Flash Back!

This was a ‘flash back’ kind of week. We had a visit from an old friend. Agnes and I used to travel all around Southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan together. She led worship and led the children while I preached and led workshop events. It was an ‘old home week.’ She was taking a break from her ministry in Northern Quebec on the East Coast of James Bay. We did a lot of catching up!

The other ‘flash back’ was not nearly as much fun! Four years ago, I was suffering chronically a very sore back. I was intently pondering retiring from ministry. At this time, I was pleasantly surprised when at a church service while visiting friends, in Halifax, I was healed! I took that as a sign not to retire and began my current project at Threshold House. This week as I bent to pick something off the floor my back ‘gave out.’ The stab of pain and accompanying inability to straighten was all too familiar. Since then, I have been in a lot of pain but even more seriously I have been battling thoughts of despair. This morning I returned to my chiropractor, who I had not seen in over four years. He did his ministrations, and I am grateful that I have a real measure of relief. I have another appointment early next month. I am grateful too that we have a medical plan that covers most of these costs. This week I have slowed down considerably but I hope to resume most of my activities next week.

Often, over the years my blogs have focussed on the faithfulness of God, and this is a wonderful opportunity to recall that fact and walk in trust. By nature, I could get despondent, but I want to chose to walk in hope. God is as much enthroned in my times of pain as in times of joy.

Plans are coming together for our barbecue on July 6th. The folks from our church’s Wednesday Night Study are bringing dishes and inviting friends. This will be by far our largest gathering in over two years. We hope it is the first of many. If you are in the Saint John area you are invited to join us 5:30 July 6 at Threshold House. You can let me know at streethopesj@gmail.com.

Our Saturday morning studies are proving really helpful to those attending. One guy says, “My spirit has changed since we started.” The conversations each week demonstrate the level of engagement.

We will soon wrap up our morning study of the Gospel of Luke. I am praying about doing Haggai, as a change of pace.

The fellow who is applying for the Night Assistant position will arrive in Saint John in mid August and after we meet we will make a decision.

Please do keep all these things in your prayers. I love hearing your words of encouragement and what God may be saying to you. You can comment here on this page or email at the address above.

Thanks. Blessings.

A Good Week

This week I went to Teen Challenge for a visit. My friend and pastor Roger Graham was invited along, and the fellowship made a long drive go by quickly. Roger’s church supports Teen Challenge and has sponsored several individuals for the program. During our visit he tool every opportunity to share how he and the church were supportive of Threshold House. We had a great reception and left knowing that Threshold House would be held up in prayer at this Centre. On one occasion as we were chatting with the Spiritual Director, I noticed he had a copy of the latest Faith Today on his shelf. I took it down and opened it to an article about Threshold House. You can read it at https://www.pressreader.com/canada/faith-today/20220506/282149294850393

This article was well timed to add weight to our case as ‘a next step’ for graduates.

There are other hopeful signs. There are wires in the East Wing of our residents awaiting the alarm bells which are on back order. I got word that these will be installed next week. This will allow us to furnish those rooms in preparation for more residents.

I returned to Stone Church last Sunday, at the invitation of the Mission Committee. I had not been there since Linda and I decided we could no longer be a part of the Anglican Church in Canada, some two and a half years ago. I was a bit concerned about how I might address that issue, but I felt it went quite well. Linda and I received a warm welcome. I am really grateful for this church’s continued support in finances and prayer.

We received our first serious inquiry about the position of Night Assistant, and we are in the process of discerning God’s leading. In the meantime, our current fellow, Mo, has agreed to stay until we find someone.

We are planning a barbecue July 6th. Folks who have been attending our study of the book Bless are preparing to invite friends to join us for an evening of food and fellowship. Threshold House will provide the meat while other members fill out the other portions of the barbecue. This joint venture is exciting, and we hope it will be fruitful.

Last night I attended a celebration for someone who has been 17 years sober. It was indeed a celebration of the Lord and his work in the lives of those who turn to God for help. It is an amazing privilege to witness this redemptive work in those who once were in a ‘seemingly hopeless state.’

On a personal note, Linda and I travelled to Nova Scotia to visit my sister. My brother was travelling through, so we had a mini family reunion. I had not seen my brother since covid, so it was a real treat.

We got home in time for me to attend the celebration last night and today a dear friend, Agnes, is arriving for a visit. Whenever we meet it is like old times!

Please continue to pray for Threshold House that we find the right Night Assistant and for the installation of alarms to be quickly completed.

Part ll “The Accidental Ventriloquist”

Linda reminded me that I had more I should say about my time as a puppeteer. Last week I wrote about how I accidently became a puppeteer and how that has shaped my life. To say I accidently stumbled into ventriloquism would be both true and a groaner (a pun).

I was with a few of my Up Town friends when I had my great fall. Having a great fall in October is wonderful but mine was in August and of a painful variety. The result was a shattered jaw accompanied by tremendous damage to my teeth. It was a memorable experience!

My jaw was wired shut for a little over 6 weeks. On her first visit to me in my hospital room Linda brought a book on ventriloquism. I had long thought about trying my ‘hand’ at this, but it requires a lot of practise. Now I had the opportunity to give this art my full attention. I learned how to speak and project without moving my jaw or lips.

Early on in this exercise I told our Director, Bruce Smith, that I wanted to preform somewhere before the end of the year. He booked me right away to debut at the Church Army Christmas Banquet, where 100+ of our friend and supporters would be.

I found a dummy (another dummy) and continued practising toward this deadline. I wrote a script in my now familiar format. I played the wise patient character and my puppet Andrew, played a zanier type character. We did a bit about the best kept commandment. If you do not know it is the admonition Jesus gives to some He had healed, to not tell anyone. It seemed to Andrew that this was indeed the best kept command. The Church was very much like the mighty Mackenzie River, which was often ‘frozen at the mouth.’

It was a daunting preparation time for me, but I fulfilled my goal of preforming ventriloquism! Since Covid hit I have, with the help of my masks, perfected the art!

This is yet another example of God’s faithfulness. He uses the most difficult circumstances. If we but look beyond our pain He can accomplish immeasurably beyond all we could ask or imagine.

Three mornings a week I do a Bible Study and post it online. For the past, several months we have been wending our way through Luke and the end is in sight. Next week we will be zeroing in on the crucifixion of Jesus. I want to slow down a bit so as not to hurry through this act of love which is so central to our Faith.

After recording the short study, those of us in the room of our chapel at Threshold House spend time in prayer and conversation. You could participate by letting us know of any prayer requests you might have, and we will join you in intercessions. If you live in the Saint John Area and would like to drop by at 9 AM Monday – Wednesday we would be happy for you to join us.

For Prayer

We are planning some ‘Meals with a Message’ some will be lunch hours with soup or chowder, others will be evening spaghetti dinners, and still others will be the occasional breakfast.

We continue to look for a Night Assistant. Please pray for the right person.

The Tale of the Accidental Puppeteer

I was pondering this week “How did I get here?” I never intended to be involved in the world of recovery, but I ‘accidently’ fell into it. As I pondered this I realized that most of the developments in my ministry over the years were ones that I ‘fell’ into rather than planned.

Many years ago, I found myself involved in children’s ministry not because I was gifted but because there was little that a young evangelist was allowed to do. Adults would not allow me in pulpits but instead they happily entrusted their “most precious” little ones to my fumbling ministrations. Things began to come in focus as I was praying and seeking God about this dilemma. I saw others who could hide behind their guitars and musical talents to dazzle children, but I had none of these gifts. Yet I found myself plunked down in the midst of Children’s Ministry with the expectation that I would walk in the footsteps of these talented folks! I knew I was a fraud and desperately prayed God would bail me out somehow.

One morning I was baby sitting the toddler of my billet hosts. We were watching Sesame Street together when, ‘just for fun,’ I decided to try imitating Kermit, then Ernie, and then Bert. The toddler loved it! I could not dazzle with guitar licks, but I could make voices. This became my lifeline! I became a reluctant puppeteer. I found a rhythm with Bert and Ernie and together we taught children basics of the Gospel. My new partners were naturals at this. Ernie fell into the ‘good hearted but foolish’ role and Bert became the ‘patient and wise’ one. Ernie got into messes and Bert showed him the way.

The next year I was again doing children’s ministry but this time in a remote Northern community. At this time there was little electricity and no televisions in the community, so my pals Bert and Ernie were unknown. I turned to new friends Rueben (the racoon) and Solomon (the owl). They played the exact same roles as Ernie and Bert, and I continued my career as the reluctant puppeteer.

It turned out that remote regions were easily impressed, and I soon took my puppet friends on the road and was invited to one community after another. Soon some of the churches would open their pulpits and I had finally earned the opportunity to do things I had felt called to do! I had come to realise that if I could explain the Gospel to children then perhaps I could share the same Good News with their elders. I had learned the essentials of the Gospel through writing puppet scripts and now I got to apply it to adults. I had originally thought I would be an eloquent communicator like some of my preaching heroes, but I had learned the effectiveness of homely and understandable communication seasoned with humour. Again I ‘fell’ into a style I had never considered.

Later this varied experience equipped me to teach evangelism at Taylor College, but I was restless with the sole role of teacher and began an inner-city ministry that lasted for years. I would not have chosen this path but ‘fell’ into the opportunity. My experience of communicating the Gospel in an accessible fashion suited my new Up Town friends.

It was these friendships that caused be to become concerned with recovery. Through my inner-city years I have been inspired by friends who have recovered and are living wonderfully productive lives serving God and their community.

In all this I trace the fragrance and fingerprints of God. Where I say I ‘fell’ into something I see that I was led! When things are difficult and dark I rest in the knowledge that God leads in wonderful and mysterious ways. I believe we can trust Him!

For Prayer:

On the 12th, I have been invited by the Mission Committee to return to Stone Church to share about Threshold House. This group has been a consistent support via finances and prayer over the years and I am grateful for this partnership.

On the 13th, the pastor of Forest Hills Baptist and I are trekking to Teen Challenge for a visit there. We hope that soon we will be able to announce residents coming from that program.