Every Day Flatware

This week a friend spoke of his anxiety about attending a ‘family wake.’ He has put his faith in Jesus and now his values and lifestyle are quite different from his family’s. He dreads the language and the coarseness that he expects. He realises that now that he is ‘in Christ’ he is not the same and he could not participate in the same old ways. His thoughts revolved around being ‘set apart’ and being ‘in the world but not of it.’ He felt a deep sense of separation from those who do not yet share his faith.

Such feelings of differentness or peculiarity are natural but though I want to pay attention to this dynamic, I want to remember that Jesus was incarnate and “a friend of sinners.”  No one was more set apart or holy than Jesus, yet he identified with sinners. He did this in his baptism and in his friendships. In fact, if Jesus had not befriended sinners his life would have been a frightfully lonely one and ineffectual. Sometimes we think of the sinners that Jesus ate with as ‘repentant sinners’ and contrast them with the unrepentant pharisees peeking through the windows. Not all at the party would have been Jesus followers when the came in the door, but these were the very ones he came to ‘seek and to save.’

The tension of being a Jesus follower is the same he met. How do we continue to not only associate but genuinely befriend those who are not yet in the same relationship with him as we are? It is not easy! It requires humility. We lay down our agenda and actually listen to hear our friends. The onus is on us to ‘as far as lies within you be at peace with all people.’ We cannot demand others change especially since they have yet to tap into the power necessary to change. We cannot enter into behaviour that would enmesh us in sin and damage our ‘witness,’ but neither can we isolate!

I advise my friend not to swear or enter into crude behaviour but not to absent himself either. We are not the good silver only brought out in polite company. We are the everyday flatware ready to serve on all occasions. Paul writes “We have this treasure in earthen vessels.” In his incarnation Jesus gives us an example to follow and a cross to bear. Crosses are not easy nor are they intended to be. How we navigate these uncomfortable encounters make all the difference.

My prescription is to begin with prayer, long before we meet others. In prayer we ask for help to avoid giving or receiving offence. We ask for hearts set to listen to others and for a guard for our tongue, that we might be quick to listen and slow to speak. We pray to for the power of the Holy Spirit to guide and guard us. Then we risk being uncomfortable for Christ’s sake!

In the world of recovery, we learn of the dangers of isolation. If we Christians retreat and isolate from the world  we endanger or relevance and our friends’ opportunity to witness the difference Jesus is making in our lives!

Meetings especially with family ought not to be thought of as ‘one off events’ but one of many opportunities. We are not under pressure to unload the whole message when our friends have not yet developed a ‘thirst.’ We continue to build friendships and trust that God is at work, even behind the scenes. It is not my business to convert anyone. God makes those who are dead in their trespass and sin, alive! God alone can.

Lessons From a Fish Tank

This week I have been trying to get back to “normal.” I have a friend who struggles with some significant mental health issues who reminds me “Normal is just a setting on a dryer!” It has been an extraordinary rather than ordinary week. I learned some valuable lessons this week and like many of life’s lessons it was learned through challenge difficulty and seeming failure.

Yesterday during a visit to the Christian addictions centre, Village of Hope. I was given an illustration that let me put my learning into perspective. One of the key leaders there spoke of moving fish from one tank or environment to another. He told of the shock to the system that can kill the fish if they are simply removed from one pool of water and plunked into another. This tragic ending is avoided by including water from the previous tank in the transfer. This simple step enables a safer, healthier transition!

The past couple of weeks we have had to deal with the fallout of someone who did not do well with us and relapsed. While I fully acknowledge that individuals make their own choices, I feel a responsibility to provide an environment for people to thrive rather than struggle. This will mean we will have to make some changes. We will have to include ‘some of the water from previous tanks. By this I mean that during the initial period with us (a minimum of three weeks) our residents will have a much more structured environment, similar to that of their previous experience at recovery centres. This will give us the rest of their “Year of the Lord’s Favour” to work toward a transition to recovered life beyond our walls.

To accomplish this, we will need to add a staff position with responsibility for “Recovery Programing.” This will require additional finances and faith, but we trust God is leading!

This week we also had a visitor to Threshold House. Moni currently works at Harvest House in Moncton and has a wealth of experience in both addictions and homelessness. He sees himself as a missionary to Canada from his native Samoa. He has been a wonderful prayer partner over the week and a great source of wisdom. It was a delight to go to Village of Hope with him yesterday. There we met a gentleman that Moni had know while working at a homeless shelter. This gentleman then seemed hopelessly lost in his addiction. It was such a joy to see these two meet and for Moni to witness God’s act of transformation. This was the fourth former client he met during his visit and all four are walking with the Lord in sobriety and service! This is what God does! Moni was encouraged and his encouragement was infectious. We may not always be given the joy of seeing God’s work, yet He is certainly at work. One day we will see if we do not weary in well doing.

On a person note, Victoria’s funeral and visitation turned into a ‘super spreader’ event. Our son, his in-laws, our daughter, and Linda were all recipients of the virus. Somehow I have tested negative through it all and been able to get back to things as “normal.”

We will be processing some new applications in the days ahead. Please pray for us and the prospective residents.

What A Week!

I have a reputation in my family circles as a “Eulogy Poet.” I feel like I fell inadvertently into the role. When my father-in-law died I had my jaw wired shut and my pen was my only real opportunity to express my remembrances. Again, when my mother-in-law passed away I found myself staining paper with ink, as well as tears. Last week my son asked me to write something for the bulletin of his bride’s funeral service. I asked with trepidation, “When do you need it?.” “Not until tomorrow.” came the reply.

That afternoon I sat before the dreaded blank page. I did not want to let him down. I prayed and started and restarted on repeat. The following was the final result.

It has been an emotionally draining week, but it has been wonderful to feel upheld by so much prayer! I was so very proud of our children as Judith stood with her brother throughout the week!

Meanwhile life went on at Threshold House. Steve stepped up so wonderfully while my attention was elsewhere. He had to deal with a resident who relapsed and became difficult to deal with. He finally drove this fellow all the way to Mirimichi to a rehab that had a bed available. Throughout the week of chaos at Threshold House Steve did marvellously. We have learned much through this trial!

We have hopes that very soon we will have several new residents. I will be working at furnishing bedrooms. If any local readers have bedroom furniture or bedding, please let me know. Donation toward this project can be sent to financial@thresholdministries.ca . Please note Threshold House Furniture. You will be given a tax receipt.

On October 22nd we are hosting our second monthly Breakfast & a Message of Hope. Krista Bastarache has kindly agreed to share her story of God’s goodness and Faithfulness. Again, local readers are welcome/encouraged to come. Some thought this was a “Men’s Breakfast.” It is not! All are welcome. There is no charge. We will provide an opportunity for a free will offering. Let me know at reed.fleming@thresholdministries.ca if you can come so I can know the numbers to expect.

Thanksgiving is upon us, and I am aware of how much I have to be thankful for. I hope you have time to reflect on all God’s blessings in your life. A thankful heart is a joy filled heart!