“Make me!”

I never liked being told what to do. I recall that when my older brothers would tell me to do or not do something I would often retort “Make me!” All too often they would proceed to do just that. I would be pummelled into submission having to call out “Uncle!” as a sign of my capitulation.

When I read the word “submit” in scripture these experiences colour my understanding of the word. Submission equates to force and humiliation to my inner child/tyrant. I have found that I have to do some adult thinking to properly address such words when I encounter them in scripture.

Paul encourages me to submit to civil authority. In his days, such authorities were not as kindly as they are in our day, but even so he called for submission, in those things which did not explicitly contradict God’s own reign. Our chief allegiance (read submission) is after all to God, and he calls us to a civic submission, even with unfair and godless rulers. While there is room for civil disobedience ala Gandhi or Martin Luther King this exercise ought to be undertaken prayerfully and in full compliance to the Word of God. It ought also to be undertaken with the expectation that the ‘sword’ is not given the state for no reason, and we cannot expect to disobey without consequence.

This week I read Jesus’ call to his disciples for the umpteenth time. “I will make you fishers of men (women boys and girls).” I realized that this too is a call to submission. Jesus’ invites us to an action. That action is, primarily following not fishing. He invites us to walk closely with him, to learn of him. In journeying with Jesus in this submissive relationship of disciple and rabbi we will be changed! In the process of life lived with Jesus, and submission to his lordship, he promises he will do something. He promises us that he will “make” me. The image of a potter springs to mind. He is actively forming the clay and we as the clay are passively being formed or made, in this case into fishers! None of this happens apart from an intimate relationship of yieldedness to Him.

Now 1Peter 3:15 makes more sense. As I set apart Jesus in my heart as Lord I will be ‘made’ into a person who attracts people to ask “What is different about your life?” At this point I have become a fisher! Through intimate obedient communion with him, he has made me a fisher. That these occasions are infrequent is more likely due to my aversion to submission than to any inadequacy on Christ’s part.

So to those who are uncomfortable with a call to be “fishers of men”, take heart. We are called firt and foremost to follow hard after Jesus. He does the ‘making’.

Threshold House Is Operational

The Thanksgiving Weekend was a more contemplative one than usual for many of us. It exerted its gravitational pull on my attitudes. I had been plagued with frustration. I found myself recalling my renewed zeal for ministry with the healing of my back. I remember the excited planning for a new vision “Threshold House.” I felt that 65 I had one more project for God in me. It was a warm and wonderful time for me, but I was sinking into a funk. I will be sixty-eight soon and the vision for Threshold House remains unfulfilled. I began to despair that I would get there and began to think of who might assume the reins. There have been any number of delays and impediments but like Peter on the surface of Galilee’s Lake I was looking at the storm and not the Saviour.

I determined to look to Jesus in thanksgiving. I began to count my blessings and they are many! One of the things I thanked God for is our home. Our house is little more than a cottage but for the two of us it suits beautifully. Since repairs after a flood a few years ago we have a refinished guest space and with a three-piece bathroom. As I was thinking of this space I was again tugged to lament that we have not had guests since Covid. Then a thought occurred to me, “Why do you have to wait until Threshold House is completed?”

We already had our first resident selected. He has been waiting for a few months to move in, but delays have held him off. He left his room in the South End and found other short-term accommodation, as we fully expected to welcome him soon to Threshold House. The days turned into weeks and then months. The time came where his short-term situation was no longer sustainable, and he was truly homeless. After conversation with Linda, we decided to open our guest space as an Annex of Threshold House. It has only been a few days, but It is a relief to finally be fulfilling a part of our dream!

Things are still slowed down as our contractor has not yet returned from covid related isolation. We had electricians in to ‘rough in’ the wiring for our new smoke alarm system. These alarms were supposed to be installed this very morning but like so many in the world today we are faced with “supply chain” issues. The alarm company does not have the detectors and bells in inventory, so we are again stalled.

In order to share responsibility, we are forming a group to vet application. We have two other gentlemen who are applying so we need this in place very soon.

It is so incredibly good though to be able to say that Threshold House is now operational! We are not what we hope to be, but we are not what we were (stalled mired etc.). Is that not like the ‘Pilgrim Life’ of each follower of Jesus?

I Choose to Sing!

“I choose to sing!” This is my determination right now.

I have reason not to feel like singing. The days are shortening, and the darkness always seems to creep into my soul. The season of depression is descending. This always brings melancholy. This fall a combination of covid and ‘rage’ on social media also tend me toward sadness.

This week I learned that a contractor who worked on our Threshold House renovations has tested positive for covid. I went for a test and must wait for up to 5 days for results. In the meantime, we live in isolation which is deeper than our regular covid isolation! All this occurs over the Thanksgiving weekend upsetting all our plans both for feasting and worshipping. Together it feels like I have sufficient reason not to sing.

Two things have caused me to determine to sing.

 The first is a memory. I fondly recall my mentor/boss Capt. T. straightening me out a few times. Once he invited me to pray about something and I dared reply “I don’t feel like praying!” His immediate reply was “Well pray until you feel like it!.” Another time he asked me to write a kind letter to someone who had sent us a nasty epistle of their own. Again, I said, “I don’t feel like it!” and he replied, “What would you write if you did feel like it?” and he waited a beat before adding “Write that!”

The second thing is my Scripture reading this morning. I read of the Last Supper, of Judas’ predicted betrayal and departure from the twelve (certainly a downer)., of Jesus detailed prediction of his pending ordeal, and the disciples’ child-like squabbling. Jesus before his final journey to Gethsemane did one last thing at that commemorative meal. He sang a hymn! Jesus might not have ‘felt’ like singing. He chose to sing!

The times we live in offer us all sorts of reasons for not wanting to sing but God has given us more reason to sing his praise! We do not walk through this dark valley alone! He is greater than the darkness. He has given us a glimpse of the future he holds securely for us. A part of my song today is the word “Maranatha” (Lord Jesus come quickly). I ask him to come to my aid. I ask him to soon establish his rule and reign. We wait and we sing. Even in the times of despair He comes when we sing.

I chose to sing.

What’s New?

Have you ever had someone ask you “What’s new?”? Sometimes I really have to stop and search for an honest answer. Sometimes  I may resort to “Not much!” This is probably close to the answer Solomon might have given at his most depressed and depressing! I think though it is a question we ought to ask ourselves, and it is a question we ought to diligently answer.

It amazes me that one of the wonderful attributes of our unchanging and unchangeable God, is that he is always doing something new! “His mercies are new every morning”, “He makes all things new” he invites us to “Behold, I am doing a new thing”. Time winds down with us in a “New Heaven and Earth”, bearing “new names”. He invites us to “Sing a new song”. The scriptures are replete with  God’s fondness for new things.

The Ancient of Days seems to be constantly changing things. “He is the potter, and we are the clay!” The divine plan for our sanctification hinges on this process of change and renewal.

So, when I am asked what is new? or when I ask this of myself, it really deserves my best thought. This is a diagnostic question for my soul. If I am stumped by the question it  points to problem in me which ought to be quickly addressed. Most often though after careful meditation on the question and with the indispensable help of the Paraclete, I notice God’s sanctifying and renewing activity. This causes me to do two things; praise God for his creative work in my life and seek ways to cooperate with God in this activity.

Jesus says, “My sheep know my voice”, and this is an exercise in tuning into that ‘voice’.

Sometimes the “new” is obvious. These can be times of change for us, either for obvious blessing or for challenge. The “new” is not always (or even often) comfortable. Refining is seldom comfortable!

The question invites me to step away from passivity to partnership. It blows my fragile mind that the God of the universe continues to condescend to collaborate with me in achieving his purposes in and through me! Too often though like those in the parable of the banqueting feast, I miss the invitation, and I do so to my own harm!

I want to encourage everyone to take the glib question “What’s new?” and pay serious spiritual attention, and I am preaching firstly to myself.

What’s new?

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.”