply. The hope you have in Jesus is in short supply! It is desperately needed by our friends and neighbours.

Peter writes “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord, Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason  for hope you have. But do so with gentleness and respect.”

In my experience people rarely explicitly ask about my reason for hoping but they are curious and open, especially in these days. People are easy to engage (even from 6 feet away) on the scary topics of today and it is natural, like never before, to share our reason for hope. This testimony to our reason for having hope can easily be accompanied by an inquiry into what our friend or neighbour hopes in or how they cope.

I often read or hear people rail against the 1% who hoard the wealth in our world, but we Christians are now the rich! We are the ones in possession of the scarce and valuable resource. We are the ones who have “been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus.” Let us not be hoarders. Let us share the hope with those God brings across our path.


Intuition & Inspiration

In writing about ‘practising the present’ I mentioned listening as being important. Some, if not all of us, have difficulty with this, so I thought I might explore this topic a bit more.

First we believe that God reveals himself: He does so in the Scriptures, He does so in nature, He does so in our circumstances, and He does so through our intuitive inner dialogue! To access these communications, take practice and the honing of skills.

There are parts of scripture which are easily accessible at the most rudimentary level but with continued diligent study more and more is revealed. There is a correlation between how much ‘revelation’ one receives and the earnest commitment to seeking it.

The same is true in nature. There are some apparent truths that Paul in Romans says evidences God’s nature and power but a study of space or ecology or microbiology all continue the ‘revelation’ for the true student. Looking out the picture window at nature tells us something of God but standing on the mountain top in the Rockies tells us something more, as does holding our own newborn. The  depth of our ‘revelation’ depends on our immersion in life and nature.

Our circumstances point us to God and his will and ways, but experience is necessary to pick out the cues. Sometimes this can be the experience of others, but it might also be my own experience which helps me interpret the circumstances and  guide my life in God’s will and ways.

None of the above is very ‘revelatory’. We all know this stuff and are governed accordingly but, I would suggest we begin to fall down on this ‘inner dialogue’ component. It is a bit less concrete than the other means of revelation. We all have intuitions. We say to ourselves “I haven’t talked to (so and so) for a while I must give them a call.” Either we pay attention to this thought or not. If we do we might have a very consequential conversation, or we may not. We might live to regret ignoring the intuition or we might never think of it again. I believe God often speaks to me in this realm. I also believe that there is a lot of static like chatter that I need to sift through to ‘hear’ God. Jesus says ,“My sheep know my voice.” I believe He talks, and I need to practise, really practise, listening. Sometimes I will ‘hear’ wrongly, but with practise ‘seeking’ his voice amidst the noise I can and do ‘hear’.

I was reminded of one example this week as a memory popped up on Facebook of our Fandango of a few years ago. I distinctly recall the idea of throwing a party for the community popping into my head. I began to play with the idea. Several years before we had given out electric blankets to people, I recalled saying at the time “Folks live in rooms where heat and light are included but most of the heat comes in the summer!” With the idea of throwing a party in the summer I naturally thought about giving fans this time. As I pondered this idea (I had no budget for any of this) I thought I should call it a Fandango (I love a play on words). Soon we were planning a gourmet South Western meal for the entire community with electric fans for all in attendance.

All of this began with a ‘crazy’ intuition, but I have learned to pay attention. Not all my ideas are good. I need to use the other means to check my revelations. Many are discarded early. Some are total flops! But others bring joy and bring me closer to my Lord!

I encourage you today to heed your intuition and see if it might be “God breathed”. My life and minister is fuller because I occasionally get this right!