Thursday, December 24, 2009

"a Baby changes everything"

So, tonight at church they played this song by Faith Hill along with a video of scenes from the movie "The Nativity Story". It really spoke to me . . . just thinking about how much a babay really does change everything.

Merry Christmas! I pray that you are blessed as you celebrate the birth of our Savior. God came near! Immanuel!

Saturday, December 19, 2009


I've been thinking a lot lately about why we celebrate at this time of year. Why do we make such a big deal out of Christmas? Why is this time seen as so important? I know for many people Christmas is about gifts or time with family or numerous other things. But, what about for disciples of Christ? Why do we celebrate Christmas?

I mean, I've always known that we celebrate the birth of Christ this year and that it was important and life changing event. And I don't think I've come to any real new conclusions in all of this. But, I know that I have been struck anew with the significance of what did happen - of what we are celebrating.

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
-John 1:14, NIV (emphasis mine)
At Christmas is the time when we just simply stop remember that God came near. He didn't just stay up in heaven at a distance. He came to earth as a man and He changed the course of history. God came near to change the way we could come to Him! Jesus' birth was no little matter! It was the most significant birth in all of history!
God came near! And changed the course of history because of it!
That's why we celebrate Christmas. I think I needed to be reminded of the significance and simplicity of what we celebrate each year. What about you?

Monday, December 14, 2009

God doesn't have a blueprint for your life . . .

. . .

. . . but He does have a game plan.

OK, let me explain this one a bit more because I'm sure I've gotten a few of you a little upset in just a few words.

I am not saying that God does not have a plan for your life, but I am saying that sometimes I think we have a bit of a mixed up idea of what this plan looks like. I know I have at many points in my life.

Let's start with some definitions:

1. a process of photographic printing, used chiefly in copying architectural and mechanical drawings, which produces a white line on a blue background.
2. a print made by this process.
3. a detailed outline or plan of action: a blueprint for success.
–verb (used with object)
4. to make a blueprint of or for.

Pay particular attention to the third definition given for this word.

Game Plan
1. a carefully thought-out strategy or course of action, as in politics, business, or one's personal affairs.
2. Sports. the overall strategy of a team for winning a specific game.

The second definition for this word is the important one.

OK, now that we have the definitions out of the way let me see if I can explain what I mean by the statement: God doesn't have a blueprint for your life, but He does have a game plan.

I started thinking about this because of a book I read a couple of weeks ago. The book is called 10 Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe (Larry Osborne). It is all about what Osborne calls spiritual urban legends - those things we believe that sound right but in reality are not correct.

The idea that God doesn't have a blueprint, but rather a game plan, for your life was the focus of one of the chapters of the book. It's easy to get caught up in the thinking that God has a blueprint for our lives - a picture of exactly what things in our lives should look like. I know I hear this come up in many conversations as people talk about how there is one right person out there for them, or how they are waiting for the perfect job so won't take another one in the mean time because God cannot have meant for them to do that in His plan. This thinking that God has a blueprint for our lives is quite common in Christian circles.

But, thinking this way starts to make you wonder if you really dwell on the implications of this thinking:
-What happens then if someone doesn't wait for that one specific person? One person not waiting then has the potential to mess up hundreds or thousands of people for who they marry.
--What happens if the company you would work for to do that job would require you to be unethical in your reporting of some kind? If it goes against God's standards of right and wrong, you can be pretty sure God doesn't want you there.
-What happens if your dream job doesn't actually exist? Will you then spend your life living off of other people because you will only take the exactly perfect job because that must be God's will and you cannot imagine why He would ask you to do something other than that?

Those examples may sound a little crazy, but they are the implications of believing that God has a blueprint for your life. See, the biggest problem I have come to see with this kind of thinking is that with a blueprint you have to follow it exactly - there can be virtually no variance from it, at least not any significant variance. When you receive a blueprint for building a house from an architect you do not have a lot of choice about whether you follow it exactly or not. If you do not follow it exactly, the house you build will not be structurally sound and other unsafe situations could also exist. When we take this reality and apply it to our lives it does not work for those same reasons. With a blueprint for our lives there would not be much that could change and we would not really have the power to make any significant decisions they would all be pre-determined because to stray from the blueprint would have disastrous results.

Rather than thinking of God's plan for our lives as a blueprint, thinking of it as a game plan makes more sense. A game plan is a strategy for playing, and hopefully winning, a sports competition. Any team that wants to win when they play their opponents will have studied the way their opponents play and looked for weaknesses and strengths, and that team will have a game plan for how to defeat their opponent. The biggest difference from a blueprint is that a game plan has flexibility in it. Over the course of the competition, the game plan can be adjusted depending on what has happened. There is freedom to account for changes in how things happen and what needs to be done in response.

Take the scenarios from above and apply this thinking to them:
-If two people marry without determining if this is the one right person that God for them, then that's OK. God may have had a better person for one or both of them to marry, but there are other people for whom God can make a marriage be a wonderful thing.
-If the company you would work for in your dream job would require you to be unethical, then you would just go work somewhere else, and while it would not be your dream job, God would use you in that job.
-Even if your dream job did not exist you would still choose to do a job and look for ways outside of work to fulfill your passions and dreams.

There is a huge difference between seeing God's plan for you life as a blueprint and seeing it as a game plan. The blueprint allows no room for error, while the game plan allows for adjustment when the best choice may not always have been made in the first place. The more I have thought about this all, the more I have realized that looking at God's plan for my life as a game plan makes more sense - in light of the way things have gone in the past and in making decisions for the future.

God doesn't have a blueprint for your life, but He does have a game plan.

Since I cannot come up with a better way to close this blog off, I will close it with the way Osborne ended the chapter on this in his book.

"God, indeed, does have a plan for all of us. But it's a game plan with lots of freedom, not a blueprint with every detail spelled out. Our job is not so much to find something - it's to become someone - a reflection of his image and character no matter where we find ourselves." (10Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe, Larry Osborne, pg. 69)

Friday, December 4, 2009

snow, silence, & busy-ness

So, it snowed today. The first snowfall of the year . . . well, sort of, it did snow at the beginning of November one morning, but it was gone pretty much as fast as it came. I'm not a fan of most things to do with snow, but there is one thing about snow I like. We didn't get enough for it to be the case tonight or I'd be sitting on my deck with hot chocolate right now, not writing this.

My favorite thing about the first snowfall of the year is just to walk outside and see the world covered in white and silent. That first (significant) snowfall always seems to just silence the world around you for a while. It doesn't seem like there is anything happening around you. I love just enjoying that silence - the one time where it sounds like everything in our busy world stops - the noise stops, the running from one place to the next stops. At least, it seems like it stops for those first minutes or hours after a snowfall. It doesn't seem to last all that long . . . the silence . . . but it's there.

The first snowfall of the year always reminds me of the need to stop sometimes in our own busy lives - to take that time out to just stop and to silence the noise that makes up so much of our lives. In winter, the world stops creating new growth and takes a break. I think that is a good thing for us to consider in our own lives as well. We need to take time out to stop and to rest and to enjoy the silence. It's not something natural in our world, but it's so necessary. We need time to rejuvenate before the new growth of spring can begin in our lives, just as world needs winter before all the wonderful new growth of spring.

Seeing the snow today was good reminder of the need to make sure there are regular times of rest in my own life - whether those be longer times when I take a few days away from the busy-ness of my world and life or shorter times each day where I silence the noise of my world and cease the busy-ness for a time. Both are necessary. But I can easily get caught up in life and go for months without that happening, unless I'm intentional about making that happen - about scheduling time where I don't actually plan to do anything. It seems odd to say I have to schedule it, but, in reality, I would guess that is true for most of us. If we don't put those chunks of time on our schedule they never happen.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

God's presence instead of answers

So, sometimes when I sit down to write these posts at odd hours, I wonder if that's really the best time to try and write cohesive thought on something. But, then I realize that this is when I do most of my thinking so maybe it's the time when my brain is working best. Then again, it may also be the time when I ramble the most . . . or I may be short and to the point. Who knows? Maybe it's just because I am a night person that it seems like blog ideas come to me in the wee hours of the morning. Anyways, that is not the purpose of writing this . . . on to why I started to write this blog . . .

I read a quote earlier today as part of some study that really just struck me:
Sometimes we don't realize how real God is until we've experienced the
awesomeness of His answerless presence.
(Beth Moore)

There's some incredible depth there, and it's been something I've been thinking about all evening.

I wonder if the idea presented in it is somewhere you have been. I know it's somewhere I have been in the distant past and in the not-so-distant past. That place where we have hard questions about life and we go to God with them but, rather than getting the answer we are looking for, we experience God's presence in a way we haven't before or haven't in a while. We may not get the answer to our question, but we leave that time knowing without any doubt that God is real and that He is with us in the midst of whatever is causing us to ask those questions.

Sometimes in those times when we are asking the hard questions of life to God, we may feel like what we want is for God to somehow answer those questions - for Him to just explain the greater reasons for what happened, those things we cannot see. But, I think that sometimes God knows what we actually need is His presence, not His answers. We may be completely convinced we want answers - we want God to explain Himself to us. God knows better. He knows that in those times what we often need far more than answers is to know He is real and He is there.

We really just need to know He has not left us alone in the pain or sorrow that has brought on the questions. In those emotions we have convinced ourselves that if we could just get the answer from God about why He allowed it we would be satisfied. But, ultimately God knows that the answers will not satisfy us. The only thing that will satisfy us in the pain or sorrow is
knowing He is there and He is real.

Sometimes we don't realize how real God is until we've experienced the awesomeness of His answerless presence. (Beth Moore)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

a poem - again

"Believe Me, Child," said the Father,
"Even when life seems hard
and the challenges overwhelm.
You must learn to trust Me;
to trust that I know best."

"Believe You?" asked the child.
"How do I do that,
when life doesn't seem to make sense?
It's just so hard to trust
in Someone I cannot see."

"Believe Me, Child," said the Father,
"Even when life seems hard
and the challenges overwhelm.
I will never change;
I will never leave You alone."

"Believe You?" asked the child.
"How do I do that,
when life doesn't seem to make sense?
How do I believe You,
when you feel so far away?"

"Believe Me, Child," said the Father.
"You must make a choices,
and place your trust in me.
I know it won't be easy,
but be assured I will never change.
I will always be here;
I will not forsake you."

"Help me to believe You!" cried the Child.
"Even when life seems hard
and the challenges overwhelm,
I will choose to believe You -
that You will never change;
That You are always there.
I believe; help my unbelief."

Friday, November 20, 2009

nothing is too hard for God

Do you ever have those times when you struggle to believe whether God can really do what seems to need to be done in a situation? When you wonder if God really can do the miracle you are asking Him to do? When you wonder whether your request of Him is too much - too big? I would venture to guess that many of us have those times - and that they are more common than we would really care to admit.

Earlier this week, I was listening to some teaching at a Bible study I'm part of, when the teacher pointed us to a passage of Scripture in Jeremiah 32 that I know I've read before, but it had never really stuck with me. There was one verse in particular that really jumped off the page at me:
"Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power
and outstretched arm. Nothing it too hard for you."
(Jeremiah 32:17, NIV, emphasis mine)

I had to go back and read the rest of that passage later because when I first saw that verse on the page, it hit me so hard that I went back and reread it multiple times right then.

That was just exactly the reminder that I needed right then. There is nothing that is too difficult for God! Nothing! So, we can pray those big prayers and know that it is not asking too much of God. We can ask for miracles and know that God is able to perform them. There is nothing that is too hard for God to do it! I'd say that's pretty good news to be reminded of.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"you are being loved"

For the last few days I have had a song by the same title as this blog running through my head. It's a reminder that I need from time to time . . . that I am being loved by God . . . actively right now. I don't know if someone else needs to hear this right now, but I wanted to share the song with you.

You Are Being Loved - Steven Curtis Chapman

Saturday, October 31, 2009

a gap between our theology and our reality?

I've been thinking about this whole idea of there being a gap between our theology and our reality lately. One of the pastors at my church talked about it in a sermon recently and it's been in my head since then. I think because it's something I see and know can be there in my own life, and I think it is common in the lives of many followers of Christ.

How often do you find yourself thinking to yourself or saying to another person that you know something is true in your head, but you don't seem to believe it with how you live? I know I've been there a lot in my life. If you asked me about some things I could give you a lengthy list of Scriptures that talk about it and explain it to you clearly, but if you then move on to asking me how that works practically in my life I could have a problem, because there is a gap between my theology and my reality.

I would be the last one to discourage studying the Bible and theology and knowing what we believe and the Scripture that supports it. I love doing that kind of study. But, I'm beginning to see the huge danger that comes from doing all that study but stopping short of making the truth we learn through it a reality in our lives. God didn't intend for Scripture to just be something we gained head knowledge from; He intended for it to bring life-changing truth to us so that we would act on that truth. God doesn't want us to live with a gap between our theology and our reality. Our theology should impact our reality.

But, how do we do this? I could stop with my comments above and continue to leave a gap between our theology and our reality, but that's probably not going to fit too well with this blog. I feel like if I'm going to say that the gap shouldn't be there then I should get more practical too.

So, how do we close the gap between our theology and our reality? What does it look like?

To some degree this will look different for each person. But, I think the basics of it comes down to taking everything we learn and study about and asking ourselves the question: How does this apply to my life today, in the situations I'm in? What can I do to live this out? We need to finish our study with applying it to our lives.

In my own life recently, I have been studying faith and what it is and what it looks like. It's been a good study and it's been making me think a lot. It would be very easy to just study what the Bible says faith is and stop there, but that would leave a gap between my theology and my reality. Studying faith has been very relevant to things going on my life and the lives of some friends of mine., and I know there is a gap between what I could tell you about faith and what it looks like in my life. Closing this gap in my life during this study has meant that I don't just study faith, but that I make the choice each day to actually practice having faith in God. And for me, that means that I begin my day by declaring my faith, and I remind myself of it through out my day as situations come up where I'm tempted to doubt that God is there and has a plan. Rather than getting discouraged and deciding God doesn't care when it seems like something is going wrong, it means that I'm choosing to trust that God can still work through the situation for his good and to go to Him in prayer about it. It's not totally natural right now and definitely not always easy, but I know it's good.

So, where are the gaps between your theology and your reality? How can you take steps to close that gap?

reflecting on my time at Briercrest

So, last week I was back at Briercrest for the week. After over 4 years away it was interesting to be back in the community there. I was visiting my sister.

While I was there I took some time to just walk around the campus and the town and see what had changed and say hi to a few people I still knew who were around. As I walked down some of the familiar streets of the town and hallways of the school buildings I found many memories of the two years I spent as a student there coming flooding back. Those two years are filled with many really good memories of friends, classmates, dorm-mates, profs, classes I took that challenged me, chapels that encouraged me and spoke in to where I was at in life. Many of them things I had forgotten in the years since.

I know that my time at Briercrest was important to my life and my spiritual journey overall. But, until last week I had forgotten about many of the little things that have impacted the way I think or the way I do things. I'm beginning to think that sometimes it is those little things that are the most important. I may have forgotten in my day-to-day life about many of those little things, but when I do remember I realize they are what has impacted my life more than the big events that I remember.

Things like the friend who helped me to learn that sometimes it's OK to admit that you aren't "fine" when someone asks how things are going. Or the prof from a class who sees that you are not yourself that day and stops to ask what's going on and then through really listening and encouraging or challenging you, teaches you that they don't just say they care about their students, they really do care about them. And then, there's the roommates and close friends in the dorm who teach you how to live life with people authentically rather than putting up walls around those who aren't family.

Those seemingly little things in comparison to all the Bible, Theology, and other things I studied are what really influenced me during my time there. But, they're the easier ones to forget in some ways, because they just changed who I was. It's easier to remember the things I learned and that I use when I study the Bible with friends now. But it's the people who really changed me and helped me to grow, not the things I studied.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


So, it's the Thanksgiving weekend (or at least it is here in Canada), and it's gotten me thinking a bit about all that I have to be thankful for. There's so much. I, honestly, have been incredibly blessed. And I think I take most of it for granted a lot of the time - just by thinking so little of it as I go through life.

So, here's my list of just a few of things I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend:
-an amazing immediate family (parents and sisters)
-an extended family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc) who are great
-two absolutely wonderful roommates
-good friends
-one of the best jobs that I could possibly ask for
-the beautiful place in this world I get to call my hometown
-a great church family and opportunities to learn to use my gifts within that body

Just a few of many things that have come to mind this late at night (OK, I guess technically early in the morning, but I haven't gone to bed yet). Given time, I know there would be many more things I could add to that list. My guess is that your list would very quickly grow if you were to sit down and think about it for any length of time too.

Just by virtue of living here in Canada I have so much to appreciate and be thankful for. And I'm slowly learning not to just take it for granted all the time. Starting with this weekend and this blog entry - making a list of all those things and then taking time to thank God for all that He has blessed me with.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


I've been wrestling with some questions lately: Does God still perform miracles today? If He does, why does He only seem to answer some prayers for healing by miraculously healing people? How does God decide which prayers to answer by healing a person and which ones He won't answer that way?

Many times in the Gospels and the book of Acts there are records or Jesus performing miracles, or Jesus' disciples performing miracles, or people praying for miracles and God stepping in to perform them. Yet, in my own life and the lives of those around me, I'm not sure how many miracles I have actually seen, or how many prayers for healing I have seen answered. Is this because I'm not paying attention when they do happen? Is this because I discount things that some people would call miraculous? Do my prayers for God to intervene in something in a miraculous way just lack enough faith for God to respond by performing a miracle? Or do the lack of miracles just mean that God doesn't perform them today the way He did in Scripture?

I have to say that this blog is not even going to attempt to answer these questions. Right now, I'm just asking the questions and I feel like I'm rather far from having any kind of answers to these questions. And, I think that being willing to ask the hard questions is often the first step in coming to any kind of an answer. If we never ask the questions, we will never find the answers. Some of the answers to our questions may not come until we are in the presence of God, but that doesn't mean asking the question and allowing it to drive you to God in search of an answer is a bad thing.

salt and light

So, this past week the young adults group at my church started . . . a new year, with new ideas, and a new look. Much about how this group will look has changed since last spring when we finished for the year. While I'm usually not one to embrace change quickly or easily, I'm really excited about this year and where we're going. A focus on community and service, rather than just providing another "church service" option. This past week we talked about how sometimes our heads can get full of knowledge and keep growing, but because we never put action to what we study and learn our hands and feet, and ultimately our hearts, are very small.

It was something that challenged me to do a lot of thinking in the past week. I love to study and learn more, and there's really nothing wrong with that . . . as long as it translates into action at some point. But, I know I get caught in the trap of it stopping at my head - at being something that I know and can talk about quite intelligently - and I think that's the case for many other people too. We know it all - we can respond to challenges to our faith. But, we hide in our churches and with our Christian friends because it's safe. We don't have to put ourselves out there.

But, the more I think about it and read Scripture, the more I'm convinced that's not how Jesus calls us to live. Jesus calls us to actively help people, to actively engage in conversation with people. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus says this:
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it
be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out
and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be
hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put
it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way,
let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise
your Father in heaven." (Matt 5:13-16)

Jesus calls us to be salt and light in our world. If we're always hiding where it's safe, how much are we really being salt and light?

It's not even possible to shine light on the darkness in our world if we ever do is spend time with other people who are already living in the light. Our light does nothing than make that space a little brighter, but when we go into dark places with our light we can make a big difference.

It's also not possible for us to be salt to our world - to be people who bring a different flavour or way of looking at life - if just hide with other people who think and live like us. I wonder if sometimes when we never get out of our safe worlds we can get to the point of having too much knowledge and too much salt in one place, and it then becomes a detriment to us.

We need to get out and be the salt and light in our world that we are called to be.

I'm as guilty as the next person of hiding in my safe Christian world. My family and friends are Christians, I'm quite involved in my church, and I work for a Christian organization - all of those things make it quite possible for me to live in a world with only other Christians. But, I'm not so sure that this is a good thing for me . . . actually I know it's not. And, so I'm learning how to be intentional about developing relationships with the non-Christians in my world. People such as the couple that runs a cafe near my work where I often go for lunch or coffee, the people in my apartment building that I see regularly in the halls. Building these relationships takes a little of my time, but it's really no that hard to be friendly and smile when I see them and stop to talk rather than just rushing by all the time.

I think each of us, no matter what the world we find ourselves in the most looks like, have people to whom we can be salt and light. But, maybe, just maybe, it will require that we be willing to stop and actually see those people as people and take the few minutes at a time to start building a relationship with them. Being salt and light doesn't mean we just go up to people and preach the Gospel to them. It means we take time to build relationship and live the Gospel in front of them as we do so.

What about you? Who are the people in your life that you can be salt and light to? Your family? Your friends? Your co-workers? Your classmates? Your neighbours? What are the steps you can take to begin to build those relationships with them that will allow you to be salt and light in their world?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

thoughts on young adults and the church: part 3

So, a while ago I wrote a couple of posts on this topic, that you can find in the archives on the right-hand side of the page if you wish. This is not really a continuation of those posts though, but it does broach the same subject matter. This post comes from a book that I just finished reading. It was a challenging book at some points, but also encouraging. Part of what was so encouraging to me about the book was to read a section that, at least for me and some of the other young adults I know in the church, described the tension we live with. Especially having grown up in the church, I find myself caught in the midst of this.

The book is called Off-Road Disciplines: Spiritual Adventures for Missional Leaders by Earl Creps. I don't think I could do summarizing what he said justice, so permit to quote a larger section of a book than I normally would on here. In this section, Creps is speaking of Timothy, the young Christian church leader that Paul addressed 2 letters to in Scripture, and the challenges he would have having a Greek father and Jewish mother.

Timothy represents in some ways the younger leader of today who feels
caught between two worlds, one dominated by the more traditional expressions of
the Church (I'll call them the "Jews") and the other made up of the culture in
which they are natives (the "Greeks"). As a product of both, these modern
Timothys also attempt to navigate a morphing culture in which the only question
seems to be the nature of the next change. Yet the "Jewish" world of traditional
church that asks for the allegiance often seems so poorly suited for our highly
fluid environment that they cringe at the thought of giving their lives to it.
Many of these hybrid young people ask me privately, "Am I going crazy?" Or,
after meeting a few peers experiencing the same stresses, they say with obvious
relief, "I thought I was the only one!" (pg. 163)

They cherish their"Jewish" heritage of conservative spiritual values but
recognize that it now faces the challenge of the increasingly diverse, "Greek"
world of which they are also citizens. The mingling of both influences makes our
Timothys something like the the children of cross-cultural missionaries: third-culture people who bond both to their homeland and to their
adopted nation, creating a virtual citizenship that does not exactly represent
either. (pg.163)

I have been incredibly blessed to grow up in a church community that has allowed young adults freedom to do things in a way that works more for them while still being a part of and accountable to the larger community. And I have deeply appreciated that. But, even still, there have been times when I found myself feeling these same sentiments - as I struggle with wanting to be a part of reaching out to my world, balanced with a love and respect for those who are older and more traditional in how they view things and do things.

I would venture a guess that this section from this book describes the way many young adults have felt, and probably do feel, in their interactions with the church. I know when I read this section of the book it was like someone was reading my heart and mind on the matter at various points in my life. And, it was encouraging to me to read it in a book written by someone who is far beyond the young adult years, but "gets it". Then it made me grateful for the number of other followers of Christ in my life who don't fall into the category of young adults who also "get it." I can only pray that more people, both young adults and those who aren't, will "get it". I think that will make a huge difference in how the church (as in the whole body of believers, not just a specific building) moves forward together, rather than divided.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

disturb us Lord

I came across a prayer in some of my reading recently that really spoke to me and I want to share it with you. It really challenged.

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we ahve dreamed too little,
When we arrive safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to puch into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
(Sir Francis Drake)

Friday, September 11, 2009

tribute to Grandma & Grandpa S

I was doing some tidying up of files on my computer tonight when I came across a speech I wrote and a slide show I made for my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary a few years ago. It was cool to go back and read what I wrote and to watch the slide show again. What I wrote that I appreciated about my grandparents then is what I still appreciate about Grandma and Grandpa S today.

I've had a few people over the years who didn't understand why I would choose to spend 4 hours at a time on the golf course with my Grandma and Grandpa S. But, I loved spending that time with them - building a relationship with them. It was always an enjoyable time. And I feel that my life is so much richer because of the little things I learned from them either through something we talked about or watching how they handled things on the golf course. I always look forward to those times with my grandparents.

I have so many memories of spending time at their house growing up. They lived on the lake and so the beach was a huge draw to get us to come. But once we were there they were always so involved in whatever we doing - from building huge sand castles on the beach, to making sure all the air mattresses and tubes were blown up for us, to making projects in the shop, to playing with the train set, to baking buns together, to making roll kuchen, to having sleepovers. We spent many hours together.

And we always knew that they were there if our parents were out of town or were unable to pick us up if something happened at school. Oftentimes, it was way more fun for a sick day to fall on a day when Mom had other plans, because it was way more fun to stay home from school at Grandma and Grandpa's. Grandma S definitely spoiled us when we were at her house when we were sick. And, as we got older and Mom and Dad started to go away for weekends and leave us at home, it was always comforting to know that Grandma and Grandpa S were just a phone call away if we needed them for any reason.

I always felt extra special at band concerts and other school special events because I knew that oftentimes Grandma and Grandpa S were sitting in the audience as well as my parents. And I knew that they were just as proud of me for whatever I was doing as my parents were too.

Even now that I'm an adult little of this has changed in my mind. I still love spending time with Grandma and Grandpa S. I still look forward to being able to have conversations with them about so much of life. I still look forward to going to their house, even though they no longer live on the lake - I go because I enjoy them, the lake was always a bonus but it wasn't why I went over there. I may get kind of embarrassed when they start bragging about me to other people and I'm there, but deep down it makes me feel special and loved. It's been a couple of years since we have been able to golf together, and it's something that I really miss - that time with them was always special. But spending time with them now is still just as special.

Grandma and Grandpa S have been a huge part of my life and have played a very important role in my life. I appreciate that a lot. They are truly special people to me.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

trusting God even when questions are not answered

In the last month or so, since my friends lost their little boy, I've wrestled a lot with the whole idea of God being good. It really doesn't seem like a good God would let all that has happened for this family happen. When life doesn't seem fair it can be easy to begin to question how a good God could allow that to happen.

And, I'm discovering that sometimes the questions we ask in those times when things seem unfair because of suffering on this earth don't have an answer that we will understand on this earth. We can't open our Bibles and find an answer. We ask God and what we hear doesn't seem to really answer that question . . . because He's calling us to just trust Him anyways . . . to trust Him and believe Him even when it doesn't make sense. That's not an easy thing to do.

We want answers. We want to know "why" something happened. But sometimes we don't find out. And then we make the choice to trust God and believe Him and continue to follow Him even though we don't understand His reasons for what He allowed. We look back at times in the past when God has showed Himself good and worthy of our trust in the past and we move forward in the current time because of those times in the past, not because what is going on right now makes sense.

Almost a year ago now, another friend of mine from working at summer camp lost her husband in a freak accident and now this has happened just a month ago to more friends from camp. Neither situation seems fair from an earthly perspective. And I don't know that I'll ever totally understand either of them while I'm on this earth. I can't imagine being in the position of any of my friends who have gone through this. It seems almost impossible for think of what they are walking through. And yet, I also am amazed at how they have walked through this all. They haven't given up. They have persevered even when it would seem easier to just give up. And that's something that has made me realize that it is possible to trust God, to believe God is good, and to continue to follow Him even when all that is happening in life seems so unfair and their seem to be no answers to hard questions.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

messy community, the rich and the poor

Do you ever have those books that you start reading and they draw you in, but at the same time are filled with things that challenge you at every turn?

I just finished one of those kind of books. It's called The Twenty-Piece Shuffle by Greg Paul. The stories used in the book to make the points drew me in and kept me reading. They made things talked about in the book seem real. But, without those stories, I don't know that I would have finished the book because pretty much every chapter had something that challenged my own thinking or way of living - and sometimes those kinds of books can be hard to read because they make you uncomfortable.

Before I go on, for those who don't know, Greg Paul is the director of Sanctuary Ministries in Toronto - a ministry that reaches out to the street community in that city.

One of the big things that comes up continually in the book is the whole idea of community and our need for it. And not just the look of community . . . but authentic community. The kind that comes when you have no way to hide anything - as in the street community. No hiding behind a career; no hiding behind your position in society; no hiding behind nice clothes . . . just being who you are with no facades.

In one chapter he talks about a time when he was talking with some of the people in the street community and ended up sharing with some of them about the struggles in his own life. Struggles which were nothing in comparison to what the people he was sharing them with had gone through and were going through. He closes the chapter with these words:
I can't honestly say how much of an impact this had on their journeys, but I do
know that catching a glimpse of my weakness makes me more approachable to my
friends - any friends from any kind of society - than endless evidence of my
"invincibility." It opens me up to receive the care my bristling heart truly
needs but often keeps at a distance. Dismantling that myth is, for me, like
breaking down the walls of a prison I had built for myself, setting me free to
step out on the Way again - that Way which is itself the One who made himself so
gloriously, dangerously vulnerable on the cross. Each step is a step deeper into
the land where love dwells. (Greg Paul, The Twenty-Piece Shuffle, pg.

When I read this, I started thinking about how we operate in many of our churches or other Christian circles today. We don't often share our struggles. We have become too concerned about maintaining a certain image with others and so we don't admit our weaknesses or our struggles to anyone. We go on suffering in silence and feeling all alone. So people never get behind the image that we strive to portray to actually see the real us - the broken, messed up, hurting part of us that desperately needs to be known if it is ever going to be healed.

Of course, sharing these things with others requires a vulnerability on our part. We have to be willing to drop the masks, drop the facade, drop the image, and be real with people. It isn't easy, but it is valuable and necessary to our journeys as followers of Christ.

Greg Paul goes on to talk about community in action. What does that look like? How does it function? I like how he put it in his book, so I will share it with you:
We thought we wanted or needed to accomplish great things. Some of us have
discovered the peculiar, deadly emptiness of accomplishing much, only to
realize it means little. others have tried and failed so often that each failure
only confirms the awful suspicion that we are ourselves worthless, unlovely,
without hope. We are finding, though, as we prop each other up and stagger a few
yards closer to home, that as we move away from accomplishment (what we can do)
as the benchmark of our human value, we being to understand that embracing who
God created us to be (our essence) is the signpost we must look for on the
It means much when we keep out hearts fixed on our ultimate destination.
Our addictions, whether to success or crack cocaine, have a way of becoming ends
in themselves, leading us off the Way into endless mazes or dead-end alleys. We
forget, or never knew, where we are going. We wander aimlessly from one
unsatisfying experience to another.
My friends and I call each other back to the true path when we have gotten
distracted or lost. We remind each other to keep our heads up and eyes forward.
We pay attention both to the path we tread - this Jesus, who is the Way - and to
the glow on the horizon. For when we remember that we are going Home, that our
true destination is God himself, we are no longer wandering, but journeying.
(Greg Paul, The Twenty-Piece Shuffle, pg. 121)

The community described here is messy, but it's real. It's doing life together - the good and the bad - and that's going to be messy, but it's also essential for us to really live.

As I read this book, I was struck by the incredible lessons that the street community in our cities today can teach us. Sometimes, I wonder if our houses and toys and busy-ness keep us from something, that those who have none of those things survive by. Maybe the gap between the rich and the poor in our society, and around the world, is more detrimental than we know. In fact, that would be the conclusion that Greg Paul draws in his book - that the rich and the poor need each other. And we need to stop segregating ourselves and look to become one community together. The way that the final chapter of the book is finished draws this conclusion quite clearly and calls us to action.
God does command, over and over, those who are rich and powerful - the 1 or
2 percent of the world's population that includes the majority of us living in
first world nations - to engage with and care for our poorest "neighbors"
spiritually, materially, emotionally, and politically. So clear and consistent
is this message, so redolent with it is the life and teaching of Jesus, that it
must be said: A wealthy person who claims to follow Jesus and does not find
same way to share his or her life and material goods with people who are poor
has stumbled off the way.

We who are wealthy must take the initiative in this. The barriers
created by our material advantages preclude people who are poor from almost any
opportunity of doing so. What we will discover, as those barriers are destroyed,
is that the eternal life Jesus proclaimed flourishes best when people who are
rich and people who are poor commit themselves to each other. The immediate,
earthly benefit of the personal salvation in which we rejoice is progressively
unveiled when we engage in intimate, mutually supportive relationship with each
other and so discover that we "are being built together to become a dwelling in
which God lives by his Spirit" (Eph. 2:22) (Greg Paul, The Twenty-Piece
, pg. 217-218)

What does this look like in your life? I don't know. I can't tell you. I just want to challenge you to figure out what it looks like in your own life.

And, if you want to be challenged, pick up a copy of this book and read it for yourself.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I'm reading a book right now that has been challenging me with the importance of prayer in our churches. It's called Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala.

There was a quote that I stopped and read a few times and then just sat there thinking about it for a while. It's not something that is different or challenging. It was the truth in the statement that made me stop.

You can tell how popular a church is by who comes on Sunday morning.
You can tell how popular the pastor or evangelist is by who comes on Sunday night.
You can tell how popular Jesus is by who comes to the prayer meeting.

It was the last part that really caused me to stop. How many of us actually do get really excited and make it a priority to attend prayer meetings at our churches? Honestly?

We go to church on the weekends. We may even be involved in a mid-week ministry. But, when the church announces a prayer meeting how many people show up compared to other things? How many people make it a priority to be at any kind of a pre-service prayer time? Perhaps there is a large turnout, but I know from my own experience that it tends to be a pretty small group that turns out for these kind of things.

I didn't spend a lot of time on that though. I very quickly moved to a bit more personal side of it all. I started thinking about my own attitudes towards prayer meetings. And that's where my challenge tonight comes from - don't look at the larger church and stop there - make it personal.

What kind of a prayer life do you have?
When a prayer meeting of any kind is announced are you interested? Or do you tune it out right away?

Prayer is how we communicate with our God, but I think in many instances we don't give it as much thought and attention as we need to.

We easily say that we are praying for someone, but do we actually do so? Or do we forget about it as soon as we walk away from the conversation?

Jesus' teaching and other Scripture has much to say about prayer. I wonder if maybe we need to take more time to really get serious about prayer.

Friday, August 7, 2009

not just another binder

So, I just finished two days of attending the Leadership Summit. Two days, 9 sessions, 17 different speakers . . . can you say information overload?!?!? But two days that I know were worth my time, just as they were last year and the year before when I attended. With all the information and challenges that come at you over the course of Leadership Summit, there is no way to take it all in and apply it right away. It's one of those thing where you take notes and then over the coming weeks, months, and possibly years make some of it more practical and applicable to your life and your situation.

Usually, at this point, the evening ofter the conference is over I can't make out any life or leadership lessons I learned. But, since I heard him speak, I have had the speaker at the last session yesterday running through my head - particularly one part of what he had to say. One of the things he challenged us with is to not let this conference become just another binder on our bookshelf, but to actually put into practice and apply what we were hearing.

This guy, Harvey Carey, is a black preacher in Detroit in an under-resourced (by North American standards church), and he was passionate about what he was talking about. With all the resources that are at the disposal of many churches in North America (although the current economy is having an impact on that to a degree), it is easy to attend another conference just so that we have another binder to add to the shelf. And we get all these binders full of great stuff on our bookshelves, but it never goes any further than that.

It got me thinking, and challenged me. How many books, folders, binders, notebooks, etc do I have on my bookshelves that are full of great stuff from conferences I've attended and classes I've taken, that I've never actually really applied the stuff in them in my own life and leadership? I think it's far more than I would care to admit. I love to read good books. I love to listen to good speakers. But, I think I, like so many others, stop at that. I read the books and listen to the speakers, but I don't apply the stuff to my life. It stays as good stuff in my head and never affects my life.

Not that I expect to be able to perfectly apply everything I hear or read. I don't think that's what this guy was talking about either. But, I think what is important about what he said is that we need to take all of the incredible resources at our disposal and actually use them to their full potential. Not just add them to the bookshelf, but look for what we can apply to our lives and then actually apply it.

Like Leadership Summit . . . there's so much good information, teaching, and challenges that were thrown at me. And, at this point, it is a little overwhelming. But, I can't let that be an excuse to do nothing with it and just put the notebook on the shelf. I need to go through and take some things that I can use in my situation and begin to apply them in my situation.

So, how about you? Is your bookshelf full of binders from conferences that you've never applied anything to your life from? What's one thing you can start doing now from all that information?

Don't be afraid to start small. That's how it works. Take something small from all the information and start there. Then as times goes, do more small things from all those resources.

Just take advantage of the incredible amount of resources at your disposal.

Don't let them become just another binder on your bookshelf!!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

a poem

So, my church is doing a series on Psalms for the summer. It's been a good series. One of the things they have been encouraging the congregation to do is to write their own psalms. That's what this is . . . my psalm . . . coming out of some thoughts that have been going through my mind in recent days.

O Lord, you say you are good
and worthy of my trust.
But why, O Lord, do you allow
such troubles in this world?
A little life filled with pain and illness;
then taken from this earth -
Far too young to suffer so;
Much too young to die.

O Lord, you say you are good
and worthy of my trust.
But why, O Lord, do you allow
such troubles in this world?
A young father stops to help another
and is killed in an instant.
A young mother and children left behind.
He was much too young to die.

O Lord, you say you are good
and worthy of my trust.
But why, O Lord, do you allow
such troubles in this world?
Two young lives snuffed out –
Before they really began to live;
And yet, in their deaths,
They touch so many more.

O Lord, you say you are good
and worthy of my trust.
But why, O Lord, do you allow
such troubles in this world?
A young woman, been through so much;
life is finally looking normal.
And then the bad news comes:
the cancer has returned.

O Lord, you say you are good
and worthy of my trust.
But why, O Lord, do you allow
such troubles in this world?
A car accident - the car is totalled;
they should both be dead.
Your angels sure protected them,
for out they climb uninjured.

O Lord, you say you are good
and worthy of my trust.
But why, O Lord, do you allow
such troubles in this world?
Why are some saved,
while others seems to suffer so?
Why do you answer prayers to heal
for some, but not for others?

O Lord, you say you are good
and worthy of my trust.
But why, O Lord, do you allow
such troubles in this world?
Your reasons I may not understand;
My questions not be answered -
Yet I will choose to believe
that you, O Lord are good
and worthy of my trust.

So, that's it. My psalm. Nothing more to say.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

sometimes life isn't fair

Sometimes things happen in life that make you really think. One of those things happened to me today. The son of some friends of mine died . . . at about 2 - 1/2 years old. Now, up to this point life had not been easy for this little boy, with much of his life to date spent in Children's Hospital. But, it still just doesn't seem right when a little boy is gone - long before anyone would say that his time on earth should have been over. The huge positive is that his suffering is over, but it also means that his parents are mourning the loss of a little boy they deeply loved.

When I think about it, it doesn't seem fair. After all this family has been through in the last few years, losing their little boy just seems so unfair. Have they not suffered enough already? But, at the same time, maybe in some ways it fair to the little boy. He had been through so much more in his short life span than some of us will go through in our much longer lifetimes.

God doesn't promise that life will be fair while we are on this earth. He promises that He will be with us in the midst of life on this earth - in both the good and the bad. But, still our first question when something like this happens is "why" as we tell God that it isn't fair that this happened. It makes me wonder whether our definition of what is fair is the same as God's. He has en eternal perspective on things - we don't. He knows the greater good that can be brought out every situation - we don't at the time.

And, He understands the whole idea of life not being fair so much better than we ever can. I mean, the ultimate unfairness was Jesus going to the cross to die for our sins. So, maybe in situations like this God understands us far more than we think. And maybe we can place confidence in the fact that our God, Who promises to be with us through all of life, does also understand the feelings of life being unfair sometimes.

Life isn't fair. God is with us through it all.

Maybe that sounds a bit trite and a little bit like a "Christianese" thing to say. But there also is a lot of truth in those statements, and that is something to cling to in the midst of the questions that come in a time like this.

Monday, July 27, 2009

just an amusing phrase i saw on a sign

So, no reason to post except that I saw something on a church sign as I was driving past that I found amusing. This church sign sometimes makes me laugh, sometimes make me think, sometimes make me wonder . . .

For your enjoyment . . .

Laying in bed yelling "oh God" is not the same as going to church

I'm not going to debate the merits of the sign or anything of the sort. It just made me smile when I read it, so I thought I would share. That is all for today.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

religion of niceness?

A friend gave me a book a while ago that I've just got around to starting to read in the last week or so. It's definitely a good book - a challenging one too. The book is Jesus Mean & Wild: The Unexpected Love of an Untamable God by Mark Galli. The title definitely grabbed my attention when I saw it.

The book is based off of the parts of Mark's Gospel that we so often like to just skim over when we read or study it. This book takes a look at the times when Jesus said or did things that were hard and may have offended people. We so often look at the loving, compassionate side of Jesus that I think we sometimes get this picture of Jesus as a meek, mild, quiet, crowd-pleasing person, when in reality Jesus was anything but. Jesus called people to love their enemies, to give up everything (including their families) to follow Him. Jesus called the religious leaders of His day on their hypocrisy. Jesus fashioned a whip and cleared the Temple of vendors and money changers in anger. These aren't the things that we like to focus on, but they are just as much a part of Jesus as the loving side. We need both.

There was a section in one of the chapters that really got me thinking, and unfortunately, realizing how true it can be of those who claim to follow Christ today. The book puts it better than me, so I will just quote it.

Today we are adherents of the Religion of Niceness. In this religion, God is a benevolent grandfather who winks at human mistakes, and it goes without saying that he always understands - after all, it is human to err, divine to forgive.
Christians are often fascinated with the Religion of Niceness because it appears to champion biblical virtues such as humility, forgiveness, and mercy. This religion so permeates our consciousness that when we hear someone quote the second Great Commandment, the epitome of Christian ethics, we tend to hear: "Be nice to your neighbor, as you would have your neighbor be nice to you." (Jesus Mean & Wild, Mark Galli, pg. 62-63)

I have seen this play out many times, and in many situations in my life.

It is the easy way to operate - the easy way to live. But, our being nice for the sake of being nice all the time, is not what we are to do. There times when "being nice" is probably the last thing the people we are being nice to need us to do. There are times when we may need to say things that aren't nice for the good of others. A little later, Galli says, "Simply put, when Jesus is not nice, he's trying to get people to do the right thing." Sometimes we need to say things to one another that aren't nice in order to help them get back on the right track.

Galli closes the chapter of the book on this with the following that I think it is also important that we remember.

Two qualifications are in order. First, most circumstances call us to be civil, courteous, patient - nice. We're not going to get much of a hearing for the Good News if we are rude and uncivil. While we need some prophetic, even angry, voices, to remind us of sin and injustice sometimes, we also need those who call for civil and patient conversation. Niceness may not be a synonym for love, but it is the usual (if not the only) way that love is expressed.
In addition, we must note that more is at stake than behavior modification.
. . .
Jesus was a sharp judge of character, and he employed anger even when he was aware that it wasn't going to do any good. Why? Because sometimes the most honest and truthful response to foolishness or evil is anger. Jesus couldn't have integrity if he was indifferent. The person who is always nice, always decorous, always even-keeled is likely a person who ultimately does not care about what God cares about. (pg. 69)

Just some of the things I'm thinking about these days: Have I been caught up in the "religion of niceness"? Am I willing to speak up when it is appropriate to do in a way that may not be nice? Or do I keep quiet because I want to be nice, even when it may be to the detriment of someone else?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

when life goes crazy

So just over 24 hours ago life in my area has gone a little crazy. Just before 3pm yesterday afternoon a forest fire broke out just across the lake from Kelowna - near the area where I grew up. Friends and the family of one of my roommates were evacuated shortly after that, as the fire was very near to a heavily residential area. In the next few hours, the fire jumped the highway and began threatening more homes as it continued to grow. Then later in the evening another forest fire broke out in an area not to far from the first one, prompting more evacuations and danger to more homes in another residential area.

The response from people has been incredible - offers of places to stay for people and for pets, help with necessities that were left behind, etc. It's only been 5 years since the last time this happened on the Kelowna side of the lake, so the memories are still fresh. And this area is once again showing its community spirit and pulling together to help people. It's inspiring to see! Even in our normally individualistic culture, people still rally to help when people are in need.

Watching this happen from the other side of the lake and knowing there is little I can do to help friends affected by this is hard. There are some people who I care about who are facing some major fears right now. But, as I hear from them, I'm amazed at their strength in it all. They are standing and trusting God - and while they worry for their material possessions left behind, they are glad to have all the people they care about with them. There is an incredible strength that comes from their choosing to walk the journey of this life with God, and to trust Him even when life seems to be going totally and completely wrong.

As I watch the way a community is pulling together to help, I wonder why it takes a disaster like this for people to be moved to this kind of action. I wonder why we can't be people who help in the little ways when we meet people in need each day. Why do we wait for lives and homes to be threatened with destruction before we offer of ourselves to help others? Sure, the needs are maybe more obvious now than they are at other times, but why do we always wait? Just some questions going through my head right now.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Jesus loves me

Don't we all need the reminder of the simple truth of the song we usually think of as a children's song: Jesus Loves Me.

Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong

Yes, Jesus loves me
Oh, yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
For the Bible tells me so

Jesus loves me! He who died
Heaven's gates to open wide
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in

Yes, Jesus loves me
Oh, yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
For the Bible tells me so

Jesus loves me; He will stay
Close beside me all the way
He's prepared a home for me
And someday His face I'll see

Yes, Jesus loves me
Oh, yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
For the Bible tells me so

As I stopped to really think about those simple, yet weighty, words today, I was overwhelmed by the incredibleness (OK, my spell-checker says that's not a word, but I don't care) of Jesus' love for each of us.

Maybe, like me, you are somebody who enjoys listening to things like this as you stop to think about it. Here's a recording of it I found on youtube to listen to.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

the church (part 2)

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about the church that you can find here. This post is sort of a continuation of that one, sort of not . . . and quite possibly may not have too much different from that post to say. ;)

I had lunch with a friend today and we ended up getting into a conversation about this church - in general not any one church in particular (Side note: This is not a conversation to get into when you have a time limit if you are both passionate about it. Needless to say we lost track of the time and I took a little longer lunch than I usually do and ended up working late because of it. Oops! Okay, back to the blog now . . .) As we were talking, I realized that I am a lot more passionate about the church than I thought.

I will not deny that there are serious problems with the institution of the church, but I do not agree with those who see walking away from the church as a solution to those problems. I think that just adds to the problems instead. I honestly wonder if some of our problems come from how much we have institutionalized something that was never meant to be an institution.

Ultimately, the church should happen any time believers gather together in community. I think, especially int he West, our abundance of resources to own land and a building and pay staff, has cause us to see the church as a place to go for singing and a sermon on the weekend, and maybe during the week for a Bible study or service targeted to a specific group of people. We have lost sight of the fact that the "church" can and should be happening anywhere believers gather together in community.

But, all that being said, I still feel that there is a definite need for the institution that we call the church. There is a need for their to be a place where people of different generations gather together to learn and grow and serve. There is value in having someone preach the Word and hearing that regularly - to help us grow and challenge us in our lives. There is value in corporate worship - to bring the people of God together to bring glory and praise to His name. There is value int here being a place where the limited resources of individuals are brought together and used in a greater way than would have been possible individually.

Are there things the church, as an institution, does poorly? Yes. Are there things that may need changing moving forward? Absolutely. But, if we want that change, then we must work to make those changes. Walking away does nothing to bring change.

Yes, it may be frustrating sometimes and you may feel like no one is listening. But, I believe our task in those times is to go to God in prayer and seek His face, and keeping making our stand and talking about it. If we just shut up and walk away, we will never make a difference. And if we do not pray and seek God in it, we run a huge risk of making things worse, rather than better, with our calling and working for change in the church.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


So, it's been a while since I've written . . . and I have no set idea of where I'm going with this blog. I wasn't even sure I was going to write anything and then felt like I maybe should, although I'm not sure about what.

Sometimes it amazes me how people hold if together and move on after things that I don't think I could make it through. I think of people like friends of mine who had their first child - their son - spend the first year and a bit of his life in a children's hospital, on more than one occasion not being sure if he would make it. And yet, they keep going . . . and now a little over two years later have their son home, but with a life that we would call anything but "normal". But, you can still hear the joy of following God and their trust in Him when you talk to them.

Or people like another friend of mine who lost her husband in a tragic accident just 10 short months ago. She was pregnant with their second son at the time, and is now raising two young boys without their father. And yet, she keeps going. She's not afraid to admit that it's hard some days, but she keeps trusting God and following Him . . . and makes it through one day at a time.

In both of these situations, these were people who I had the incredible privilege of working with at summer camp a number of years ago and then attending Bible college with them. I had a feeling at the time that there was something about these people that was pretty cool. And I think I'm seeing what that is now. The way they have all kept going, kept trusting, kept serving, kept loving through all the tough stuff in their lives inspires me. I consider myself privileged to call them friends. Their perseverance through the tough times has encouraged me many times that with God on my side I can make it through anything, no matter how impossible it seems to my human mind.

James 1:2-4 is a verse I have heard lots, but I really like the way the New Century Version (NCV) puts it:
"My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles, you should be
full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will
give you patience. Let your patience show itself perfectly in what you do. Then
you will be perfect and complete and will have everything you need."

I have often wondered how exactly you consider it joy to face trouble in life, and I'm still not sure I completely understand it, but I do wonder if through these friends I have been allowed to get a bit of a better understanding of how you do. Watching them walk through their own troubles, and walking beside them as much as I can when we don't live in the same city, I really do feel that I have seen an example of people who persevere through trials in life because of the hope they have for what is to come. I pray that should I find myself in situations like the ones they have found themselves in, I too would be able to persevere and to find joy in the midst of it all. I pray that for you who read this as well.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


So, I'm one of those people who collects quotes that strike me as cool or thought-provoking or interesting. Maybe I'm a bit strange because I have this file on my computer that I put them all in so I can find them later . . . but it's getting a little large so I miss some good ones. Anyways, in some reading I was doing recently, I came across a quote that made me think.

Many of those who think they are dissatisfied with Christianity are really dissatisfied with something else - their own grasp of Christianity. For most of us, we have scraped the surface and nothing more, yet we mistakenly believe our superficial encounter represents the gospel in its totality. (Alister McGrath)

As I've been thinking about this for the last few days, I've really begun to dwell on the truth in this. There is so much to learn and discover and encounter as a follower of Christ, yet we so often get to a certain point in our journeys and just stop there. We don't keep learning and growing, and then we get bored. And we wonder why?

I wonder if maybe in those times when we feel ourselves starting to get bored in our walk with Christ we need to be intentional about doing something or getting involved in something that will stretch our understanding - that will help us to grow. We don't have to stay where we are. We don't have to become dissatisfied with the small bit of Christianity we understand. There is so much to learn and begin to understand that we can be kept busy and satisfied and learning and growing for all of our lives.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

why do we allow a defeated foe so much power in our life?

So the question in my head for the last while has been this:
Why do we allow Satan, an already defeated foe, so much power in our lives?
It came up in a sermon at church and in a couple of other places. And, of course, me being me, hasn't stopped thinking about.
And in that process, I've realized how much power we, as disciples of Christ, allow Satan to have in our lives. Jesus' death on the cross and resurrection defeated Satan! Satan knows that his time on earth is limited, as is his power, so he uses every possible means to try to defeat us. And we let him defeat us. But, the truth of the matter is that he is already defeated!!! We do not have to allow him any power. And we have the power on our side to defeat him in our own lives as well.
I read a quote the other day that put this all in perspective for me:
We may be at war with a very powerful enemy, but we who are in Christ are at
peace with a far more powerful God.
Isn't that Good News?!?!? Yes, Satan may be powerful, but Christ is even more powerful!!!
We may not be able to defeat Satan by our own strength and power, but we have a power within us that can defeat Satan. We do not have to live in the defeat he desires for us to live in! We are free!
But, when we have allowed Satan to have so much power and control in our lives for so long, how do we change this? How do we stop believing his lies and start believing the truth? It starts with knowing the truth. We need to go to God and His Word with the lies that Satan tells us and learn the truth to defeat those lies. When we declare the truth of God's Word (out loud) to Satan and his lies, he flees from us. This is what Scripture is talking about in James 5 where it talks about resisting the devil and him fleeing from us. When we refuse to allow Satan's lies to work because we know the truth, Satan flees.
Is this always easy? No. But, I promise it's worth it. As we learn the lies that Satan uses against us and then learn the truth that defeats those lies and then use that truth the next time Satan comes against us we will begin to experience, at least in small doses, the freedom that God desires for us to live in. God does not want us to live in defeat! He wants us to live in freedom and victory! And He offers it to us!
We serve a powerful God. Satan is defeated and we do not have to allow him to have power in our lives.
Why do we allow Satan, an already defeated foe, so much power in our lives?
Maybe because we've forgotten the truth contained in this simple statement:
We may be at war with a very powerful enemy, but we who are in Christ are at peace with a far more powerful God.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Mentoring . . . not something that I heard talked about a lot in my life until this past year or so. And when I did hear about it, it was something I always just assumed was for those people who didn't have good relationships with a solid Christian family. Then I started a leadership development course through my church this year and there was an emphasis on mentoring - both in that we were strongly encouraged to have a mentor and that we spent a number of weeks discussing the idea.

When I was first presented with the idea of having a mentor, I could give a whole list of reasons why I didn't need one:
  • I can talk to my mom about pretty much anything
  • I'm a private person and I share details of my life with only a select few people
  • I've grown up in the church and I seem to do a pretty good job at figuring things out on my own, so I won't have much to share or talk about with a mentor
But, for some reason, I found myself talking with another friend in the program who had someone in mind who could possibly be a good mentor for me, and when she offered to put us in touch with one another I said yes. Then I almost made myself late the first time we were to meet just to talk and see if we wanted to go forward from there with this whole mentoring thing, because I was second guessing my decision.

Well, after that initial meeting where we really did seem to connect in a cool way, we did decide to continue meeting and it became something that I actually did look forward to. As much as I have a great relationship with my mom and can (and do) talk to her about pretty much everything, ti was good to have someone outside of my family that I could talk to about stuff that came up and about what I was learning. All of my previous excuses for not having a mentor were thrown out pretty quickly. And, honestly, as good a relationship as I have with my mom, there are times when she says something and I don't really listen (OK, now that I've just admitted that to her since I know she reads these things), but when someone whose not family whose input and wisdom in your life you have come to appreciate says the same thing, you listen and take it a bit more seriously.

And so now I sit here, knowing the value of a mentor, and I'm writing this story of my journey with mentoring in the past year, because I think a mentor is something we all need in our lives. It may be in a more formal mentoring relationship, or it may be a more casual thing, but I think every person needs mentors in their lives . . . and needs to be mentoring others as well. You don't have to be some really wise person to be a mentor, you just have to be someone who with a little more life experience who is willing to walk alongside someone else. And when you're looking for a mentor . . . the person should be someone who you can see yourself being comfortable to share with and who you respect.

One last thing I've learned about mentoring . . . you have to ask! If you are looking for a mentor, don't be afraid to ask. That's the way most mentoring relationships happen . . . the person looking for a mentor asks someone if they would be willing to mentor them. It takes guts to do that, but it's worth it! It goes the other way too - sometimes someone may approach you and ask if they can mentor you. But, I'm seeing that most often it is the other way around - the person who is looking for a mentor does the asking.

So, who are your mentors? Currently? In the past?
Who are you mentoring? Who have you mentored?

Remember, there's no formula for mentoring. It's a relationship. And it may get messy at times, but it's worth it.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

out of our element and into His

"Until He has us out of our element - and into His - we will never see His glory. We will always be deaf to what He was trying to say."

I was challenged when I read this quote . . . and even more so as I thought back through my life into the times when God did teach me something significant. I can see it in my own life, and have heard friends say similar things, the times when I have really grown and listened to God have been the times when I have been taken out of what is comfortable to me and put into the place where God wanted me. Regardless of whether I thought this was what I wanted at the time, I can look back now and see that it was what God wanted, and it was time of growth in my life . . . and ultimately, it was preparation for what was to come in the future.

Think about it, when we're in the place that we're comfortable in and life is going on as normal it can become quite easy to just go through life, and God becomes nothing more than just a part of our lives, whether we do that intentionally or not. But, when God comes along and makes it clear that He has something to teach us by changing something - either by a move, a job change, or some other circumstance - we are all of a sudden listening pretty carefully. No longer is life that same "normal" that it was and we want to know why, so we listen.

I think we also often resist when God tries to change things to move us out of our element and into His. We've grown comfortable where we're at and we really don't want something to change it. But, we need to be willing in these times to allow God to move us so that we can experience what He has for us.

"Until He has us out our element - and into His - we will never see His glory. We will always be deaf to what He was trying to say."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

hmm... not sure what to call this one

So, the other day I came across a link to a YouTube video on a friend's blog. I found it quite amusing when I watched it and thought about posting it right away . . . but held off because it could also be something that people find offensive, not because of content but because of the approach to the topic. After watching it a few more times, I have decided to post it . . . with a disclaimer.

Disclaimer: This video is a satirical look at CCM (Contemporary Christian Music). It has taken the song by Nickelback that is a parody of the life of a rock star and made it about the life of a CCM artist. While there are lines in this song that made me think, I want to be clear that this is not the way I think about all of this. In my opinion, it is a good laugh that also leaves one thinking.

I do honestly hope you enjoyed that video if you took the time to watch it. And that you weren't offended by it in any way.

There are some lines from it that have made m think and they may become the subject of a blog post in the future . . . but we'll see about that.

Note: If you are curious to know more about the song, you can click on the YouTube logo in the right hand corner to go to the video on You Tube. On the right hand side of that screen, you'll see an option for "more information" and clicking on that will give you the explanation from the creator of this video.

Monday, May 25, 2009

the authority of Scripture

I was reading in 2 Timothy earlier today and just stopped on a passage that is well known to many people, but I started thinking about it seriously today.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says:
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

I started wondering whether we actually believe that in the church today. And, then, if we do believe it, do we live like we do.

I think we do believe this - we believe that all Scripture is from God and that it is useful. But, I'm not sure we always live that out. We can say it and we do say it often, but too many times our actions don't line up with what we say.

Think about it for a moment. If ALL of Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, why do we seem to pick certain parts of it that we will do our best to make a reality in our lives and ignore other parts? I know that as fallen humanity we will never be able to perfectly live it, but should we not at least be applying all parts equally to our lives.

If we are going to tell other Christians that they should not be judging others, should we not also be loving our enemies and those who seek to do us harm? If we are going to say that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, should we not also be following Jesus' example of being a servant to all? If we are going to listen to Jesus' teaching on how to pray, should we not also be taking the Great Commission - the command to take the message of the Gospel to the world - seriously and not just leaving that task to a special few who are called to be missionaries?

I wonder how we have made these distinctions. And I don't think we have done this on purpose. Some of them just sound and seem easier than others. But, if all Scripture is God-breathed, then it is all just as important.

Friday, May 15, 2009

the influence of others in our lives

So, I have apparently been in a bit of a reflective mood the last while. First with the Tribute to my Mom. And now an article I read on a website I frequent has me thinking about some of the people who had an influence on my life when I went to summer camp as a kid. So, let the reflecting continue . . .

I have many memories of summer camp and the fun that I had (at least most of the time). I remember games, activities, skills, crazy skits, crafts, all other kind of fun . . . but what I remember most are some of the counsellors I had in my cabins. They were very often the people who made that week at camp each summer so good. They always seemed to know just when to have fun and act crazy, and when to be serious. And I didn't doubt that they were glad I was there that week.

Over nine summers as a camper, I had a few different counsellors, or cabin leaders as they were called in the later years of my time at camp. Some of them I remember more than others. I considered it a privilege to have been camp staff for a summer with some of them when I became too old to go to camp and was on staff for three summers. It was the amazing cabin leaders I had when I was a camper that made me want to be camp staff myself and showed me the kind of cabin leader I wanted to be when I was one. And, working as camp staff for a few summers also gave me a new appreciation for the love they had shown me when I was a camper. It's a tiring job to be camp staff . . . but also rewarding to see campers grow over the years they return or when you run into them in years after camp and hear a bit about their lives since camp.

As I've thought more about this, I've realized that all through-out our lives we meet people and interact with them for short periods, or longer times, and they can have a huge impact on our lives. We may not even realize it at the time. It may take us years to truly recognize the influence they had on our lives - whether good or bad. And I guess that means we have that same kind of influence on the lives of those we interact with.

What kind of an influence are we having on people? Depending on the situation, the amount of influence we have on others may change, but we have influence on people. What kind of influence do we want to have? Who are the people who you are glad have been in your life - either in the past, or who are in your life now? What kind of influence are you having on people in your life now?

These are just some of the questions that are running through my head right now as I reflect on some of the camp counsellors I was privileged to have in my years as a camper. They may never know the impact they made, but they made one. And we have that same ability in our lives today.

Monday, May 11, 2009

the church

So, I'm on a bit of a roll tonight . . . second post . . . relating to the same book . . .
OK, so I just finished reading the book Simply Christian by N.T. Wright. It was a good read - not always an easy one, but good nonetheless (as may be evidenced by my feeling the need to use it in two posts in one night).

In the past while I've been wondering if we really understand what the church is supposed to be all about - if we really understand why it exists. In our consumeristic culture, we seem to have gotten caught up in the whole idea of just looking for what the church has to offer us, and maybe in the process, we have missed some of what church is really supposed to be.

The Bible makes it clear that the church is the Body of Christ, which would imply that we are to do more than just receive from it. The church is to be a community of believers who serve one another and the world around them. At least that's how I've always thought of it. Once again, I appreciated much what Wright had to say about this in his book Simply Christian.

"One central biblical way of saying much the same thing is to follow Paul and think of the church as the 'Body of Christ,' the single body in which every individual, and every local community is a limb or an organ. 'The body' is more than merely an image of unity-in-diversity; it's a way of saying that the church is called to do the work of Christ, to be the means of his action in and for the world. The tree, rooted in ancient Israel, standing straight up in Jesus, branching out with life in all directions, is to be the means of implementing his work, of making his achievement real in all the world.: (pg. 201)

If every person, every local community, is an organ or limb in the body, then it becomes pretty obvious that we need one another - that we need the support of community. But, the community is there, so that we go about the mission that Christ left us in this world. Namely that of bringing His Kingdom in the here and now, not of getting people saved so that they go to heaven when they die. The message we have been left with is so much more than that! And taking this message means we must go - not that we should always be looking for how the church can satisfy us.

I really appreciated Wright's explanation about why the church exists. This is a bit of a longer quote, but bear with me. I promise it's a good one.

"The church is first and foremost a community, a collection of people who belong to one another because they belong to God, the God we know in and through Jesus. Though we often use the word 'church' to denote a building, the point is that it's the building where this community meets. True, building can and do carry memories, and when people have been praying and worshipping and mourning and celebrating in a particular building for many years, the building itself may come to speak powerfully of God's welcoming presence. But it is the people who matter.
"The church exists primarily for two closely correlated purposes: to worship God and to work for his kingdom in the world. You can and must worship, and work for God's kingdom, in private and in ways unique to yourself, but if God's kingdom is to go forward, rather than around and around in circles, we must work together as well as apart.
"The church also exists for a third purpose, which serves the other two: to encourage one another, to build one another up in faith, to pray with and for one another, and to set one another examples to follow, challenges to take up, and urgent tasks to perform. This is all part of what is known loosely as fellowship. . . .
"Worship, fellowship, and the work of reflecting God;s kingdom into the world flow into and out of one another." (pg 210-211)

The church is so much more than a building and what we can get out of going there. It is about the people of God meeting together in community to strengthen and encourage and pray with one another. And then moving out into the world to make a difference. Church is not primarily about us!


I just finished reading this book that made me think and also made a lot of sense. It's Simply Christian by N.T. Wright. In some ways I felt like I was back in my Bible college days, reading a textbook for a class that was challenging, but also good at the same time.

In one section of the book, Wright talks about worship. He has a chapter on worship, and there were some things he had to say that really made me think. He talked about two "golden rules at the heart of spirituality" (to use his words) that I thought were really good.

(1) "You become like what you worship. When you gaze in awe, admiration, and wonder at something or someone, you begin to take on something of the character of the object of your worship." (pg. 148)
(2) ". . . because you were made in God's image, worship makes you more truly human. When you gaze in love and gratitude at the God in whose image you were made, you do indeed grow. You discover more of what it means to be fully alive. Conversely, when you give that same total worship to to anything or anyone else, you shrink as a human being." (pg. 148)

We become like what we worship, and worship is what makes us more truly human. That just seems to sum up worship and what it should be so well.

Wright also talks about the importance of worship and why we may not be drawn to it in the way we should be.

"Worship is at the very center of all Christian living. One of the main reasons that theology (trying to think straight about who God is) matters is that we are called to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. It matters that we learn more about who God is so that we can him more appropriately. Perhaps one of the reasons why so much worship, in some churches at least, appears so unattractive to so many people is that we have forgotten, or covered up, the truth about the one we worshipping. But whenever we even glimpse the truth, we drawn back. Like groupies sneaking off work to see a rock start who's in town for just an hour or so, like fans waiting all night for a glimpse of a football team returning in triumph - those who come to recognize the God we see in Jesus, the Lion who is also the Lam, will long to come and worship him." (pg. 148-149)

I think Wright hit the nail on the head about why we're not always drawn to worship, and about the truth that will continue to draw us back in worship. May we learn to not cover up the truth about Who we are really worshipping!