Make Good Choices!

Linda always said this to the kids when they were going out, “Make good choices!”

A few of us have been engaged with “Life’s Healing Choices”. As a part of this I meet each week with a pastor friend to debrief the issues and thoughts that arise each week. This week we discussed “good choices” I have made. Often these examinations dwell solely on the poor unhealthy choices and actions but this week we concerned ourselves with the good ones! It was a very helpful exercise and sets me up well for next week’s “fearless moral inventory”.

After our discussion, I believe the Lord reminded me of one more good decision, which had not made our conversation. I was in the back of a racing ambulance. The attendants had not been able to put a collar around my neck and so one was tasked with trying to hold my head in place while the other managed my vitals etc. The moment came amidst the excruciating pain when I knew I was drowning in my own blood. It felt pleasant, like slipping slowly into a warm bath. In the far distance I could hear an EMT encouraging me “to hang in there” but the prospect of sliding into that warmth was very seductive. At that instant the thought of my family stirred me, and I made a choice. With what remained of my jaw flapping onto my chest I coughed ever so painfully. I cleared my airway and lived to type this blog.

Today I hear Linda playing with our little grandson and I think about how I might never have met him. I would not have proposed a toast at my son’s wedding or walked down the aisle with my daughter. I look back to that decision and I am so grateful for these years.

The pain of that fall was to be long lasting. The consequences reverberate today. But all of that is transitory. The best choice of all is the choice of Jesus! This is a choice that moves us from death to life. From temporal to eternal!

A week from Saturday we begin a series of Men’s Breakfasts centred around “Finding Your way Back to God.” 

In a few weeks we will be hosting a group from Teen Challenge. We hope they can stay for lunch and a tour but even if restrictions do not allow them to eat with us we plan to fellowship together and tour Threshold House.

I am working with my home church to prepare to welcome folks back to a physical expression of Church. I believe that though there are great benefits to virtual connection, it is not the best. This spring may be a pivotal time for churches.

I will be speaking at the “Sunrise Easter Service” this year. This is a great privilege. It is not often a visiting preacher gets a chance on these important holy days.

Hope & Promise

Isaiah 57:18,19 is amazing!

“I Have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners, creating praise on their lips. Peace, peace, to those who are far and near, says the Lord, and I will heal them.”

These short passage is replete with wonderful promises.

  1. If you are hurting, “I will heal”
  2. If you are confused, “I will guide”
  3. If you feel lost “I will restore”
  4. If you are lonely “comfort”
  5. If you are afraid “peace to those who are far and near”

This snippet from scripture illustrates the hope that is found in Christ alone. Our hope is not of the ‘cross your fingers’ kind. It is not even of a ‘ God can/will change the circumstances’ kind. It is a hope in the midst of circumstances. It is a sure and certain hope because it is not based on such transitory things. It is instead fully based on a person. Hope has a name, and that name is Jesus. Circumstances shift and change constantly yet Jesus remains the same “yesterday today and forever!” His promises are “yea and amen,” they are as certain as He is!

In the midst of trial and chaos, I suggest that we look for Him. That we set our hearts upon this one object above all others, that we know Him and his presence. All other sources of relief or order will fail us.

Troubles are as temporary as happiness. Our temporary carnal lives are as grass that withers or flowers that fade. The answer to singer Peggy Lee’s question is an emphatic “No! This is not all there is!” Paul tells us these troubles are not worth comparing to the glory to be revealed in us.

Hope that things will return to normal or hope that violent conflict will cease, may be laudable wishes but that is all they are! Biblical hope is centred on the person of Jesus. Seeking him and his Kingdom is our highest goal. In seeking his Kingdom, we seek his help to live out the ethic of his Kingdom here, while all along looking for him to ultimately bring a lasting and peaceable Kingdom. We are not fatalists but seek to cooperate with Jesus and his purposes, knowing that in these current days we see only ‘in part’ but one day, at his appearing, we will see clearly and know even as we are known.

Our project to change the lights at Threshold continue. We have seen enough donations to start the work but we are looking to God to provide more as we complete ‘phase 1’ of this project. We have several applications out and we are praying for the right future residents.

Thank you for your prayers and support.

Songs of Jesus in Troubled Times

This has been an interesting week for me. Tuesday evening, as we were going to pick up our grandson after his youth program at our church, we were involved in a car accident. We were going through an intersection on a green light when another car decided to turn left in front of us. Linda and I suffered two distinct kinds of injuries. I had realized that an impact was coming and braced myself. The result of this is a number of sore muscles in my shoulders back and torso. Linda was much ‘looser’ at impact and has some bruising from the seat belt. We are both sore but improving daily. The scene had some comic elements (you have to look for the fun in things). Linda’s glassed went flying and we had to enlist a gaggle of firemen with flashlights to find them. I did not have my phone; A policeman offered his but without my contact list I could not recall any numbers (shock maybe played a role). Though I could not remember our daughter’s number I finally came up with our son’s. The policeman’s phone had its number blocked and our son thought I was a tele-marketer and hung up on me. When I called right back he thought maybe he should pick up. At my request he called his sister to tell her to pick up Declan who was being taken care of by a concerned youth pastor.

The rest of the week has been hot baths and marathon phone sessions with brokers, agents, adjusters, tow truck companies, and car rental firms.

We are praising God for his protection and for the good friends we have made who gave us rides and offered us vehicles. The current events in Ukraine demonstrate that we have little to feel sorry about in the grand scheme of things.

This year I have been reading a daily devotion “The Songs of Jesus” by Timothy Keller. It is a daily reading from Psalms with a commentary and a prayer. This has reaffirmed the wonderful treasury that is the book of Psalms. It is replete with records of setbacks but even fuller of praise to the God who is our Sanctuary and wondrous provider. As I watch the news of Ukraine the only place of solace and help is in the Lord, as I meet him in these Songs of Jesus. This was after all his Prayerbook and Hymnal. I encourage all of us who are speculating as to what you can do in such a time, to read and pray the Psalms alongside the day’s headlines. These very psalms inspired the life of the Prince of Peace and can do so for us, as well.

Saturday will mark the second week of our small group study of “Life’s Healing Choices.” We had a wonderful time of intimate sharing last week. Each of has agreed to pray daily for the others in our group and each has determined to find a person to debrief with each week through the study. These commitments both deepen and widen our fellowship.

What You Wish For

I have been thinking about the old warning “Be careful about what you wish for. You might get it!” Like most folks I have been longing for a ‘return to normal.’ Two years ago, my ministry changed drastically. Much of the ‘in person’ aspect of what was almost entirely an ‘in person’ style of ministry was put on hold. Now I find myself on the verge of ramping up again. I am involved in a several new ‘in person’ projects.

  1. A Men’s Breakfast, at Edith Ave. Church, which will initially be a 5-week program centred on the series “Finding Your way Back to God”. This will then morph into a monthly fellowship and evangelistic event. We plan to begin March 12th.
  2. We are starting a small group study of “Life’s Healing Choices.” Saturday evenings at Threshold House. This is the book on which Celebrate Recovery is based. Though this is an 8-week study we hope to continue with Saturday evening times of fellowship.
  3. We are planning to start a new Friday Night drop In at the Edith Avenue site. We will use our old Up Town model with its Word From Our Sponsor as a regular feature.
  4. We are planning for a ‘reboot’ of Shalom Saturday. This is a monthly Saturday morning through to lunch together time of discussion and healing.
  5. I intend to speak ‘in person’ to supporters and prospective supporters. This has been a sorely missed element of our ministry and has hampered our finance and support raising.
  6. We hope to host a series of Open House events at Threshold House .

All this planning is exciting, and it has been long awaited. I realize though that in these past two years I have strangely become two years older, and I am not at all sure that I have the energy for this. I realise that I need more collaborators. I am significantly closer to seventy than sixty and can no longer bulldoze my way through such activities. I am also keenly aware that I must equip others to carry on when frailty finally catches up with me. This idea of succession has begun to consume my thoughts and prayers. I sense that as I move forward into something approaching normal, I need to keep this idea at the forefront and look with expectancy for God’s provision for this need.

These are exciting times at Threshold. We are praying for God to bring us new residents for our community and for bonds of Christian love to abound in our burgeoning community.

Time Well Spent

If you looked in this space last week you did not see a new blog. My time was consumed with other things. I write most Friday mornings in order to stay in touch with friends amid supporters all across the country (and beyond). I see this as an important task each week because I so highly value these connections.

Here is a thumb nail sketch of what I did instead of write. Early in the day our daughter dropped off her two boys (the Laddybuck and the Wee Boyo) while she went off to work. School and daycare were not available that day.

So, I played two games of hockey in the basement with the Laddybuck. This involves choosing a team by selecting a hockey card from his stash (No looking, Grampa!) and then playing to seven, using miniature hockey sticks, all the while trying not to break any of Grandma’s knicks or knacks. We also played a rousing game of NHL Monopoly (apparently I won). We watched a Disney movie about a boy named Alexander who had a ‘no good day’ while eating popcorn.

I also was chased around the house by the Wee Boyo. He would crawl quickly around each corner and delight in spying me there. I confess I grew weary of the game long before he did.

I cooked us all a lunch of pancakes though we did not have the chocolate chips Declan likes in his pancakes.

After lunch Ronan and I were both worn out, so we put ourselves down for a nap. He slept much longer than I did, and it was in this period we watched the movie.

There were a few games of Yahtzee and three trips out to shovel the drive.

I do not want to give the impression that I did this alone. While I played with one Linda played fed or changed the other.

It was not my usual Friday of writing and I already miss it!

At Threshold House we have survived our first bout with actual covid as both the residents were down with it. They are both okay now and restrictions in New Brunswick have eased, so we will get back to our routine. The major project is to be in touch with guys who can use our ministry. There are a few applications out and we are awaiting those submissions.

We have a new project, a special Epiphany emphasis “Operation Light.” Threshold House was constructed as school and so the lighting is almost entirely florescent. The lighting is harsh and noisy. It is also not very energy efficient. Our Night Pastor Morris is an electrician, and he can change the light fixtures, but we expect initial costs to be approximately $3000.

Gentle Persuasion

This week during our church’s Wednesday Bible Study we were challenged to think about who we might invite to consider God and his Kingdom. It reminded me of the workshop “Gentle Persuasion” that I was a part of leading back in the ‘90s. It was “The Decade of Evangelism” which always seemed odd to me because the Great Commission had not been previously revoked. It seemed akin to Ford declaring “The Decade of Making Cars.” Nevertheless, we wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity and created several evangelism programs for that era. The most successful was “Gentle Persuasion.” During the decade hundreds of weekend workshops were held from coast to coast to coast, all across Canada. I was involved in so many that my young daughter lamented to me “Everyone I know has a full-time dad. How come I have a half-time Dad?” I was away too much!

We would end the workshop with a challenge in the form of a prayer.

“Lord, lay some soul upon my heart,

And love that soul through me,

That I may seek to do my part.

To bring that soul to Thee.”

We asked each participant to take a copy of this prayer and add it to their daily prayer life, and to do so with the expectation that Go would answer.

The so called “Decade of Evangelism” is long past but the call upon the Church (you and me and all followers of Jesus) to “make disciples” remains in force until Jesus triumphant Return. I still recommend this prayer that expects God to answer and provide an opportunity to participate with Him in effectively sharing the Good News of love and hope.

Here in New Brunswick, we are under strict covid restrictions. My ‘in person studies’ have returned to remote only. My plans to visit churches and parachurch groups have been thwarted again. Yet we know God is faithful!

I had a really nice chat with a reporter for ‘Faith Today’ magazine and I hope to see an article about Threshold House, in an upcoming issue. Renovations continue as we work to transform an institutional building into a home setting for our residents. One of the wonderful things we have done is get a Smart TV and get the guys hooked up with RightNow Media which offers hundreds of Bible studies by some world class teachers. I highly recommend RightNow to churches and groups. We access it through my local church’s subscription.

Some Epiphany Thoughts

Epiphany triggers some powerful memories for me. It was on the Day of Epiphany in 1967 that a bishop placed his hands on my head, at the behest of my local church, and set me apart for ministry. I have often looked back to that moment when life and ministry were challenging, and I would find encouragement to continue. In the darkest moments I would recall his irrevocable call on my life and that remembrance would ‘light the way.’

I remember another Epiphany, which I decided to spend in the Arctic. January 6th in Aklavik was among the shortest of days. It was then that I came to first realize my body’s need for light. While I went North to be an encouragement I found myself battling sadness in that dark. Even gloomy Toronto in January was a welcome relief upon my return. Today I take regular doses of vitamin D and type before a special lamp to fend off the effects of a dark winter. Through this experience I have developed a deep appreciation for light.

In the season of Epiphany, we celebrate that ‘Light’ has broken into a dark world. It is a ‘Light’ to lighten the gentiles! The ‘Light’ has a name. His name is Jesus!

I am as sensitive as a canary in a coal mine, to light deprivation, but I cannot imagine the spiritual consequences of living apart from the Light. This dark world needs the Light of the World.

I am reminded that Jesus says to his followers “You are the of the World.” Because we have the Light of Christ within us we are now to bear that Light to the world. “Let your light so shine before people that … they may glorify My father in Heaven.”

We have an opportunity in a world full of rage, darkness, and discouragement, to bear light. We have the opportunity to shine as the stars which stand out all the brighter because of the dark background.

So rather than bemoaning the darkness and its curse, I can decide to seize the opportunity rather than feel a victim of the dark.

We have a stark choice between partnering with the darkness or obediently shining for Jesus. The great news of the Gospel is that Light has come, and darkness can never conquer it!

These are some of my Epiphany thoughts.

A Most Cool Company!

This week we returned to in person Bible Study for the first time in over two years. With the opening of Threshold House, we wanted to make these studies an anchor in the discipleship/fellowship routine. The challenge was that after so many months of online studies we had grown a wide listenership. I did not want to abandon these folks or this ministry opportunity, so we simply record a 10–12-minute study talk with our in person gathering. After I say goodbye to the online people we continue in discussion and prayer in person. It has only been a week, but this seems to work well for all of us. I had so missed these interactions and the wonderful insights and questions of real people!

This week ended with  a look at Jesus teaching about prayer. The question arose because he was sharing his life with his disciples. Jesus did not broach the topic through a sermon series, but the question popped up because his disciples saw him praying and wanted to know about it. Community life provided the opportunity and down through the ages we are blessed because of that! This reminded me that it is important that I share life with our Threshold House folks and live in a way that stirs such holy curiosity.

Jesus picked up the opportunity and taught the model for prayer. I have often been approached by people, telling me they had problems with prayer. Further inquiry often reveals that the problem they have is that they do not pray! This is couched in phrases like “I find prayer hard.” Or “I have difficulty finding time to pray.” These are not obstacles to prayer but are rather excuses. I feel like saying “You do not have a prayer problem! You have an obedience problem” Not having an easy facility with prayer ought to be a subject of prayer not an excuse. If I do not know when to fit prayer into my life, it is a tremendous opportunity to ask God. James tells us that if we lack wisdom we should ask.

I may not be like David and have the tongue of a ready writer. I may not be a wordsmith like Shakespeare but that does not stop me from having conversations with my family. Eloquence is only eloquence because it is rare. God does not demand that of us.

After each study we spend time in prayer. We have begun to ask our online participants to share requests for which we can pray. The prayers that ascend are not lofty or profound. Our homely prayers are honest pleas that try to express our hearts desires. They are expressed in humble and ordinary words, and we feel the Lord’s delight in them. Through them we include the Trinity in our little community and our community swells from three to one that fills the universe. That is a very cool company!

Drop That Crutch!

He stood on the dusty pathway. In his hand his only possession. It was a hand carved crutch, fashioned years ago by his father. Besides, it being his lone property it held fond memories. Over the long years of constant use, it had worn smooth and fit his calloused hand perfectly. There in the ever-growing distance went the strange and wonderful man and his entourage. The words of the peculiar man with the loving eyes and compassionate touch, still rang in his ears  “Throw aside your crutch and walk in newness!” There he stood, frozen in a dilemma. All that was familiar and comfortable was at stake. Could he really toss it all aside for a ‘walk in newness’?

As I leave behind my story of the man on the dusty pathway, I realise that he is me, and perhaps you. Here on the final day of the year, I feel the Messiah’s call to lay aside my crutches. These things may even have served me in the past. They are familiar but they are now impediments to a ‘walk in newness.’

I am not overly fond of resolutions, but I have come to see the immense value of repentance. Repentance and renunciation are the necessary response to be prepared for newness. All too often I crave the newness that Jesus alone can give but while I long for that, I do not want change. This silly oxymoronic attitude leaves me stuck!

What may have once served a purpose for us needs to be examined afresh. Does my habit or attitude serve God’s purposes today? When my honest answer is no, I then must ask the Lord’s help to let it go, in order that I might take hold of the fresh blessings he offers.

Like a child whose hand is stuck in a cookie jar, I need to let go in order to go forward with God! Such is my determination this New Year.

I pray you too will know what it is to ‘walk in newness’ this year. Happy New Year!

We are beginning 2022 by moving Monday – Wednesday Bible Study to Threshold House. Over the last two years this study has been online, and I do not want to lose all the loyal participants who have been taking part. Our solution is that I will record the first 10 minutes or so of the study and say goodbye to that audience, then we will engage in ‘in person’ conversation and prayer with the residents of Threshold House. As you know we have two residents, and we have another application in process. It is a delight to once again be involved in face-to-face discipleship.

Lessons From a Fictional Uncle

Sometimes the best lessons are those learned at the School of Hard Knocks. Of those hard lessons our favourites are the ones we learn second hand. Such are the examples of my fictional Great Uncle Floyd.

Through his hard experiences I have come to appreciate the value of patient persistence. He is known by the title “Great Uncle Floyd the Almost Inventor.” If he had only persisted Great Uncle Floyd would be world renowned. He had many ‘almost inventions’ but stopped before success. He created WD- 1 through 39 before he left the lab to his now wealthy assistant. He invented cleansers Formula 1 through 408 and stopped. Formula 409 went on to make millions. He wrote a script for “100 Dalmatians”.

You get the idea. Great Uncle Floyd stopped just short of success. Each failure brought him that much closer to his goal had he only persisted.

Too often we can be tempted like Floyd to look at our failures solely as failures and not the pathway to the ultimate achievement.

The scriptures are replete with examples of colossal failures. The shorn Sampson, Peter weeping outside while Jesus was scourged or Peter sinking beneath the storm-tossed waves, Moses as he struck down the Egyptian, slippery Jacob as he conned his way through life, Abraham as he lied about his marriage to Sarah, Noah in his drunkenness, these all were pictures of humiliating failure. Yet each  persisted! Each failed forward. Though each failed they were not failures like Uncle Floyd.

I am determined to follow their example and avoid the fate of Uncle Floyd. Patience is a Fruit of the Spirit. God produces this fruit in the lives of the willing. We each have a bit of Floyd in us but through faith we can persist and become more than conquerors through Him who loves us.

There have been many times over the last few years when I was ready to ‘admit defeat.’ Had I done so we would not be celebrating our first Christmas as Christian Community at Threshold House. Persistence and patience combined with much prayer works. God is Good!

Thank you to all who walk this journey with me. Better days lie ahead for those who endure.

A blessed and merry Christmas to you all.