surprising welcome


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Echoes of Faith: Some Imagination Required




Echoes of Faith: Some Imagination Required C. Doug Blair, 2012

He was one of the first people Cliff Barker met upon his arrival. Pleasant looking young man. Probably about twenty-three with open smile and generous handshake.

"Mr. Barker, it's great to see you. I heard something about your coming and thought I would come down to check. Oh, pardon me; you probably don't recognize me. Last time we talked I was only nine. But I have remembered you all these years. My name is Peter Worthington."

'The Worthingtons,' Cliff thought to himself, 'Hadn't they been the ones who suffered a marriage break-up and moved away from the old neighbourhood at Cedar Street? And the stalwart boy, that summer...Peter.'

"You're absolutely right, Sir, I am that one you talked to in the school yard. I told you about my fears and my parents' arguing. You spoke to me about Jesus and his particular sympathy for children with problems. You made Him seem so real to me and you excused yourself to come back with a captivating small book on the Gospel. I didn't say much, but I took it home and read it and re-read and studied the pictures. A rich private prayer life was budding, and all because you cared.

Well, my hopes and prayers didn't stop the divorce. I ended up with Mom. I kept on praying for that and a bunch of other things. Five years later they agreed to take another try. God came through. That's when I became really convinced that I was meant for ministry."

"Pete, I can hardly believe what you're telling me. We had so little time to share, and then you were gone. Just that afternoon in the schoolyard and perhaps three other talks in the evening over that summer. I never felt the liberty to talk to your parents. I almost yielded to the temptation not to talk to someone else's kid about religion...And now to think, that you became a minister!"

"No Sir, I didn't get that far. The bus accident happened after second year. And I came here. But believe me, there has been great opportunity for service and ministry ever since. Excuse me now, I have another appointment. We'll talk another time. Funny, isn't it, up here, even thinking about the concept of time..."

Cliff had always expected that Heaven would be full of surprises just like this.

The Note

Frank had not had many days like this. Just six months into his new responsibilities at the firm, the announcement had hit like a thunder-clap. Regional Branch Office closing after the amalgamation. Talk of redundancy and streamlining. His entire workplace had two months.

To make matters worse Sandy had accepted a nursing tenure in Moncton and it looked like the end of their two and a half year relationship. She had been the one hinting at marriage. He had remained somewhat cool for too long. This was only his second serious commitment at age twenty-six. He had watched his parents' marriage fade away after thirty years. Mom remained at City Hall in the Planning Department. Dad for the last three years in Northern Alberta in geological exploration. And that after nineteen years as a University Prof.

The car lease expired in a month and there would either be re-financing or a hefty pay-out of excessive mileage. Student loans weren't going to go away for another four years, and doubtless there would have to be re-structuring in light of the lay-off.

He sat at his desk after-hours deciding what to start to take back to the apartment. He did not relish the next two months. A couple of possible contacts, but then no one was really being honest about business, local politicians, chamber of commerce. In the bottom left drawer under some performance reports he found that Book of Psalms which his sister had dropped off only two days before she left with her fiance for Northern Sudan. They were both para-medics with four years of all-purpose service in the big city, and they had decided upon a two year stint with a health agency in the refugee camps. A new country on the world scene. Many terrible stories of slavery and mayhem in the recent past. Both of them seeing an opportunity to manifest "Christ in shoe leather".

Terri had not been pushy with the Gospel these last three years since her "faith experience with Jesus". She knew that her brother had had a distasteful run-in with an on-campus fellowship. She had talked mostly about the prospects of her new assignment, the places she was likely to visit and the manner in which she would maintain communication. Her Mom was quite devastated by the decision, although there was possibly a new man in her life. Dad was effectively "gonzo".

The little Psalter had been given, and just as quickly buried at the bottom of that drawer. Frank smiled and opened it. He discovered a note on the last page not previously examined:

"Dear Frank: Take a look at these pages from time to time and realize that the writers experienced almost every human situation, good and bad. King David in particular knew how to talk with God, holding nothing back. God likes that kind of honesty. Things look pretty rosy for you at the firm, but life can never be a sure bet. Remember that Jesus shines through these Psalms, and also that He came through the very worst of treatment in victory (Psalm 69). He understands our condition. He will hear your honest prayers and go to work for you, making His presence known. He is love and He is God...Kisses...Terri."

As if by reflex Frank lifted up some simple requests for his sister and Clarke in that distant place of pain and hope.

But the Gospel Says Come

A peasant was talking over the back fence to his neighbour, "Wife and I were at market yesterday and saw her cousin from two shires over. He said that he had enjoyed a brief visit with the King, and it had not been all that bad. We talked this over on our way home. She really wants this. I guess I could cooperate...But he knows where I live, and presently I am very busy. He will have to come here wearing something appropriate to meet me in my field, and share my lunch at regular hour. If he is really all that good he will oblige, like any other decent neighbour."

The King never came.

In the Midst of Something Like Revival

Midweek evening service at Crosspoints. Beth in her stark white cast walking delicately to a front pew. Smiles and welcomes all around. Numbers significantly up. Keith taking a wooden stack-a-chair to a point one-third of the way down the centre aisle.

"Welcome friends to a week of bubbling, new considerations, hope...that Jesus might be honoured. I hear that you enjoyed your visit with the young pastor from Calvary Temple. That your curiosity is stirred. That this pastor could get out of the way for you to make glorious discoveries on your own. I am thankful.

On the way out you should take a copy of the list of suggestions for change being circulated. Right by the back centre door. Harry has a bunch of them.

Perhaps you have heard that things are being stirred at Craig's church. I have met with Todd Bushnell, back from vacation, and the two of us are considering how the assemblies might operate together in this period of new light. Apparently many living rooms have been opened for discussion and prayer. Many Bibles have been taken off the shelf. Friends and workmates, perhaps unacquainted with church, are now responding to the invitation to "come, see".

We are in a time of precious privilege. We will not manipulate it or hype it. We are stepping out of the way for movements of God. I am reminded of things which I have read concerning other revivals where pastors have left the pulpit, taken an obscure seat at the sidelines, prayed and let the people confess what God was doing.

Reports are coming in that right now, as we sit here together, marriages are being healed, parents and children are coming closer, bodies are being mended, abusive habits are being kicked, anxious inquirers are sitting down over coffee to hear the Good News. This is no exaggeration. We must respect this time and keep short accounts with God concerning our stumblings.

Right now if you have a word of good report, a striking piece of scripture, a prayer request, a comment on this move of refreshment in our midst, the microphone is yours. I believe that Beth, my wife-on-the-mend will start us off..."

For the entire story see the ebook Church on the Hoist at Stiff in Starched Sheets

Beth awoke with a yelp. What a horrible nightmare! She longed to reach over to Keith for a comforting hug. But no, she was in a hospital, remember?

The doctor had told her that the recent trauma might produce some crazy things in the sub-conscious. Not to mention the drugs for pain. She felt that she must present an odd picture. Upper body casts. Unsightly purple bruise on the left temple. Stitches at the eyebrow.

The young woman in the bed opposite had been trying to hide the fact that she was staring. From what Beth had gleaned, Crissy was in for a broken hip from a fall from a second story balcony. Standing on a chair to water some plants. Lost her balance, or so the official story went. Beth suspected that there was some other real scenario.

"Must have had a bad one, eh?" Crissy looked genuinely concerned, but conversation had been strained. In the two days of Beth's treatment thus far Crissy had had only one visitor, a boyfriend named Steve. He had brought her up-to-date on his employment search. Presumably they shared the apartment and things were strained financially. Her parents were out of province and had phoned twice offering small comfort.

"Yes Crissy I don't usually have nightmares. This one was a doozy