Mission & Imagination

This summer some friends from Christ Church in Pennfield had a really creative idea. They decided to plant and tend a garden. This is a very biblical venture. The idea was that they would enjoy warm fellowship, quite literally, as they weeded and watered and nurtured this plot, but also that the produce would be used to benefit others. The idea originated with a young woman, Eden, who was looking for a way to serve the Kingdom. The enterprise was soon dubbed “The Garden of Eden”!

The harvest was gathered yesterday and tonight will find its way into a large pot of soup. This group is travelling to Saint John to serve this  hearty repast to our Street Hope community as we gather for our weekly Drop In.

I’m impressed by the imagination , dedication, and vision of Eden and the team from this small church. They will have an impact far beyond filling empty stomachs. They will be living proof of the love of God.

This reminds me, too, that each of us can find ways to bless others in ways that suit our talents and resources. I think back on an even younger person, Sadie, from that same church who raised hundreds of dollars for our Christmas outreach, a few years. Willingness and a bit of imagination is all we need to be useful in his Kingdom. Perhaps we should take up the challenge that Eden and Sadie lay down with their examples. Can each of us find our own way, this week, to be helpful to the Kingdom of God, within our abilities and resources!

I am ‘stoked’ about our new ministry project “Threshold House” which will be the home of Street Hope Saint John and house a Christian community of men who have discovered hope in overcoming addiction, and are being equipped to be ‘bringers of hope’ to others. Street Hope is a small ministry but we believe that through “Threshold House” we can multiply our ministry and make a significant impact on the scourge of addiction in our wider community.

This October we will be hosting three events designed to share this vision and to encourage people to support it. These events are:

Saturday October 5th 10 AM Brunch (call Reed 721 1788 to reserve a place)

Tuesday October 8th  1 – 4 PM Open House & Drop In with presentation at 2 PM

Thursday October 17th  7 PM Dessert & Worship

All these events will be held at Threshold House 105 Mountain View Drive.

Please keep these events in prayer. We hope that by providing different times and dates that we will see a good number of people.

Our last Roamin’ Holiday event is now scheduled for next Tuesday, the 17th. We will be having a fall picnic at Lepreau Falls and a washer toss tourney. For those who may not be familiar with ‘washer toss’ picture horse shoes only with big metal washers. We are grateful to our friend Rob Pittman for the loan of the game.

 

Ministry of “Showing Up”

In the 90’s, the “Decade of Evangelism”, I travelled to hundreds of parish halls from coast to coast to coast, criss-crossing Canada with a workshop designed to help people to be effective in sharing their faith within their personal circle of relationships. One of the themes was captured in the symmetrical quote “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care!”

I was reminded of this as a local clergy man dropped in to visit us at our Roamin’ Holiday event yesterday. He commented on the depth of the friendships he witnessed and asked how long we had been involved together. When I told him we first started in 2004, he commented that our persistence had certainly paid off!

With that I began to think about when I first met some of our friends. A few really, stand out. One person was a serial offender at the half-way house and caught in the revolving door of recidivism. We began to hang out and today it has been years of not only no crime but church attendance and a genuine character change.

Another friend was homeless when we first met. She was pushing a shopping cart holding all her belongings. She was wary of ‘do-gooders’ and more than a bit hostile. Yesterday her toothless smile was evident to everyone. She has not missed a single Roamin’ Holiday this year.

I did little but continue to show up in their vicinity over the years. Eventually barriers began to come down and friendships like wet firewood were kindled. Now I can readily share my faith and get a fair hearing not because of any giftedness but through dogged persistence. Changes can be so incremental that it takes a conversation like that of my clergy friend to bring a realization of all that God is doing.

This week I have been back to work on the new project. I have been caught up in a distressing cycle of emails with city-planners. We are trying to agree on a definition for our vision of a Christian Community of Recovery at our Threshold House site. Finally, I connected by phone with a planner and we had a fruitful conversation. Our idea does not fall easily in typical categories but when we were able to creatively converse, I feel we came to a unified approach. Once I made clear we were not looking at being a place of ‘treatment’ but rather a Christian Community which is preparing those who have found hope, to become equipped to effectively share hope with others. The vision is akin to a neo-monastic community. I have hopes that this hurdle will not prove insurmountable.

We have begun a new series on Colossians at our Study and Prayer at the Out Flow Men’s Shelter.

Party On The Way! Party As the Way!

party

Paradoxically, humility is one of the great virtues for the Christian, who wishes to follow Jesus! Jesus deigned to become incarnate. He stepped into the teaming mess of humanity coming not to be served but to serve and pour out himself to ransom humanity. The Master took the towel and then the rough wooden cross. If I do not prize humility, my claim to follow His way is a pretense.

In Luke 14 Jesus offers two ways of attaining humility.

The first is through humiliation. The proud guest claims a place at the party that is reserved for another. Humiliated, he is escorted to the available seat which is in the lowest place. I imagine all eyes taking in this humiliating event. It is a walk of shame. He thought more highly of himself than he ought and is publicly brought low. Now though comes his life altering choice: does he become angry and bitter at this oh so public shaming? Or does he take the choice  of humility and allow grace to flow?

The second is through the deliberate choice of association with the humble. Jesus says not to invite the important and family and friends to the party but instead to invite the humble poor. I don’t think he is saying that we should not celebrate with family and friends. He seems to suggest that everyone does that. It is not a distinctive mark of the Christian disciple. The true mark is to associate with those the ‘world’ does not esteem, those whose friendship will not advance our worldly agenda.

Years ago, I would read this passage and relate more to the way of the person who sat above his station. I read with discomfort. But now I read it from the obscurity of our little Street Hope ministry, and I find comfort. I have come to enjoy the friendship of many who will not help advance my agenda. We often party and celebrate together, often at our Street Hope venues but frequently at my home.

This passage calls us to re-examine our ‘relational’ lives. Not to stop associating with friends and family but to purposely choose to include the humble poor in our circles. Jesus eschewed turning stones to bread. Charitable donations and hand-outs to panhandlers are good but are no substitute for personal relationship. Following after Him means humble service and friendship to those who have little to offer in return.

The bonus is that just as Jesus humility is rewarded with “the Name above all names…” so we are promised that such obedience is not without heavenly reward. Let’s store some of this up for ourselves by our deliberate choice of humility.

Last week we had a wonderful trip to St. Martins on our Roamin’ Holiday. We visited the caves and feasted on the World Famous Chowder. We visited Inthestillness where we were reminded of the importance of Sabbath. We took some pictures, and each will be given some. Many do not have photos, and these become prized possessions.

Our Pool Party and Barbecue was postponed due to stormy weather. We are looking forward to going on this adventure next Thursday instead. I’ll let you know how that goes.

I have not been well the last several weeks and have fallen behind on the necessary work on our new project. We are looking to create a Christian Community for those who have recovered from addiction. Threshold House needs refurbishment and renovation to house this. Much work needs to be done in the next few weeks and it all seems daunting right now. Please keep this project in your prayers.

Brief Update

We postponed our last Roamin’ Holiday because I have come down with “The Mother of  All Colds!” After a week of sleepless hacking I went to the hospital where (thankfully?) I learned that it was ‘just a virus’.

I am not going to make it to the Drop In tonight but Linda, with whom I generously shared this malady, has  plans to carry on with the help of at least one of our volunteers.

For a bit of comic relief, (the Three Stooges’ variety) as my son-in-law Mike was helping me carry an old couch out to the road for pick up, I dropped my end on my toe. The toe is now swollen and most painful.

I am drinking lots of water and pitifully limping around our home but I am not writing a further blog today.

Please keep us and our Roamin’ Holiday in prayer and if anyone drops by with chicken soup you would be very welcome.

Roamin’ Holiday Part 1

deer island 1

They say a picture is worth a thousand words so this is likely my longest post ever! We had our first ‘Roamin’ Holiday’ this week, to a park on Deer Island the home of the “Old Sow” a natural whirlpool in the Bay of Fundy. We cobbled together enough cars and drivers that we all were able to go, 20 of us in total.

We dined on pulled pork sandwiches and explored the unique beauties of this locale. We had a Word From Our Sponsor reminding us of Romans 1:20 (which is our theme verse for these trips) reminding ourselves of the universal witness to God’s nature and power. We then considered Jude 24 & 25 reminding ourselves of the person interest God takes in each of us as individuals. The God who created all this, loves me!

We enjoyed another beautiful ferry ride and all arrived home safe and satisfied/

deer island 5

We enjoyed our open air dinning

deer island 4

deer island 3

We explored the park.

deer island 6

Enjoyed the ferry ride home. All 5 cars in the convoy made it on the same ferry in both directions. It was a marvelous day and we are looking forward to part 2 on Monday.

Please keep us in prayer.

Gone Fishing ?

relaxed

Sometimes I think I would really enjoy fishing, especially fishing as depicted above. I picture a warm summer day. I sit under the shade of a weeping willow as I listen to birds singing and the babble of the nearby brook as I dangle my line and occasionally my toes on the cool waters. I read my book and pause occasionally to just enjoy the peace around me, and to let that peace sink into my inmost being. I unconsciously exult in the God who created all this and bask in his goodness. Fishing would not be a task but an excuse for experiencing and savouring all this. The last thing I would really want is a strike on my line. Such would interrupt my idyll peace!

This would be both an unproductive and a productive exercise, but it would be entirely self-focussed. This is not the picture that would have ‘sprung to mind’ for the first disciples when they thought about fishing. Their vision would involve callouses and sore muscles. It would conjure up images of big seas and a little boat; of swelling waves and mending nets, of hauling and casting, of life and death. To these folks fishing was not an idle pastime it was a vocation. It was a task, and much depended on productivity. Rather than being self-focussed the exercise was fish focussed. It was about launching into the deep, beyond a comfort zone. It was about boldly facing stormy seas. It was work! It was work that required the best of those who plied the trade.

hard

When Jesus called these 1st Century fishermen to ‘fish for men and women and boys and girls’ they understood it as a call to challenging, indeed daunting, labour. With no illusions about what fishing meant, they followed Jesus.

Too many of us, who claim to follow Jesus in the 21st Century,  hold  more closely to my version of fishing. We do not labour in prayer or witness as our vocation would call for. We have traded in the utilitarian fishing boat for a cruise ship, centering life on contemplation and worship. We have neglected the task of evangelism and as we have sought self-satisfaction people are dying without having heard the Good News.

Such biblical fishing calls us to action rather than inaction. It calls us to deeper waters away from couch and willow shaded shore into the hurly burly of life, where we engage with a frightening world. As people in a little boat on a great big sea we rely on the power of God to quell the storms within and without. Like the fishermen of old we must realise that such fishing is not a solo sport but a labour in fellowship with others.

Years ago, the Church was described as the only organization that exists for those who are not yet members. It seems to me that it is high time to make ‘fish’ the focus as we endeavour to follow Jesus as his fisher folk.

SQUEEZE!

bert

I spray painted a white sheet. I painted a tree with a blue-sky background. I created a pocket on a tree limb from which would emerge my puppet Solomon the owl. I created a hollow in the bole of the tree from which Rueben the raccoon would appear. This with the addition of two thumb tacks became my highly portable puppet theatre as I ventured into children’s ministry in Northern Manitoba. This ‘theatre’ would easily hang in any doorway and had the added advantage of taking next to no room to pack as I travelled to ‘fly in’ communities.

Solomon was a wise old bird. He would supply the wisdom that was required to solve the problems of Rueben, the silly raccoon. Their personalities made them endlessly versatile to tackle almost any Bible story I decided to highlight. Kids warmed to these characters. They related to Rueben and the messes he would get into and listened attentively to the solutions-oriented Solomon. I found that First Nation’s children also took to the idea of learning from wildlife creatures. To the advantage of the Gospel

Later as I moved ‘South’ these two characters morphed into Bert (the wise owl character) and Ernie (the silly messy raccoon character). I have always had a knack at mimicking voices so I could do a more than passable Bert and Ernie. They simply picked up the threads of their predecessors and children responded warmly.

I had learned, early, to use what was at hand to the advantage of the Gospel and this has stood me in good stead. I have learned to look for opportunities as life changes. The tools of the past sometimes (almost certainly) need to be set aside in favour of newer ones. The message remains the same, but the vehicle alters to carry it in a new situation.

Often this feels like “taking the lemons life hands you and making lemonade”, and this is an indispensable asset in any evangelistic ministry. In my day to day life with our little community of Street Hope Friends, I try to encourage and exemplify this. Often my friends will name and complain about the latest indignity or injustice they experience. Dwelling on the hurt can often lead to a spiral of anger and despondency, so I encourage folks to take their eyes off that, at least for a moment and instead think about a recent blessing, or thing to be thankful for. We are living proof that despondency and thankfulness cannot co-exist. Thankfulness has the power to lift us, emotionally and intellectually, above our circumstances. Like Paul and Silas, we can ‘sing in our prison cells’.

God is the Creator and as his image bearers we are called to creatively build hope and health into even or especially, the most trying circumstances. To make lemonade!

I have only just learned that the bus we were counting on for our Roamin’ Holiday will not be available to us. This felt like a crushing last-minute blow … but I believe it provides the opportunity to widen the circle and enlist the help of other drivers to join us creating a ‘Convoy of Hope’. This hasn’t yet come to fruition, but I am squeezing this lemon for all its worth. I’ll let you know in a future blog how it goes. In the meantime, pray for our Roamin’ Holiday.

 

Selah!

selah

It started with a phone call. I’m not a great conversationalist on the phone (that explains why the kids usually ask for their mother if I answer). I learned the phone as a business tool rather than a social one. I like to get my objective accomplished and then get off. I called one of my friends from Street Hope in order to invite him to a barbecue. He gladly accepted, as I knew he would. He loves barbecues and often asks me if we are planning one. I was ready to close off the conversation when he asked if I’d like to meet him for a coffee. This is an invitation I rarely refuse and so we set a time and place to meet.

Usually when someone asks me for coffee, it means they have something on their mind, and so I arrived at the coffee shop wondering what his issue might be and if I could help.

Well, it turns out that he just wanted to spend time with me. He asked about my life and I asked about his. We talked about his bicycle and about bike locks. We talked about my children and his job. All the time we sat on a ‘patio’ overlooking an asphalt parking lot! My friend really enjoyed coffee-ing el fresco. He doesn’t have a deck or lawn, and this was a virtual Eden to him. He was obviously delighting in our time together. We eventually parted lighter than when we met. We had experienced a fellowship without expectation.

Later, as I was praying, I felt the Father say to me “Reed, I love it when you approach me like that: without lists, without agenda, simply to meet together in warm fellowship.”

This was reinforced as I was reading the Psalms in the Passion Translation. The translator conveyed the meaning of the mysterious word ‘Selah’ a “Pause in His presence.”

Recently I was reading about how it is the silence between notes or chords that distinguish music from cacophony. Pausing in his presence may be the difference between a life of chaos or a symphony conducted by a master composer.

Just this morning in our devotions we read anew the story of Martha and her sister Mary. I’m ready to say to God “Okay! I get it”

Summer provides that time of pause for many of us. Let’s pause in His presence. Selah!

Let’s set aside our task oriented prayer lists and sit with Father and see where the conversation might take us!

Make it Right

kingdom

 

Every week I see people in difficult circumstances because of inequities and injustices in the world system. They are undervalued and disadvantaged because of their physical handicaps and or mental illnesses. They often display a kind of dogged genius in surviving week to week, month to month, but with no real hope of thriving. When I think of this, when I think of my friends, I feel angry and I long for the time that God “makes it right”. In the meantime, God calls me, not to privately fume about a system gone so wrong but to actively be a part of his answer. When it works right, my God given anger moves me to, as far as lies within me, co-labour with Him in correcting wrongs.

Most of us can relate to this anger at injustice. The earliest cries from our children (and likely from us though we can’t recall) is “That’s not fair!” Our natural bent is to justice as a reflection of the image of God. We long for things to be put right.

But do we really? I want the racism and greed of this world to be corrected. I long for the white heat of God’s wrath to burn up the straw and stubble of this fallen world. All these ‘isms’ must be banished for God’s Kingdom to fully come, but I am not ready for him to ‘burn up’ the pride and selfishness in me. My longing for justice is always in the abstract or about the other guy.

I remember singing, glibly, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me”. I want to experience peace, peace of mind peace of heart, but am I ready to have the rebellious “me” seared and purified. I want to be pure gold but even as I sing “Refiner’s Fire” I want someone else to feel the heat.

I have little influence over those big systematic wrongs, but I can repent of those same things in me. Most of all I can pray. I was reminded recently that prayer is more than mere words thought or spoken. When I offer practical help or dignity to those affected by injustice it is a deep groan. It is a prayer, a heart felt prayer. It is a prayer that is heard.

One of my early mentors, Capt. T., used to enjoin us to “put legs on our prayers”. In doing so he was saying that having prayed we now were to go out in service of those same prayers. I am coming to a fuller understanding now. We don’t stop praying and begin to act, as if prayer were not action. Action is a continuation of prayer! Could this be what Paul means when he tells us “Pray without ceasing”.   This is God’s will for us.

The nice thing about this concept of continuing in prayer through service is that it keeps me in the place where God can continue the necessary refining work on me, which is as much needed as correcting the ills of the sin sick world.

“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…”

 

Recalling a Call

We have been on a ‘road trip’. We drove to Ontario and visited friends and family and experienced our first bit of summer for this year. It was a really nice break. One of the most memorable events was our visit to the Mirvish Theatre production of “Come From Away”. A generous friend sent us to see this production for our birthdays (which are in December and January respectively).  The musical is set in Gander Newfoundland during the September of 2001. Hundreds of passengers from all around the world were stranded there during the after math of 9/11. The musical was a wonderful reminder of the power of love and hospitality, especially during the darkest days.

Many lives were changed on 9/11 and mine was one of them. Before those events I was energetically engaged in the politics and culture wars within the church. I was chair of a national organization advocating ‘renewal’ in the church. After 9/11 I quit. I quit not because I had become convinced that renewal was not necessary but because my calling was to a much narrower focus. 9/11 called me back to my roots. My calling was to evangelism. Others would have to deal with the important matters of politics and renewal while I recommitted myself to evangelism. I purposely stepped from the limelight into relative obscurity.

Many died that day and I don’t know how many had heard, really heard, the Good News. I realize that there have been even greater tragedies in other parts of the world, and I was not moved in this same way but the scope of the tragedy in my ‘neck of the woods’ woke me afresh to the urgency of evangelism.

Recently I found myself saying (I sometimes surprise myself and even learn something during my own sermons) that I only have one message. I do not constantly repeat myself. but the message is always the same. There is a story of a young man who travelled with John Wesley one day. Wesley began early in a town and preached from John 3:3 “You must be born again”. He moved to the next community and preached on the same text and so it continued as he travelled that day. After the last meeting of the day, the young man asked Wesley “Why do you always preach “You must be born again?” to which Wesley replied, “Because… You must be born again.” Jesus preached using a lot of different metaphors and examples, but the gospel writers could summarise all his preaching in the phrase “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

I do not preach exactly the same sermon nor constantly share the same examples but especially since 9/11 I have consistently shared the Good News so that people have a chance to hear, really hear, the love of Christ.

In many ways, I have come to enjoy my obscurity. It gives me the opportunity to consistently communicate in word and deed the love of our crucified and risen Saviour so that people have the opportunity to repent, believe, and receive him as Lord.

I will conclude with this ‘little’ tease. In coming weeks, we will be making an exciting announcement about next steps for Street Hope Saint John. Keep us in prayer!