Job’s Comforter

I have been studying the Book of Job recently. In fact, on Monday, I plan to start a study of this book in my Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday studies. My usual method is a verse-by-verse expository look at a book or a theme, but Job calls for a whole other approach. I have never done a study like this before. It is interesting that after all these years of ministry that I find myself in unfamiliar territory, but that is what scripture does! It is always new and deeper and richer each time. This is what makes the Bible endlessly fascinating.

Much of Job is filled with the counsel of his ‘friends.’ Many banal words and phrases come from their lips. The term “Job’s Comforter” is a term of derision evoking the image of someone who is not just unhelpful but kind of hurtful. In one aspect though these “Comforters” are maligned. When they first come on the scene Job is devastated in grief and pain. Upon seeing him they wept and sat with him in silence for seven days and nights. It strikes me that this is a beautiful example of how to share in someone’s sorrow. They ruined their ministry when they opened their mouths just to put their sandaled feet in them!

I recall some forty years ago sitting with a grief struck family in a remote Cree community. The whole community was gathered in silence around the family. Someone got up from their seat next to the family so the young preacher could sit. We sat in silence for what seemed like the longest of times (it was probably no more than a half an hour) and I decided to break the silence. I read some scripture in English (though few could understand) and prayed (again in English). After which I shook hands with the family members and left. The rest of the community remained after I like Job’s Comforters had opened my mouth. Ever since that day, I look back with a mixture of shame and regret that I was unable to join the community in grieving. Long ago I repented of my ways of that day and my kinship with Job’s unhelpful slightly hurtful friends. Just a few years earlier as we buried my own son I had appreciated those who sat with me and was a bit hurt by some of the trite ‘counsel’ of others. I should have known better, but I did not! I no longer beat myself up for my failure. God forgives my rookie mistakes (and I made many of them,)

Lately I have witnessed those who have effectively ministered to my son in his grief, and I have noted the ones who have and continue to ‘sit with him’ in his hurt, loneliness, and grief. I want to be like Job’s Comforters began not how they ended up.

I am drawn to the drama and the poetry of Job. It reminds me of Homeric poems and Ancient Greek plays. I am also drawn to the glimpses Job gives us of the unseen realm. We only get fleeting glances in other places in scripture like the story of Elisha and his servant in 2Kings 6:17 and following, or Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. We get an apocalyptic view from John in his Revelation, but Job gives us real insight into this realm. C.S. Lewis wrote that every square inch is claimed by Satan and counter-claimed by God. We are in the midst of the emergence of the Kingdom of God. We struggle and suffer in that context until the moment comes when God in Christ Jesu puts all things right.

Job is the story of humankind, and it is my story. The pages are filled with pathos and with hope. If we press on through the pain and yes the mystery we arrive at a glorious end where our biggest questions pale in the glory of the Lord.

On another note:

  • renovations on the last two bedrooms will be completed next week
  • people continue to respond to our “Meat the Men of Threshold” appeal
  • two new residents will be moving in Tuesday with another one ‘in the pipeline’

Seeing Through Others’ Eyes

Seeing things through others’ eyes can be really helpful. This week I had this experience. We held our first Annual General Meeting and three of the men of Threshold House told their stories and Steve explained what goes on in and through the house. I am familiar with all this, and I see God wonderfully at work but visitors who heard these stories for the first time were visibly moved! More than one came to me afterwards to express just how amazed and encouraged they are to see God doing these ‘miraculous’ things. I knew from my own experience but after witnessing these, sometimes emotional, response, I realized I was not understanding the magnitude of what God is doing.

D. spoke of belonging. He spoke about become a ‘Jesus Freak’ and sensing a calling to ministry in the future. He shared the good news that he had found a job and will be starting this Monday.

C. listed his long and inglorious history with drugs but stated the change that God is working in his life. He marvelled at an awesome God who was now giving him opportunity to serve people who are in the same condition he was not long ago.

J. talked about the new life he is experiencing since he “surrendered his life to Christ. Nothing else had ever worked for him but now he is experiencing the blessings of a sober walk with God. He talked about his job and how God is restoring and reconciling relationships.

Steve talked about: daily ‘Check In’ and ‘Check Outs,’ gym times, Step Work, community life, and service to the wider community of inner-city Saint John.

Besides this Marilyn gave a financial accounting which gave God glory for his provision through some challenging times.

Afterward we continued fellowship with cake and cookies our modern-day equivalent to Capt. T.’s “Please do stay for tea and tarts.”

I have attended a lot of AGMs over the years, but this was, by far, the most inspiring!

On another note, I will be doing some a workshop on Thursday May 11 and Thursday May 18 at 7 PM, “Sharing My Story Glorifying God”. This will be open to the public at no charge. This will be designed to help people share the story of God’s good activity in our lives in a way that recommends this same God to others.

Meat the Men of Threshold House

Out of the blue I got a message yesterday, “Could you use a couple of freezers?” I t only took a moment’s thought before I replied “Sure!”. Since then I have scrabbled to get ‘some muscle’ to help with this. I remember the days when I would have done it myself but those days are far distant ones.

Threshold House already has two freezers which are often filled with pizza from Little Caesar’s, but man does not live on pizza alone! I was thinking that we might make some bulk purchases of meat when it goes on sale but then this morning an idea struck, like a lightening bolt. The idea is summed up in the phrase “Meat the Men of Threshold House”.  We will be asking for opportunities to ‘meet’ with churches, organizations and groups. By advertising in the previous weeks the attendees will know it is a “Meat the Men of Threshold House” event and will come with packages of hamburger, chicken etc. which will go into coolers brought by the Threshold Guys. These proteins will augment the meals and allow us to be hospitable in inviting others to dine with us.

Now that the warmer weather has arrived (hopefully) our greatest expense becomes the food bill and “Meat the Men of Threshold” will be of enormous practical help for us. It is amazing how much a group of men can eat! These events will also give our men the opportunity to meet and share their lives and stories with others, which is a considerable side benefit.

We would also welcome any other donations to our pantry. Pasta, rice, soups, cereal etc. is also a great addition to our larder.

On another note, I recently spoke to our National Director and told him that I would be retiring May first 2024. He is coming down for a visit in the next few weeks and we will begin to pray and prepare for succession.  

I am pleased that by then we will have a well-established viable ministry. There were times over the last few years that I doubted that we would get to where we are but God is faithful. It is not that life does not have its challenges. Our men struggle to fully find freedom, and financial challenges change from those of renovation to those of operation.

This Wednesday we hold our first Threshold House Annual General Meeting. We will do a financial report and outline our budget going forward. We are beginning to feel like a real grown up organization! Steve, our Program Director will describe a ‘day in the life of the house’ and a couple of guys will share their stories. A few weeks ago I am not sure I’d say this but I am looking forward to this. If you are in the local area please know you are most welcome to drop by Threshold House at 7 PM on Wednesday April 19. I promise it will not be long or boring. You could even “Meat the Men of Threshold House.”