A Faith Problem

Several years ago, I was chatting with my friend Big Donnie. He asked me if I was going to be taking a group on a vacation to Deer Island that summer. At the time I had no idea of where the finances would come from to do this again. I shared my concerns and got no sympathy at all! I still can picture Donnie poking his huge forefinger at me and proclaiming definitively, “You don’t have a money problem! You have a faith problem!”. He reached in his pocket and took out his sole twenty-dollar bill and handed to me telling me this would get me started.

About a dozen of us went on a vacation together that summer and God supplied all our needs! I believe I learned something that summer and through Donnie, that continues to stand me in good stead today. I have been asked how I plan to pay for renovations and maintenance of our Threshold House project. I have been asked if I lose sleep over the rising tide of costs. Usually I say “I sleep like a baby. Two hours at a time and I wake up crying!” but that is not true. I can toss and turn about other issues, but I do not worry about money. I have experienced the truth of Donnie’s rebuke. It stung at the time, but I came to repent. I now believe that what God orders He will pay for! My big task is to make sure that the expense is at God’s prompting. When I am confident about that then I do two things: I do my best, and I trust in God.

Plumber, contractors, alarm companies, materials all pile up the bills. Fire Marshalls edicts bring further unexpected requests. A poorly constructed building has additional maintenance issues. There have been any number of issues to slow down our launch. Even with all this we look to God and His people to meet the challenges of the day.

I believe we received real confirmation about our project when we were able to fill the role of Night-time Pastor. Maurice Legere comes with a wealth of experience in working with those struggling with addiction. He also comes to us after a stint with Operation Mobilization and its evangelistic ministry around the globe. We can not imagine a better qualified candidate. This is an answer to our prayers! This is evidence, to me. That God is at work! I continue to recall Philippians 1:6 “I am confident of this very thing that He who began a good work in you will bring it to conclusion, in the day of Christ Jesus.”

If you are ‘stirred’ to help you can make an e-transfer to financial@thresholdministries.ca adding “Threshold House” in the memo, or send a cheque to Threshold Ministries at 105 Mountain View Dr. Saint John NB E2J 5B5 adding “Threshold House” in the memo, or using Canada Helps.

Thanks.

It Is All About Legacy

At a worship service, recently, we were asked to think about those who have made an impact on our lives, realizing that we are a part of their ‘legacy’. Now for some a legacy is a financial gift, and these kinds of donations have been a true blessing to churches and society as a whole, but a lasting legacy is our impact on others. This will ripple out and out. It is our means of finding lasting significance.

Looking back, I identify many who impacted my life for good or ill. The sum of these experiences and my choices have made me who I am today. I remember teachers who made me love learning and I recall others who made me ‘hate’ school’. The lifelong struggle with temper is a family legacy.

Spiritual life was impacted by selfless Sunday School teachers. The whole culture of Church Army training has left an indelible mark. Living in community and the unfamiliar diet and hours, set me in a faith immersion setting like no other. Here I was formed!

Later I had some great role models. Capt. T and Albert Knight were two that had lasting impact. I also had a multitude of authors who helped shape me. I have just been rereading Spurgeon’s ‘Treasury of David’ and giving thanks for my long journey with him.

Biblical characters have leaped off the page and become mentors to me. Philip the Evangelist, Gideon, David etc.

Some who have most shaped me in recent years are, paradoxically, those I feel called to serve. I think I began, many years ago, by attempting to see Christ in these folks. In Matthew Jesus says as we serve the least we are serving him. Since I have come to see this a self focussed exercise. The goal was for me to selfishly encounter Jesus. This objectified my friends. Instead, now I look to really see my friend and their worth and in doing so I see Christ in them. They are transformed in my sight, and I glimpse them as they truly are and pale icons of what they will one day be!

I hope I am not through being formed. I hope that I might yet be a part of someone’s legacy. But I am keenly aware of my own legacy. I am aware that I am much closer to the end of my ministry than to the middle. If I am to increase my ‘legacy’ it will be by helping others grow theirs. Even as I engage in starting our new project I am aware that it will not be mine for long. At this stage the idea of equipping others is less academic and more practical. I wish I had this attitude when I was younger. Mark Twain was right “youth is wasted on the young”. I’m reminded of the plaque I would see in my Mennonite friend’s home “We are too soon old and too late smart!”, but better late than never!

The key goal of Threshold House is to help people to advance in their own lives and impact on the world. It is all about legacy.

Morris Legere has accepted the position of House Pastor. He is currently seeking daytime employment but is trusting God.

We have our first core member lined up and I will be interviewing another next week. Our renovations are moving slowly but surely and we will soon begin our community experience. I believe these guys will have an impact on me and I on them, “As iron sharpens iron” It is all about Legacy!

Progress & Regress A Journey with God

Having just proposed a new project before this pandemic I have been keenly reminded that “things never go as planned”. A week does not go by that I am not asked how my ‘stalled’ project is coming along. I have developed (unwillingly)some serious patience muscles.

This week we made some significant progress. Though I will not make my Labour Day Deadline for opening, the day of beginning is not far off!

We have our Night-time pastoral care supervisor in place. We will be unfolding more about him in the future, but he is extremely well qualified. I did not want to book residents until we had this in place, and we could confidently accommodate them, but we also have our first resident lined up. We plan (hope) that both will be able to move in by the end of the month.

The goal is that each resident will live with us in Christian Community and that over the course of a year (The Favourable Year of the Lord) that we will provide a continuing network of support and solid discipleship enabling these men who have discovered hope to effectively bring hope to others.

Before these fellows can move in there are some practical renovations to be completed. We are praising the lord that all the plumbing has been now completed! This has include changing all the ‘water supply’ plumbing and the plumbing changes necessary to prepare for the installation of two showers and a washer dryer.

I had thought (planned) that the installation of these showers and other preparations would have been done this week, however our contractor Andy’s wife was rushed to hospital where she had some emergency surgery. So, things are a bit up in the air for Andy and us. We are deeply in prayer for Andy and his bride at this time.

After consulting with numerous people for many months I decided to go ahead and create new signage for Threshold House. These have been made by a local company and our good friend Rob Pitman is going to frame them and ready them for installation. There will be two signs set up in a < shape, so as to be seen from both direction. Again, this did not come off without a snag. Five minutes after the signs were printed I suddenly realised that there was an apostrophe missing (the lesson here is when you are married to a proof-reader let her proofread!). I quickly called to find I was too late. The printers were able to add an apostrophe to the already done signs and tragedy was averted.

My latest plan (will I never learn?) is to host some kind of outdoor gathering around the signs. I also plan to launch introductions of both our Night-time pastor and our first resident in the very near future.

It does feel good to have some momentum, even if it is a bit staggered. I have never lost confidence that God was in this but the progress has been torturously slow and even now I would like to push things along more quickly. God’s time is perfect and I must learn to be content. He is good!  

Good News & Tragedy

Many Augusts ago, I picked up the limp body of little Jamie. The world went on for the multitudes but ours came crashing down and our lives have been forever changed! This August people dotted all over the globe are experiencing their own tragedies. Poverty ravaged Haiti has been terribly shaken. Great swaths of the Earth are ablaze with uncontrolled forest fires. Heat and covid are continuing scourges. On a macro scale it is devastating but for so many the personal tragedies are heart breaking and life shattering.

As our gaze is fixed on the horror of this August, people sometimes wonder “How a “loving God” could allow such?” This is a natural question and I certainly asked it myself and yet it need not be a faith shattering question.

My faith is not based on my judgement of God and whether I deem Him loving or just.  It is based on historical fact. It is based on the death and resurrection of Jesus! This is as I say an historical event and as such does not change though all the mountains should crumble or Gibraltar tumble.

My faith sustains because it is settled on this unshakeable foundation. From that foundation, then, I can ask all sorts of questions. No question is beyond the bounds. Tragedies draw me to God as I seek not just his answers but better still his comfort. Tragedies draw me closer to others as we think about the folks of Haiti or Canada’s West and beyond. It draws us closer as we gather in groups virtual or real, big, or small, to pray.

These times demand the very best from us as we heed the command to love like our sacrificial Saviour. They demand to that we are not shy about proclaiming the Good News of God’s love. Sometimes we let people’s questions deter our evangelism when, in fact, they provide an opportunity we ought not pass up.

When I think of the cross, I am reminded that at the moment we would be most horrified God was most glorified. The Good News shines all the brighter in dark days. Let it shine, you in your small corner and I in mine.

On another note, scheduling ‘the trades’ has proved to be a challenge and our renovations at Threshold House are taking more time than I naively hoped. I am though confident that soon we will be able to announce the appointment of our ‘Night-time Pastor’ who will live on site caring for our residents in the evening and through the night. This is an important piece of our puzzle and has been a prayer concern from the formation of the idea of Threshold House. I believe this is a token of God’s favour on our efforts. PTL

A But-less Society

There is a word I delight in from the Word of God and often cringe at from the lips of mortals. From the Lord it expresses the wonderful, amazing graciousness of God toward us. From us it connotes  contrariness and cancelling. Too often it demonstrates that we are not actively listening to understand. We are ‘listening’ to respond. We are seeking to ‘win’ rather than discuss. I am trying to excise this word from my spoken vocabulary.

What is this word? It is “but”! God demonstrates his love with the many buts that intersperse the Good News. We were dead in our sin and trespasses … but God! The wages of sin is death … but the free gift of God is life! You see we are undeserving, we do not and cannot earn this grace, but God opts for us anyhow! I sometimes jokingly tell my Street Hope friends that we are in real trouble until God sticks his big but in! I love the many buts that God expresses. His use of the word is truly divine and brings life!

We on the other hand ought to be careful to use the word sparingly. It may have a place in conversation but (see the irony here) not the place we too often give it. For us it often begins a response to someone’s expressed thoughts. We have decided that our friend is wrong, or at least not entirely right and we front-load our rebuttal (doubling down on irony) with a word meant to negate what has just been expressed. With this three-letter word we dismiss not just the idea we might disagree with, but we dismiss the person expressing the idea. “But” does not engage and leaves our friend feeling unheard.

Rather than “but” we might rather say “I am not so sure.” Or “ I think I disagree” both of these acknowledge and engage while defending our own position. Or we might say “I see what you mean, and I think…”

When only seconds after expressing a heart felt thought I hear someone say “but” I feel my heart sink. While I hope I am open to correction or direction I also value feeling heard by people.

I have decided to leave this word to the Lord and concentrate on positive engaging conversation. “But” is an expression that can keep us polarized when honest listening dialogue is much more apt to draw us together.

On another note, things seem to be moving after a long covid hibernation. This week I took delivery of the showers for our Threshold House project and the contractor has begun the work of installation. Our prayers for a ‘nighttime pastor’ look like they are being answered. We are currently praying for daytime employment for our candidate as the last obstacle to his coming on staff. Financially we are headed into challenging times until we get up and running and we are trusting God.

I led my first, in person ‘mask-less’ Bible Study this week as I filled in for our pastor while he is on holiday. It was an enjoyable experience. We are also enjoying the freedom of singing without masks. I did not realise how much I missed that!

We are waiting to see how the new “Green” phase  in New Brunswick goes before we consider restarting our Drop In. We would value prayers for this decision making. We do not want to disappoint people by starting something only to close again.

Grace to you all.

Reed

Mom & the Bikers

A New Brunswick friend of mine, with whom I trade puns regularly, posted some pictures of her lovely vacation in a rented cottage on Lake Erie in Ontario. They reminded of past holidays Linda, and I used to take. We would rent a cottage on Lake Erie and take my mother there. She lived in a Seniors Complex and so we could not visit her there, as we had when she kept a home of her own. One summer after several days of barbecues Mom decided she wanted to take us out to dinner. There were a few requirements for the restraint. It needed to have street parking close to the door. It also needed to have no steps. I drove slowly through the town until I spied a parking spot just outside the door of an establishment and the entrance was at street level! An answer to my prayers! Mom took my arm and the three of us sauntered into … a biker bar! I was a bit taken back but Mom seemed unfazed. “Do you serve food here?” “Yes, ma’am.”

We were soon ushered to a booth. We walked past all sorts of Harley memorabilia as I tried not to stare at the leather-bound inhabitants as they fixed their gazes on us. The tattooed waitress and the bar keep could not have been more hospitable to my mother. She seemed not to notice their apparel though I can hardly imagine what she would have said if teenaged Reed had shown up clad like that!

The pool players hushed their conversation and not a foul word was uttered in my mother’s hearing. The food was substantial and affordable. The entire visit was exceedingly pleasant.

My initial reaction was an inward groan, this was going to be an embarrassing disaster, but we were met with such grace and hospitality that I was ashamed of my thoughts.  I had judged a book by its cover!

There in a biker bar we were recipients of grace and hospitality.

I can’t help but wonder what the result would be if the positions were reversed. What if the tattooed bikers with leather and boots burst in the door of our church? Would they find grace? Would they find hospitality?

The prodigal arrives with the whiff of the pig barn on him (true farmers know this scent), and the Father accepts him with open arms. You and I come with “righteousness as filthy rags” and find the amazing grace of God.

If God so accepts and extends hospitality and grace, then so should we! Even more, though, Jesus exhorts us to “go into the highways and byways” and cause such as these to come to.

This was to be our last such vacation. Mom became too frail to wander far from her residence, but we will always have the memory and lessons of “Mom & the Bikers.”

Becoming Whelmed!

“I wish I had a heart like that!” I found myself thinking these words as I read Nehemiah’s response to the news. He did not have access to 24-hour cable news or the all-pervasive internet. He got his news slowly from a traveller from Judah. During their conversation (an interactive relational activity) he inquired about Jerusalem. This was his ancestral home, though Nehemiah probably had never set foot there. The response was that it was in ruins and the remnant of Israel who had returned were in a bad way. Nehemiah’s response was to weep.

I see tragedy play out on my various screens every day and I remain ‘dry eyed’. I found Nehemiah’s reaction an inditement of my own attitudes and practises. At first I tried to excuse myself. I get so much tragic news I would be bawling all the time if I reacted in like fashion. Life would be too overwhelming! Though that might be true, I am responsible for my intake. Should getting news really be like drinking from a fire hose? Could I be more selective about my viewing? Should I be sensitive to God asking for help in knowing what my response ought to be?

Nehemiah gives me some examples of how to approach situations in a way that is sensitive to the prompting of God’s Spirit. On hearing the news, he is moved with empathy. He prays for days. He fasts. He takes a serious chunk of time and devotes it to seeking God. He claims the promises of a covenant keeping God. He prays for God’s will to be done.

Later when faced by a question on the topic, from the king, he prays again. This prayer is not recorded, but seems to have taken mere seconds, as the conversation with the king continues seamlessly. This a different sort of prayer. It is what I call an ‘arrow’ prayer, a “Help!” shot heavenward in the midst of life.

It seems to me that our response to the tragedies that fill our screens ought to be one or the other of these. I ought to be careful not to get overwhelmed but in the face of much of the news I ought to be whelmed (is that even a word?). Too often my response is underwhelming! I may not be able to respond after the first of Nehemiah’s responses, but I can respond by his second!

Nehemiah had another response. He rolled up his sleeves and did what he could with what he had. If as a Christian I am not somehow actively involved in the mission of ‘bringing His Kingdom’ of justice and peace more and more, then I am not living a life worthy of the Name.

Yes the tragic news can be overwhelming but I believe God wants me to develop the discipline of listening to Him in order to discern which of Nehemiah’s responses is appropriate for me. Having heard, then, it is mine to obey! 

Tomorrow, weather permitting we will hold our Barbecue for the neighbourhood, local church, and Street Hope friends. We are praying for meaningful conversations and deepening relationships.

Our renovations are going slowly but the pace will soon pick up. The costs have risen significantly this year and even the availability of supplies is becoming a challenge. Your prayers for our building project are appreciated. I do not have King Artaxerxes to go to, but I have better than that, I have access to the King of Kings!

Hope & Hopelessness

I have been dwelling on some memories these past days. I have been recalling my first ministry placement. I flew into the isolated community of Shamattawa. This aboriginal community had been displaced from their territory and plunked in the midst of another band’s ancestral territory. The few who wanted to remain connected to the land had to travel two- or three-days journey to hunt and trap. Disconnected, disheartened, and despairing  the community sank into a malaise. Suicide, gas-sniffing, and violence became the hallmark. My white middle class worldview was shaken! I had no ‘pat’ answers but learned to listen. This was over forty years ago and still this community suffers.

I also remember my tour with Malcolm Harding as we visited community after community on the northern section of the Diocese of Brandon. In one community we were asked to visit each site of violence and death and to offer ‘cleansing prayer’. People felt ‘haunted’ by these deaths. We spent a long, long day being ushered from place to place. In each one we heard a story of horrible violence and loss. We heard of despair and addiction. Most of these communities were ‘relocated’ in order that lands could be flooded, and hydro electricity produced. For years afterward, as I turn on a light switch, I think of the toll that my hydro has cost so many First Nation communities.

Forty years later I still have no pat answers. I do believe that one of our resolutions ought to be to do no further harm! Economic development ought not ever be done at the expense of First Peoples. We hear the word reconciliation bandied about and reconciliation is sorely needed. Reconciliation though, like the Tango, takes two, and it takes work. Folks can apologise and apologies can even be accepted but reconciliation does not happen with forgiveness (though that is a mammoth step!). I have worked with alcoholics for years and they have no trouble feeling sorry. It is easy to feel sorry! But ‘sorry’ does not change anything! A decision followed by action is the only thing that changes things. Like drunks awaking to be confronted by the damage we have caused we easily slip into an abject sorrow and feel as if we are righting wrongs. We are not! That sorrow cannot be sustained unless it is turned into some positive action.

Years ago, I learned that the best I could do in the face of the pain and loss, was to sit in the dust like Job’s friends at their best. I learned to live my life in a way that was winsome and when my friends asked about my hope, then I would share my story.

Our ultimate hope is that Jesus plans to make all things right. In the meantime, we are his agents, loving the world and offering his healing presence in each and every situation, doing so with gentleness and respect.

An Unencumbered Gospel

Paul strenuously advocated for an unencumbered Gospel. Any other ‘gospel’ was anathema! He opposed the ‘Judiazers’ who would insist on the legal requirements of Judaism. This ‘addition’ to the simple Good News was not to be the last. In our day there are fresher encumbrances. These are mostly cultural, one of the over riding ones is Patriotism. A strange mixture of ‘God and Country’ grips the landscape. It is but a fresher form of the harmful Judiazers. This is important to remember as July 1st and July 4th loom.

This year is a particularly painful one as Canada faces the historic abuses of the past. The voices of hundreds of children seem to cry out from the grave, “Look at what you have done!” An oxymoron comes to mind. This was a benign genocide! Perpetrators were imposing a language, a culture, a religion that they held as superior. The horrific abuse was carried out by Church and State in lockstep. Both had a ‘good’ in mind, never thinking that their ‘good’ could be so evil. The Church had added culture, language, to the Good News and it became very bad news indeed!

The answer lies not in orange ribbons but in repentant hearts. I belief God would invite us to a place of lament for this sinful anti-biblical attitude. This lament is to include an examination not just of past wrong but current wrong attitudes. What am I adding to the simple Gospel?  

The early Church did not use coercive tactics or additions to the Good News but simply proclaimed and lived out the Lordship of Jesus. The unadulterated Gospel proved attractive, while our version is so often repugnant.

True repentance does not stop at lament but in changed hearts. While there may be corporate actions to make amends, our individual response can be about never again adding to the invitation to believe and receive the simple Good News of Jesus love.

Perhaps patriotism has a place but if it does it must be in its proper place in submission to our primary allegiance the Jesus as Lord and to His Kingdom.

Happy Canada Day!

Dogs & Defaults

The story is told of a small boy explaining to his mother, “It is like there are two dogs inside me. One is pulling me to do bad things and the other pulls me to do good.” “Which one wins, dear?” “The one I feed most.”

This is very much in line with what Paul describes as our struggle with sin. We may want to do good, but sin is right at hand! It is a never-ending struggle in this current expression of life. We are faced with many decisions each day and our inner dogs do battle!

The boy’s story does reveal hope, to us, in these situations, though. The bigger, better fed dog pulls harder and so wins the day. I would suggest, as a twist on this thought, that a different pair of dogs enter this critical tug of war for each changing situation. I may have a Malamute sized puller in one situation. It is muscular and well fed and temptation is easily overcome. The tug might be so short that I am not even conscious of a struggle. In other arenas I have a Chihuahua sized champion on the side of good and I quickly am overcome. This dog needs feeding if I am to change the outcome.

To do this I first must admit that my Chihuahua sized strength is powerless to stand against a given temptation. I require empowerment from a source outside myself. Put simply, I need God. As I pray and read  my ‘inner dog’ supernaturally grows. As I live in grateful reliance on Him my Chihuahua grows. I never get beyond the need of God without him my malnourished Malamute becomes no more advantageous than my Chihuahua was. As the old song goes “I need Thee every hour.”

A prescription for victory over temptation is daily: daily prayer (morning and evening), reading and meditation on the Word, and thankfully serving Him throughout the day. This feeds us and sets us up for the myriad of ‘tug of wars’ that day. We can not survive on ‘yesterday’s’ manna but must seek fresh food each day.

Adding to this thought (and bringing further hope), is the idea of default systems. My computer has certain default systems including type fonts. If I want to type in a different font I must consciously change it, but over time I have established my preferred font and other preferences as defaults. I no longer have to even think about these issues. They are programmed in.

As I develop a default system of devotion and grateful living I can overcome much temptation without stress or strain. In the areas where I still too easily fall, such as pride, I need to consciously go to God. I do so in the hope that by habitually doing this I will develop humility as my default system. After which I will certainly have to engage temptation on yet another front. There is no cessation in the conflict with: sin, the flesh, and the Devil.

So today I encourage myself with thoughts of Dogs and Defaults.

I had a couple of really good meetings, this week, with a gentleman who may be the answer to our prayers in search of a “Night-time Pastor” for our Threshold House ministry. We continue to seek God’s will in this.

I also met with a local Youth Pastor this week as we planned a community barbecue at Threshold House July 10th. We are inviting our Street Hope friends, making a point of personally inviting people from a low income housing area near Threshold House, and church members. We pray for good weather, as there is no possibility for a rain date (the young people are a part of a regional gathering “Under Current”) and meaningful conversations. If you could add this to your prayers I would be grateful.