Ode to Blessing

The other day I found myself humming and then meditating on the Hymn “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” Henry Van Dyke penned this poem to be sung to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” I sat with the first bit of verse three “Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing ever blessed.” I pondered God’s nature particularly as a ‘blesser.’ It strikes me that this is an essential quality of God. God is a blessing God!

I went on a bit of a word search and arrived at a definition of the word ‘bless’ which scratched my itch. To bless is to invoke God’s very presence and power inviting that presence into a given situation for the good of those being so blessed. God’s very presence is the ultimate blessing because God is Love and by nature the Divine Blesser.

Such an invocation is a powerful thing! Indeed, it is the hope of the world.

All this crashed powerfully on the shores of my mind because I have been a part of a study and a group that has determined to be ‘blessers,’ after the character of God as revealed in Christ. If an act designed to bless someone actually invokes God’s presence in a life or situation, then there is nothing small or trivial about blessing others. A simple kindness done in Christ’s name becomes a means of invoking God’s Kingdom.

Time and again in scripture we read of God’s loving kindness. We of the Church often want to be involved in ‘grander’ schemes when the powerful and simple example of loving kindness shines from page after page!

I recall to mind the mandate we had for Up Town Church during its hey days, that we all were being called to a ministry of kindness. It seems we never graduate from this for it is God’s means of invoking his presence i.e.. Ushering in the Kingdom of God.

Patrick in his famous ‘Breast Plate’ demonstrates the power of invocation! Like Elijah before the prophets of Baal we invite God and his Kingdom tangibly to be evident. Nothing I can do or say could rival that in its bower to change circumstances.

In advocating for a life of ‘blessing’ do not hear what I am not saying. We still bless with our words! The Good News is the greatest blessing we can share. What I do suggest is that acts of kindness, both big and small, create openings to the Kingdom of God.

Peter in his Epistle fully expects that when we align with God’s heart, that we will be asked. When by our lifestyle of kindness in Jesus’ Name we invoke such opportunities we are to prepare to point to the Ultimate Blesser.

I want to tread carefully here, but I want to say that ‘social justice’ done for any other reason than in Jesus Name, however good it may be, does not invoke God’s Kingdom. Equally words proclaimed with no evidence of blessing lack Kingdom power.

We of the Church make ‘ministry’ seem beyond many but God in His Kindness has made powerful ministry available to all! Kindness is our chief tool to help our friends and neighbours. Loving kindness is a chief weapon against forces of this present age which would keep people blind and enslaved.

How can we neglect so great an instrument when it is easily used by all!

On another note.

We are going through  a time of difficult time at Threshold House. Such times are not unexpected in a community of recovery, but they are challenging, nevertheless.

In October we will begin a workshop on Tuesdays on the Foundations of Recovery.

Next week we hold our first Breakfast & a Message of Hope. We hope for a nice turn out with a view to making this a monthly event.

The wound in my back is healing nicely but remains very itchy and uncomfortable which makes sleep difficult. I find myself dragging through the days and with heavy eye lids in the evenings.

Please pray for Steve, our new Night Assistant as he settles in. Pray for God to supply all his needs, and for our partnership.

Chuckle At The Palace

The strange story of “The Chuckle In The Palace” had an unlikely beginning. Though we lived in a tiny prairie town near the Manitoba Saskatchewan border, I was somehow picked to travel to London and meet the Queen! It was a major anniversary for the Church Army and the Canadian branch was sending a delegation to an International Gathering. The Queen had a long-standing role as ‘Patron’ of the Church Army and a visit to Buckingham Palace to meet her was on the schedule.

The strangeness of the tale does not end there. My son, David, was reading “Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader” and there discovered that the Queen like crossword puzzles. When the whole family drove me to the Winnipeg airport, David disappeared for a time and came back brandishing a Crossword magazine. “Give this to the Queen for me!”  I shoved it into my carry-on luggage.

The day came and our bus pulled up in front of the Palace. We were ushered through the throng of tourists and through the iron gates into Buckingham Palace itself. We were arranged in a horseshoe greeting line and told that the Queen would walk the horseshoe and greet each of us. I was told by the Church Army fellow who was in charge of protocol not to give the Queen my son’s gift. It was inappropriate apparently! As the Queen entered and began to make her way around, I was deciding whether to heed those directions or honour my son’s wishes. I finally decided that I was unlikely to ever meet this protocol guy ever again, but I would have to face David and explain why I did not pass along his gift.

Finally, it was my turn to be introduced. As we shook hands I reached inside my suit pocket and presented her with the magazine. She was very gracious (just like the song we used to sing affirms). She passed it to her Lady-in -waiting and said, “I hope it is not too difficult.” The protocol people had told us we must not quote anything the Queen said privately to us, but I feel freed by her passing to share. In answer to her question, I broke yet another norm as I, touched her shoulder and replied, “The answers are in back.” We both chuckled. It gladdened my heart to bring a bit of laughter to her lips that day.

After the Gathering was over I flew the miles back to Manitoba and our humble Prairie existence, then one day another extraordinary event happened! Two letters from Buckingham Palace were in my mailbox at the Post Office. The post office employees had noticed and there was a bit of a buzz in the community.

One letter was addressed to me, and I ripped it open. It was from some Palace staff informing me that the Queen “commanded” to thank me for the thoughtful gift and that she would indeed enjoy the puzzles. The other was a letter to David informing the Queen “wished” her to thank him for his gift. I have often since joked with David that “his wish was my command.”

Today I ponder this unlikely tale and think fondly of the kind and gracious Queen who made a prairie tween feel so honoured. I admit that I am not a Monarchist, but I will always have a special place in my heart for this particular Royal.

Godly Contentment & Great Gain

We read in our devotions today about ‘contentment.’ The author took particular pains to advocate for contented submission even when falsely accused. I admit to being an abject failure at this. There was a time, some years ago, when I was (in my humble but entirely accurate opinion) unfairly maligned. At the time it seemed that my reputation was in ruins. I was far from content with the situation though I had little or no influence. I seemingly had no venue or process to address these costly claims. If I had learned submissive contentment I could have saved myself a ‘ton’ of energy which I put into worry and complaining. I waited months for a hearing of some sort, but none ever occurred. The rest of the world just moved on and I continued to bear the ‘stink’ of false accusation. Eventually  even my ministry resumed. I found no peace until I could forgive my accuser and those who denied me a chance to rebut these, but life would have gone so much better if instead I would have exercised a settled contentment that God was my vindicator. This was a hard lesson and a hard lesson to put into practise, but discontent and sin are two sides of the same coin. Contentment is a gift from God not a product of circumstances. I can accept God’s gift no matter what life may occasion.

There is too much anger, which is a product of the world and too little contentment, which is a divine gift. I do not think we are to blithely accept injustice but a ‘fight for justice’ need not rob me of the content with an all-sufficient God! It seems to me that this is a grace we ought to seek and a gift we ought to exercise. When I manage this my life is so much better! I highly recommend this while admitting I am in kindergarten of God’s School of Contentment.

We are praying for two new residents at Threshold House.

Our new Night Assistant Steve arrives today after a safe drive all the way from British Columbia.

On the 24th of this month, at 9 AM, we will hold our first Breakfast & a Message of Hope. Pastor Rob England of the local Salvation Army will be our first speaker.

We are planning a big awareness and fundraising event this May. We hope to bring Christian author and comedian Phil Callaway to Saint John for the event. We are looking to find partners to share the expenses. Talks are underway with a group in Moncton. We will also be seeking individuals and churches that will help underwrite the travel costs for Phil and his wife Ramona. Please pray. If you feel moved to help us with this please be in touch with me a  reed.fleming@thresholdministries.ca .

On our Monday through Wednesday Bible Study, we are looking at the Book of Hebrews “The Supreme and Unique Jesus.”

Drop In is a low-key social event which is helping the ministry and the residents expand our network. If you are in the Saint John area please know you are invited to ‘drop in’ at Threshold House any Friday 7 – 9 PM.