Prayer Made Simple

I often wish you could hear the prayers of some of the folks we serve. These petitions are so real, and honest. It is humbling to be in the presence of such pure and simple faith. This past week one of our dear friends got the news that her psychiatrist was taking a sabbatical year. She gives him and his tender care, credit for her quality of life. Years ago, it looked like she would live her whole life in institutions but miraculously she progressed to life in a care home and then to ‘independent living.’ My friend knows, though, that there is no such thing as independent living. There are all sorts of relationships that support and enable her. Chief among these, in her mind, is Dr. J. She will miss him dearly over this coming year!

In her prayer last week, she recognized his importance and thanked God for him. She said, “Thanks for Dr. J. He has kept me sane for 25 years … but we know it is not him but you God who has done this.” In the face of this scary loss and the grief and fear she simply named God as the essential force for her health. I suspect that a few years ago this sabbatical would have thrown her for a loop. I foresee that there may well be rocky days ahead, but as she has grown in intimacy with God she faces what she could not before, and she does so with a simple faith that puts me to shame.

Last week I mentioned that our guys wanted a pool table and saw it as an important element in creating fellowship and relationships within our community but also with people outside our walls. I told them that I did not have “pool table faith.” Our praying friend would not likely share my hesitance. This week I got a call from someone who shared the guy’s vision for this and is paying for the table. I am thinking that we will open our space for a drop in, fellowship time on Friday nights. This table along with; board games, music, and snacks will help us foster community relationships.

This Sunday we will be hosting a team from Teen Challenge. We will give a tour of the building and share lunch together. One young man is from Saint John and if all goes well for him could be a likely candidate for Threshold House!

We had our first Men’s Breakfast last Saturday and things went really well. We hope the number will swell (we had 16) and to accommodate this we are moving to a much larger room. Moving to the room also helps us space people out which is a good thing.

We have several applications that have been requested and almost every week I talk with someone who has someone in their circle who might be a candidate. We are waiting for the right people to come and fill our house. I am already sensing the need to expedite further renovations to add the east wing of the building as residential space. Lots of things remain and the ‘to do’ list grows! These are signs of life!

Please keep us in your prayers.

Normalcy May Not Return, Jesus Will!

Things are moving in the direction of ‘normal.’ A friend of mine who suffers with mental illness once told me “Normal is just a setting on a dryer!” As I think about gathering for a maskless Men’s Breakfast tomorrow I feel a sense of hope and of anxiety. Almost all the participants will be totally vaccinated, including me, but after two years this once familiar practice seems strange. It will be wonderful to meet in ‘table fellowship’ again and it feels foreign. We will be taking some precautions but much less than before. In the meantime, China is again locking down its citizens and case counts in Europe are rising. I am told to stop looking at ‘case counts’ as a measure but old habits die hard! I am hoping that a good meal and even better News are the only things shared tomorrow morning.

As I was mentally preparing for this ‘return to normalcy’ I was offered the opportunity to fill in for our pastor at Wednesday’s Worship Night. I recalled the unofficial motto of the Church Army, now called Threshold, “Be prepared to: Preach, Pray, or Die at a moment’s notice!” Naturally, then, I said yes to the request and began wondering what I could share.

Because I was at that time wrestling with feelings of anxiety I decided to look at the Psalmist David’s prescription for such feelings. I was drawn to Psalm 37:1-4 . The initial line caught my eye right away “Do not fret…” This spoke right to my issue. My problem is, though, I am really bad at ‘don’ts.’ If I see a sign that says, “Do not touch.” I have an almost irresistible urge to do just that. Fortunately, David goes on to give me some ‘dos,’ which I respond much more positively. He invites me to get some perspective by realising what is temporary and what is lasting and the calls me to trust in the Lord. This scratches right where I itch because often times my anxiety is an expression of a lack of trust in Go, in his character and in his promises. So, once I align my perspective and make God and God’s will my guiding star, the psalmist goes on with his prescription with “do good.” In this phase of anxiety release he calls me to action. My experience is that prolonged inactivity does not help but exacerbates my anxiety. But I am not just to ‘get busy’ I am to “do good.”  The formula seems simple: seek the Lord and do his will as I best understand it. When I do this God promises that I “will dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” This reminds me of Psalm 23 and also Jesus’ assertion that he has come “to give you life in abundance.”

At this point my heart finds rest. I believe that right now, though there is risk, God is making a way for a return to in person fellowship. I need this and so do others. ‘Virtual’ life is despite the nomenclature, not real life. I am keenly aware that we ought not to throw all caution to the wind and though governments may be loathe to set mandates the Church ought to be sensitive to the health of the community.

On another note, Threshold House has financially survived the heating costs of the winter and the huge snow clearing bills. We are really grateful to God and his people for this. We have major expenses ahead though as we continue with our renovation plans for the lighting system. We will need soon to address fire alarms and spoke detectors in the remaining wing. This will cost another $4000. In addition, the guys in residence have been praying for a pool table. They have a place already in mind for it. They believe it would greatly enhance the ministry and outreach of Threshold House. Perhaps you would like to join them in these prayers. This is a stretch for me. I told them I have “heat and lights faith,” but I may not have “pool table faith.” The guys have begun to pray like the man who said to Jesus “I believe, help my unbelief.”

Make Good Choices!

Linda always said this to the kids when they were going out, “Make good choices!”

A few of us have been engaged with “Life’s Healing Choices”. As a part of this I meet each week with a pastor friend to debrief the issues and thoughts that arise each week. This week we discussed “good choices” I have made. Often these examinations dwell solely on the poor unhealthy choices and actions but this week we concerned ourselves with the good ones! It was a very helpful exercise and sets me up well for next week’s “fearless moral inventory”.

After our discussion, I believe the Lord reminded me of one more good decision, which had not made our conversation. I was in the back of a racing ambulance. The attendants had not been able to put a collar around my neck and so one was tasked with trying to hold my head in place while the other managed my vitals etc. The moment came amidst the excruciating pain when I knew I was drowning in my own blood. It felt pleasant, like slipping slowly into a warm bath. In the far distance I could hear an EMT encouraging me “to hang in there” but the prospect of sliding into that warmth was very seductive. At that instant the thought of my family stirred me, and I made a choice. With what remained of my jaw flapping onto my chest I coughed ever so painfully. I cleared my airway and lived to type this blog.

Today I hear Linda playing with our little grandson and I think about how I might never have met him. I would not have proposed a toast at my son’s wedding or walked down the aisle with my daughter. I look back to that decision and I am so grateful for these years.

The pain of that fall was to be long lasting. The consequences reverberate today. But all of that is transitory. The best choice of all is the choice of Jesus! This is a choice that moves us from death to life. From temporal to eternal!

A week from Saturday we begin a series of Men’s Breakfasts centred around “Finding Your way Back to God.” 

In a few weeks we will be hosting a group from Teen Challenge. We hope they can stay for lunch and a tour but even if restrictions do not allow them to eat with us we plan to fellowship together and tour Threshold House.

I am working with my home church to prepare to welcome folks back to a physical expression of Church. I believe that though there are great benefits to virtual connection, it is not the best. This spring may be a pivotal time for churches.

I will be speaking at the “Sunrise Easter Service” this year. This is a great privilege. It is not often a visiting preacher gets a chance on these important holy days.

Hope & Promise

Isaiah 57:18,19 is amazing!

“I Have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners, creating praise on their lips. Peace, peace, to those who are far and near, says the Lord, and I will heal them.”

These short passage is replete with wonderful promises.

  1. If you are hurting, “I will heal”
  2. If you are confused, “I will guide”
  3. If you feel lost “I will restore”
  4. If you are lonely “comfort”
  5. If you are afraid “peace to those who are far and near”

This snippet from scripture illustrates the hope that is found in Christ alone. Our hope is not of the ‘cross your fingers’ kind. It is not even of a ‘ God can/will change the circumstances’ kind. It is a hope in the midst of circumstances. It is a sure and certain hope because it is not based on such transitory things. It is instead fully based on a person. Hope has a name, and that name is Jesus. Circumstances shift and change constantly yet Jesus remains the same “yesterday today and forever!” His promises are “yea and amen,” they are as certain as He is!

In the midst of trial and chaos, I suggest that we look for Him. That we set our hearts upon this one object above all others, that we know Him and his presence. All other sources of relief or order will fail us.

Troubles are as temporary as happiness. Our temporary carnal lives are as grass that withers or flowers that fade. The answer to singer Peggy Lee’s question is an emphatic “No! This is not all there is!” Paul tells us these troubles are not worth comparing to the glory to be revealed in us.

Hope that things will return to normal or hope that violent conflict will cease, may be laudable wishes but that is all they are! Biblical hope is centred on the person of Jesus. Seeking him and his Kingdom is our highest goal. In seeking his Kingdom, we seek his help to live out the ethic of his Kingdom here, while all along looking for him to ultimately bring a lasting and peaceable Kingdom. We are not fatalists but seek to cooperate with Jesus and his purposes, knowing that in these current days we see only ‘in part’ but one day, at his appearing, we will see clearly and know even as we are known.

Our project to change the lights at Threshold continue. We have seen enough donations to start the work but we are looking to God to provide more as we complete ‘phase 1’ of this project. We have several applications out and we are praying for the right future residents.

Thank you for your prayers and support.