The Potter’s Wheel Turns

We welcomed a new resident this week. Frank is an artist, he creates out of clay. Jeremiah tells us that God is that kind of artist as well. God is imagined as a potter, and we are his clay vessels. He moulds a us and forms us.

I have been fascinated with formation for years. I recall a time during my formation during my years Training at the Church Army. We were in a Bible Study led by Ernie, our Training Officer. He asked us what kind of ministry we wanted down the road. I glibly answered, “I want your job.” Answering glibly was very much my immature self’s style. Instead of being upset, he seemed really pleased that God might be calling me that way.

Seven years later I did take his job. By then he was no longer Training Officer but had become Field Secretary (Personnel Officer). It was not for another fourteen years that I had an opportunity to step into the training role as a teacher of Evangelism Studies, and a number of more years before I was named Director of Formation for Taylor College.

I was tasked with overseeing the formation of ‘missionaries for the twenty first century.’ Those were halcyon days. I felt like I was finally doing what I was designed to do. Not long after, the supply of students dried up. A Director of Formation without any one to ‘form’ is a sad being. But through the dark days that followed and the myriad of questions came a fresh understanding. Formation does not require formal classes and curriculum. If I had truly been fashioned by God for this purpose I only had to apply myself to the opportunities God brought me.

Threshold House provides a brilliant opportunity to be involved in God’s transformative work in the lives of men. I get to be a bit like Frank and be involved in formation. The men I get to work with are being transformed. Lives that were once ruined are becoming brilliant and useful. Sometimes this process is painful and painfully slow but sometimes it is otherwise. Last Friday I met T. for the first time. Steve had invited him to our drop in. He came but was not open to any ‘God talk’ after a few hours of fun and wholesome fellowship with a group of Christians, he eagerly listen to my “Word from Our Sponsor.” On Sunday he went to church and his heart was strangely warmed. I saw him again last night and he was changing before our eyes! He is going to detox this week. An anonymous Christian has provided the funds necessary for him to go to a long term treatment centre. He is excited about coming to live with us at Threshold House after treatment. Last night he asked me for a Bible which I was overjoyed to give him. He asked where he should start to read and I pointed him to the Gospels where he can encounter the ’Life Changing Saviour’.

Witnessing T.’s transformation and the more subtle discipleship of the guys of Threshold warms my old heart and keeps me getting up and going.

We started our ‘Life’s Healing Choices’ last night. I gave out journals to everyone with loads of room to write about each decision. I do this in the hope that participants do not see this as an eight week course to get through but the formation of new healthy habits and choices. It is ours to chose Jesus and his way over and over again not merely once. This repetitive practice forms character in us, the character of Christ, and it is that character that will set us on a good and useful path.

It is amusing to look back over the years and identify the fingerprints of the Potter all over my story. The potter’s wheel turns my tragedies and disappointments into the stuff dreams are made of. Too often I lose perspective and let my passing troubles loom big but God invites me to remember that I have been raised with Christ and seated with him in the Heavenlies. From that lofty perspective I can see what my time bound myopia misses, and I discover anew God is faithful!

Peek-a-boo Delight!

I was playing a lovely game of peek-a-boo. I can not remember laughing so hard, in ever so long. What brought joy to my heart was the sheer delight that my grandson was taking from it all. His was a silly delight. In a few months he will realize that he does not really disappear and reappear. The practicalities of physics will rob him of this rapturous joy, oh but now, he revels, and peals of laughter fill his and my ears.

How do I possibly get such joy? Many long years ago I learned the lessons of congruity and incongruity, nevertheless my joy is as this wee boy! I wondered in that moment is this the joy that God experiences? In his omniscience he cannot be surprised but delights in measure with the delight of his children. My thoughts are certainly not his thoughts, and my best thoughts resemble the logic of peek-a-boo, but I suppose Our Father, takes delight in my every discovery of him and his creation.

My ‘wisdom’ will never impress him but my audacious belief and foolishness might bring him great joy, and in the process I will like a child find delight in being the object of my Father’s attentive love. If small discoveries and tiny obediences can bring him joy, then it lies to me to be enjoyed and to enjoy!

After our I post our morning Bible Study on line we have some wonderful discussions. Questions are asked. Some of them I have sorted out for myself years ago but it is a wondrous delight to see ‘the light go on’ for one of our guys as they discover a new truth or deeper aspect of God. This last Friday we added a new element, we started a new study series on Colossians led by Pastor Andrew Porter. He is a gifted student of scripture and Bible teacher. Together we learned and relearned the ‘upside down’ nature of Christ and that the lowly wield power in the Kingdom. It is as we become child-like before our Father, that we are lifted up, as on his knee, to a position of kingdom influence and service.

All who gather around our study table are far from influential in worldly terms, but it is our goal to both delight God, our Father, and to be useful in his Kingdom. We take baby steps and our efforts might seem laughable to the heavenly host, but I sense we have the capacity to bring God joy and perhaps even deep belly laughs of happiness.

This week will be interviewing another applicant for residency. Our newest guy is fitting in well though like all who went before him, there were some ‘growing pains’. He is almost through Phase 1 of his residency and looks forward to finding a meaningful job so he can be useful and generous.

Another resident came to us in his 60’s and the one thing he said was that he was not willing to go back to school. God spoke into his life and now he spends his day in a classroom working toward his GED.

For your prayers:

Saturday we are holding our Breakfast and a Message. I will be speaking at this one on the topic “Hope in the Seemingly Hopeless.”

Thursdays starting in February we will be hosting a study of “Life’s Healing Choices” This will be for 9 weeks. I am looking at doing a study of “Ordering Your Private World” when this one is completed.

We host a NA meeting each Sunday night. Guys go to Celebrate Recovery at the Salvation Army on Mondays and at King’s Church Tuesdays. We try and have a Friday open social evening each week (though I admit we are sometimes a bit spotty with this one.)

Guys have been working on their testimonies and we are looking for venues at which the could share them.

God is good! We praise him for all he is doing in the lives of all of us at Threshold House.

We continue to pray for more residents.

Thank you.

God’s Goodness in God’s Timing

Yesterday I asked some of the guys of Threshold House to write something for me about their personal experience of Threshold House. I have been working with a creative team to produce a ‘brochure’ for Threshold House. The goal is to have a tool to introduce Threshold House to potential new residents and their workers, as well as to potential donors and churches. The young woman who will write the content of ‘tool’ asked me several questions and requested these testimonials. I collected these stories this morning and I have been so pleased as I transcribed them and sent them on. Two have only been with us for a bit over a month and the other since this last Fall, but the impact that they identify over that time is wonderful! They speak of the lifelong friends they have made and of their ever-deepening relationship with Jesus.

One of our distinctives is our goal that during their stay with us, residents would move into ministry. Wednesday night a couple of guys took twenty pizzas which had been donated by Little Caesars, to a warming shelter in St. Stephen. Today they take another batch of pizza to those ‘storm stayed’ at a Westside Warming Shelter. They have plans to help serve a meal and mingle with guests at a meal in Waterloo Village. None of this is compulsory! It is a demonstration of changed hearts!

Usually the guys do their ‘check in’ much before I arrive at 9 but on Friday they wait for me to join in and tell them how I am doing. The vulnerable sharing is humbling to be a part of it is a great privilege. After we checked in we went to the chapel for a study on the Beatitudes and a time of prayer. Guys prayed for each other and our varying ailments and needs and for our day.

There were times over the last few years when I wondered whether these days would ever come, but come they have! The ‘vision’ is no longer just ink stains on paper, but God is writing it on our hearts. His ways are truly higher than our ways!

I received a package of books in preparation for our upcoming study of “Life’s Healing Choices.” In the package was a journalling tool which I had seen before. Many of the guys of Threshold House have experienced the benefits of journalling and so I am looking forward to seeing people blessed with this tool.

Please continue to pray for

  • our daily activities and outreaches
  • our Life’s Healing Choices study beginning February 2nd
  • our Breakfast & a Message of Hope (I am speaking) January 28th
  • A new series of Friday Studies on Colossians led by my friend Pastor Andrew Porter
  • God’s continued provision to meet all our needs

The Blessing of Longsuffering

I have often joked with my kids about ‘Great Uncle Floyd’ the almost great inventor. His problem was that he would stop just before he succeeded. For instance, he invented a refreshing lemon beverage “6 UP”. He developed a cleaning solution “Formula 408.” He invented a card game “51 Pick Up” and  started a company “2 M”.

Years ago, pilots would nudge up to 767 miles per hour. Things would begin to shake and rattle, and they would ease up. 768 miles per hour is how fast you must go to break through that barrier. Suddenly the pilot is out pacing sound itself and the ‘sailing’ has become smooth!

Like my mythical Great Uncle, too often we stop short. One of the great gifts of God is ‘longsuffering.’ This kind of Godly perseverance pays off if we do not weary in well doing.

Like Floyd I brim with ideas and as things begin to shake and rattle around me I get fearful. I ‘pull up’ when I should push through. Opposition is natural when we are doing something! Like a toothless lion Satan roars and rages and I too easily quake.

I am so glad for Christian friends who encourage when the devil discourages, folks who support me during risky times. The World, the Flesh and the Devil say “Stop!” but God says “though you walk through the valley of shadow… I will be with you!” We come to the barrier to have God take us through the barrier.

There were those who thought Columbus would sail off the edge of the world. There were those who feared breaking the sound barrier. Yet in each case whole new planes of existence opened as they persisted through.

It is this longsuffering persistence, the gift of hope given by the Barrier Smashing God, who did not let the splendor of Heaven keep Him from the cross and tomb, that I pray for!

I believe God has given a vision for a sober-living community of faith, in which men will become equipped to help others find that same transformative hope for their lives. There are many moments when things become shaky. Moments of difficulty and challenge. Interpersonal challenges present difficulties and finances become daunting, but we hold on to the unshakable truth that God is Good!

This week we will welcome a new resident. He comes just as one fellow has decided to leave. We pray that God will bless both.

On Saturday January 28th  we will be hosting another “Breakfast & a Message of Hope!” I will be speaking on the subject “Hope in the Seemingly Hopeless.”

On Thursday February 2 we begin a series of 9 Thursdays on “Life’s Healing Choices”. Fittingly we will look at Romans chapter 7 on Ground Hog Day as we explore the “Endless Loop of Hurt.” We will then spend a week on each of the chapters of the book “Life’s Healing Choices.”

The guys are working on their testimonies, and we will be looking for opportunities for them to share in the days ahead.

Today one of the guys thought I was a bit ‘down’  and took special care to take me aside and share a word of encouragement. It is such a blessing to see those who have received, so freely giving!

A Look Back: A Look Ahead

This past year saw the vision for Threshold House take flight. After a slow and halting start plagued by renovations setbacks and Covid 19 this fall prayers saw answers and things started coming together. Now as we stand on the threshold of a new year we have four new resident with four or five applications in process.

We have added two new staff members. Steve came to us all the way from British Columbia. He has a wealth of experience in the ‘world of recovery’ which includes his own discovery of recovery through Christ. He has brought knowledge and enthusiasm to the ministry. He works daily with the men of Threshold House providing programing, oversight, and counsel. Jeff came to us this fall and is now the Night Proctor. He is excited about taking further education with a view to full-time ministry in the future. The addition of these positions increases our financial commitment. Threshold Ministries has agreed to assist us as we grow Threshold House solidify its financial standing.

Threshold Ministries is looking to import a discipleship/evangelism training program and we look forward to this becoming a regular component for Threshold House residents. We see this as an exciting opportunity to advance our vision of equipping a releasing those who have discovered hope to be ‘givers of hope.’ Steve and a former resident a graduate of Threshold House are taking the current program ‘Envoy’.

Christmas Eve the residents hosted eleven visitors who were lonely or struggling. It was a wonderful opportunity to further develop the outreach ministry of the house. We had planned a Threshold House family Christmas dinner and though I was sick and could not make it the guys cooked a wonderful meal and celebrated together.

The year ends on a melancholy note. Yesterday would have been my son’s wedding anniversary. Instead, it marked three months since her death. I was personally reminded of how sad this ‘festive’ season can be for many. God has been good though. It has been wonderful to see an outpouring of love and support for our hurting son. Years ago, with the death of our first boy we learned that life is not fair. It is not right to bury our children. It seems much more natural that they bury us! It is painful to watch helplessly as wave after wave of grief crashes over our son. We do not, though, mourn like those who have no hope! We look forward to death losing its sting more and more over the new year and years to come until finally at the Return of Christ, death will be swallowed up in Victory, and things put right once and for all.

We cross the threshold of 2023 with a lot of hope. I look forward to penning some wonderful news of what God is doing at Threshold House and in the lives and ministries of our residents. I wish you all a blessed and hope filled year.

Generous Gift Giving

Giving is a richly rewarding practise. Our giving has changed over the years. We used to run up our visa bill to purchase toys and gifts for our children. They have grown and we are also better stewards, and do not ring up more debt. One year we had a very ‘modest’ Christmas as we were saving to send our daughter on a mission trip to Mexico. We called that Christmas “Have Yourself a Mariachi Christmas” we made presents for one another. It was quite fun and some of those gifts remain as personal treasures. We stopped buying and mailing a lot of Christmas cards instead we buy livestock for third world families and tell our friends we do it in their names.

We often know Christmas as the ‘Season of Giving’ and rightfully so. A letter from Dr. Charles Stanley highlighted this for me as he listed gifts and gift givers associated with the season.

  • Mary gave her physical body and reputation (Luke 1:26-38)
  • Joseph gave protection and provision (Matt. 1:18-25)
  • Caesar Augusts gave a decree (Luke 2:1-7)
  • The angel gave an announcement (Luke 2:8-14)
  • The shepherds gave their testimony (Luke 2:15-20)
  • The Magi gave their gifts (Matt. 2:1-11)
  • God gave His only begotten Son (John3:16)
  • Jesus gave His life (Matt.20:28

We see in these scriptures a picture of lavish generosity and such generosity stirs us to follow in kind and in kindness! None of the wondrous gifts listed above came from Amazon or via Visa but were costly, nevertheless. Self-sacrifice has seemingly gone out of fashion in our culture, but it is at the very heart of the counter-cultural life to which God calls us.

Years ago, I preached a sermon “It is Better to Receive Than Give.” In that message I emphasized John 1:12 “But to as many as received Him He gave the power to become the children of God.” God’s wonderful gift of a Saviour needs to be received! Once we have apprehended this abundant salvation we join the ranks of the generous.

Praise Reports

This week we travelled to Teen Challenge to meet two applicants. It was so heart warming to hear their stories of God’s love and mercy. One of the guys will join us at Threshold House in January. This is exciting because we already have another fellow coming at that time and we have found it is a great advantage to have two starting at the same time. The other fellow was also quite impressive though he has not been a Teen Challenge for long and so we are going to stay in contact and look forward to future prospects.

Someone is donating a turkey so on the 23rd we are going to celebrate our own Christmas Threshold House Family Christmas.

We have an agreement with our parent organization Threshold Ministries which enables us to continue to grow in a sustainable way.

We are grateful to all our prayer and financial supporters for their generosity. God is Good!

Faithful God Fruitful Lives

Today during our ‘chapel time’ I shared about the importance of telling our testimony so that it is God centred rather than ego centred. I encouraged the guys sitting around the table, to discover what attribute of God they have experienced. It is the God of that attribute that we can then recommend in our testimony. Today I am thinking about the utter faithfulness of God. This week I began my 70th journey around the sun and as I reflect upon the past 69 years I see the fingerprints of a faithful God over all of my life. Through tragedy and triumph God’s unchanging loving presence is evident. Through pain and trial and joys alike, God has been true. His Word promises that God will never leave or forsake me. I have certainly not always been as true, but my failures and faults only prove God’s faithfulness. We are all searching for that kind of unconditional tenacious love and the only place I have found it is in relationship with God, through Jesus.

I left the guys with the homework of journalling and praying about aspects of God that they could personally recommend. We will work together at creating organic ways to share the story of their experience with God.

This is exercise is in alignment with our goal. We seek to enable men who have discovered hope in Jesus, to become effective in sharing that hope with others.

I confess I have missed this type of equipping. I always get such a wonderful ‘charge’ out of seeing people loosed in personal evangelism!

It is as we are successful in this aspect that we can be successful in the larger goal of taking the Good News to the wider community, that so desperately needs to experience the God who has such attractive attributes.

It was such fun this week as Linda, and I joined the gang for the morning check in. When it came my time to share the things I was grateful for, I was filled with gratitude that that moment was illustrative of the original vision. Years ago, we began to pray and then several years ago we ‘stepped out’ to begin Threshold House. Through times of Covid and struggle we persisted and that morning I had a glimpse of the fruit of God’s faithfulness, as the table was crowded, and God’s goodness was evident in every life!

We are looking forward to a time of celebration and service over the coming weeks. We want to host those who are lonely, hurting, or just at loose ends, over the Christmas New Years time. We will have hot beverages and festive snacks as well as warm fellowship for anyone who drops by.

During the winter much of our world stops growing, under a blanket of snow, but we are looking for a winter of growth. We are looking forward to a new resident next month and will be talking to other applicants in the weeks ahead. It is our prayer that we see a dozen residents by spring. We also anticipate growth in each individual’s life. Already we have witnessed wonderful transformation in guy’s lives!

Please pray with us. God is faithful.

Meekness & Hope

This week, I was reminded of a past theme, “We can all use a little hope!”  A local church is going to donate a part of its Christmas offering to support Threshold House. In looking for a ‘blurb’ about us to include in announcements it was suggested that they might include the following.

Much of the information is out of date and my good friend ‘Big Donnie’ passed away a few years ago but the idea that we can all use a little hope, continues to resonate. I no longer get to hang out with Don, but God continues to bring people into my sphere, especially now with the men of Threshold House.

In the last few weeks, it has been marvellous to see the positive changes happening in guys’ lives. As we share check ins I see it, as we sit around our chapel table and discuss God’s word and pray, I see it.

Today we looked at Matthew 5:5 and the benefits of meekness. For any of us who are seeking to ‘overcome’ or to become more like our Saviour, meekness is a key! Surrender counterintuitively is the means of freedom. Family (Kingdom) resemblance grows as we humbly submit to God and God’s will for our lives. To be an inheritor we first need to be in relationship with God. It is a general rule that strangers do not inherit. Only children inherit!

A worthwhile, useful, abundant life can be ours, yet surrender is a precondition to the promised inheritance.

There is hope! It can be realized, and it can be realized through surrender. This is not a one time only surrender but rather a continuous conscious humble yielding.

My prayer for the guys of Threshold House, for myself and for you, is that we might have a hope filled season as we are enabled by God to grow in meekness and reliance on Him.

Hodge Podge House News

The guys at Threshold House do a ‘check in’ each morning. This is a round table time where each in turn shares answers to questions like How are you physically today? Emotionally? Spiritually? What are you grateful for? This start of the day exercise gives each an opportunity to ponder and share honestly how they are doing. On occasion I get in on these ‘check ins,’ and I shared last week that I do not often sleep well. I think the group must have started to pray because from Sunday noon until Wednesday morning I spent most of my time sleeping! It seems I caught a flu bug going around!

I got back to work on Wednesday in time to meet with three applicants and it was with real joy that we offered each a spot in our community. Another fellow decided he could benefit by another month in treatment and will come to join us in January. The beds are finally filling up.

A fellow who came to us a little over three weeks ago has successfully moved on to the second phase of life in our community. He has begun part time work with a view to finding full time work in the near future.

Three of our growing community have children and so we are boosting our efforts to create a warm welcoming space for children to visit us. I am looking for folks to volunteer to be a ‘secret Santa’ for one of our Community’s children. If you contact me I will give you the child’s age and gender.

It is our goal to see our guys grow in service to God and others. This past week a couple of men went uptown on a cold Friday night and joined a regular outreach. They gave away pizza that had been donated to us. They came back excited and ready for more opportunities. On Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve, and New Years Day we are offering all those who are struggling or lonely to drop in. We hope to offer a warm beverage and seasonal snacks and share fellowship.

When I walk into Threshold House I am often delighted to hear the air filled with Christian music. Next week, a friend, Rus Blanchet will be leading a Wednesday Night Worship time. Any are welcome to join. Rus’s idea is to lead an Evening Prayer Service. This will be a new format for several of our guys and a chance to learn and grow.

Some of our folk are not avid readers and struggle with Bible reading but have become extremely excited with the discovery of the Message. They will read something expressed in plain language and ask me “Does it really says that?” This leads to lots of wonderful conversations.

It is nice being back from the land of nod as we enter this busy season. I will not soon complain about a lack of sleep.

Thank you for your faithful prayers and please continue.

Hope Realized

Like Mary, Joseph and the Christ-child we are looking forward to three new guests this December. There are definite signs of hope! We anticipate new residents coming and bringing a sense of excitement and new life to Threshold House. For too long the building has had a hollow sense to it but that is changing. There are likely going to be days when we might pine for ‘the quiet days’ but not for long and not often!

One of the great joys of my life, of late, has been informing applicants that there was room in our ‘inn’ for them. Guys have broken down in tears at the news that there is a place of welcome especially for them.

For a minimum of the first three weeks with us a new resident will be engaged full time with us in growing in community and building a new and healthy personal network.

We are busy creating a Children’s Room full of toys and activities for the children of our residents, so that broken family relationships can begin to be repaired.

The ‘guys’ will also be involved in some outreach to the poor and marginalized of our city, joining with existing ministries that reach these populations. Our goal is to create ‘Men of Hope’ who can share the hope they have discovered.

I will be preaching Sunday at our church. The church has been studying the book B.L.E.S.S. by Dave and Jon Ferguson and I plan to revisit the final ‘S’ which stands for sharing our story. In my experience this is where the whole plan so easily falls apart. I will be examining John chapter 9, the story of the blindman who is healed. We will be concentrating on how honestly and naturally he shares his story. He candidly admits there is much he does not know but is very clear about what he does know. “I was blind and now I see!” I am convinced if the Church of God would follow his simple example that the Good News would more powerfully impact our culture, transforming lives.

I am reminded of the riddle: “How is the Church like the mighty Mackenzie River? Both are often frozen at the mouth!” Too often we fear that because we do not have all the answers that we dare not say anything but we do not need more knowledge than our own experience to share our story.

Paul tells and retells his story throughout the book of Acts, but the best role-model is this blind man who simply and powerfully told his story. Some rejected his story others may have received it, the results are up to God and others, but he alone had this particular story. No one else could tell it and no one else can tell mine but me, or you yours.

A week from Saturday we will be hosting another Breakfast & a Message of Hope. We are hoping for another good turn out to hear our speaker Jon Hallewell. Jon’s church was one of the earliest supporters of Threshold House. I am sure without them we would never have completed renovations to be where we are today.

Also in December we look forward to a visit from our National Director Jonathan Clarke. It will be great to show him the vision we shared coming to fruition. Some of the guys are looking forward to challenging him to a game of pool or of Wii.

Please continue to keep us in prayers as we transition into a busier hub, that it will remain a place of peace.

Please pray for my health. My back has caused some problems and the skin covering the wound on my back is taking a long time to completely heal.