Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Eve in Saskatchewan

So its Christmas eve in Horse Lake, Saskatchewan; a small farming community with an outdoor skating rink on one farm and a small church with wooden pews several miles further on a gravel road. The time is somewhere in the early 1970’s. The church is all lit up. The furnace has been on for several hours and a warmth is filling the tiny sanctuary. An odd shaped spruce tree is perched off to the side of the stage area with the now familiar ornaments, garland and tinsel. Behind the tree sits a couple of cardboard boxes filled with brown paper bags. Each bag has 1 mandarin orange in it, peanuts (still in their shells) and an assortment of hard candy.

The children have slide into the first few rows in nervous anticipation of the program to come. The church fills. Even the balcony is full… standing room only on this night. There are people here that have not set foot in church all year and are slightly out of sorts by their surroundings.

Soon the program begins. Poems are recited with the gentle prompting from the Sunday school teacher, songs are sung, some solos, some duets or trios. Occasionally the congregation is invited to join in for a Christmas carol or two. The evening is highlighted by a play performed by the senior Sunday school class. It was always amazing to see all those lines performed from memory. At the end of the play, the Pastor, my uncle, goes to the front with his Bible tucked under one arm and a satisfied smile on his face. He closes with several poignant thoughts and closes with one more song and a prayer. He then invites several men to come to the front and help assist in the distributing of the goodie bags. This, was the highlight of the evening. We quickly scatter with our booty.

As the evening draws to a close, the crowd slowly disperses and everyone begins to drive off of the chilly church yard. We head for home 4 miles away, still buzzing from the evening’s events. As we lay in bed, we could hear Mom and Dad in the kitchen wrapping up gifts and placing them under the tree for the following morning, our imaginations running wild with every sound of folding wrapping paper and the muffled sound of Mom and Dad talking.

There was something about experiencing that as a child that amplified every joyful nuance. What fun it was!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The U2 Gospel

Fresh from the concert I feel to give you some impressions that are sticking with me. I noticed in this morning’s papers that the critics had already put in their two cents worth, most of it positive. One went as far as to say that they surpassed the Rolling Stones in their Vancouver performance.

First of all I really enjoyed the concert. I’ll agree with some of the other critics that the sound in BC Place is far from perfect. But it was an experience charged with human emotion and sound. Having experienced an event in the old Kingdome in Seattle, I knew that the shared “crowd” effect was something to behold and be a part of.

Knowing most of the songs made it that much more enjoyable. I enjoy the role of critic (not a good thing when trying to sit down and watch a movie together with your wife). I would listen for variations between their performance and their albums. Some changes were good, some, just different. I noticed “lepers in your head” became “lepers in your bed”. I noted the songs where Bono had to carefully navigate the high notes instead of sounding flat or worse.

What I really wanted to see first hand though, was what they believed and how they conveyed it. The risk involved is that a person may read more into it than is actually intended. I’ve been amazed by the lyrics of a number of the songs which seemingly having several meanings and speculating which one they really want to convey. Some seem more obvious – case-in-point…”I was born to sing for you, I didn’t have a choice but to lift you up and sing whatever song you wanted me to. I give you back my voice, from the womb, my first cry, it was a joyful noise…. Only love, only love can leave such a mark…can heal such a scar. Justified till we die, you and I will magnify…The Magnificent”. The other thought I have are those around me who are belting out the lyrics and wondering what thoughts might be occurring as they are sung. Near the end of the concert, Bono belts out the first verse of Amazing Grace with minimal accompaniment and as he clearly sings “I was blind, but now I see…”, the Edge begins the now legendary guitar intro to “Where the Streets have no Name” and so it goes. The crowd joins in on every word, some oblivious to the place that has streets without any names, Christians who knowingly join in, knowing of the place while others who know that he is singing about heaven but don’t really care because it just sounds so good.

I know that Bono has several worthwhile causes which he clearly is not afraid to declare. I’m sure he will always have his share of critics especially from the evangelical Christian perspective. It seems to me that he is willing to do more than just be a commercial success. I’m sure he has made many mistakes along the way. But there is something about what he is doing, what he is saying and who he is saying it to that may just have some traction in the kingdom of God.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Quite a Summer...

Well, with a few small exceptions, the past couple of months have been filled with some pretty good stuff. It was good to have Steph back for a visit with Josh. Several weeks of unusually hot weather will make the damp winter a bit easier to bare. We finally have a tent trailer (approx. 15 years later than our children would have liked - sorry about that) to do some camping in. The summer got off to a great start with the church camp-out. I have to say that I had more fun then I expected. It seems I never am disappointed when I get to spend more recreational time with those in the body of Christ - you guys rock (pun intended).
God seemed to set a good tone for me beginning in June when we joined with City Church in Prince George for their training time with Rigby Wallace. I continue to pour over the notes, recalling some of the things that God impressed on me then. As so often happens for me at venues like this, I will receive a teaching while learning a new song. The song in this case was "God of this City" and the impressions that stuck - becoming the city of God within the city of Terrace. So now, when I consider this challenge, I hear the song playing in my head. Here is a quote that resonates with me for obvious reasons: "The people of God will have more when the elders write a line in their diary that says 'we're going for more!'"
It seems that God is talking to the church, certainly to my own heart, about what the gospel is and how it did
not loose its daily relevance even though I've embraced Christ as my Lord. How much more desperate am I now to be governed by it and changed by it. My decision to follow Christ and the eternal reward are, in a sense, book ends (not to minimize eternity) to the life I now live; salvation that God asks me to walk out with fear and trembling. What are we going to do with our lives now? Will we allow God to make them count??
It has been good to have a bit of a rest and some physical renewal this summer but the thing I like about this time of year is that we come together often with a renewed sense of purpo
se and hopefully, rested bodies. We look forward to getting back to some things that, perhaps are familiar, but also the new things that are coming up over the horizon that God has planned for us. I can't wait...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory

A fitting end to the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6 is much like its beginning. As we began in prayer honouring the Name that is above all names, so we end in awe of His majesty, realizing that the Kingdom, the power and the glory are all His. We don't determine it, He does.
Yet we pray. Even as Christ encourages, we pray. In Revelation 5:8, we get a glimpse of the heart of God concerning the prayers of the saints, "...the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."
Integral, absolutely essential, to the prayer life of a believer is learning to be released in praise and worship to our King. David demonstrated a freedom to worship within the context of a prophetic promise glimmering over the horizon, how much more we, who have received the promise of the new covenant, have every reason to dance before our King.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Happy 25th!

Odd thing, silver wedding anniversaries. They usually happen to older people, not young couples like us. Well with that said, I thought I'd throw my own "list" together. They seem to be all the rage on blogs, facebook and the like. So, looking back over the last 25 years, here are some highlights....
Biggest Surprise: Our move to Terrace
Greatest relief for Joleen: God didn't ask us to take over the farm.
Hardest Moment to explain: I had taken a puck in the eye (shiner), Joleen had taken a falling casserole dish to the nose (more shiners) and we happened to be taking Kevin in to the doctor for (yah, you guessed it). They let us go without incident. Our reputation had preceded us.
Funnest family time: trip to Disneyland (I think I would have agreement from the rest of the family on that one.)
Average baby birth weight: 10 lbs
Didn't see that coming....
Steph: The girl that always said she would like to live up in the mountains with her dogs - now living in Canada's largest city with 5.5 million of her closest friends.
Ryan: He has turned into a fine carpenter at a young age and I'm still try to master a hammer.
Kevin: He convinced us to buy him a drum set (like we thought almost every teenage boy does) and he's never looked back since. Me? I'm still trying not to clap on the off beat.
Our God has blessed us richly over the years and has now added Leah to our clan. We have much to be thankful for!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lead us Not into Temptation

First of all, let's get one thing straight; "God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone..." So, according to this truth expressed clearly in the book of James, when we pray that we would not be led into temptation, there isn't an inherent risk that God might tempt us. There is plenty of scriptural evidence though, that He is able to deliver us from temptation. Ps. 119: 35 says, " Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. " Direction, preservation and even our own desire to follow His commands all fall within the scope of things we can ask God for. We may think that that is not a prayer that God will answer but several places in Ps. 119 and elsewhere give us several precedents to express this prayerfully to God.
It seems obvious that the best way to be delivered from evil is not to spend any time on the road to temptation.
Another implication we can take from the fact that this specific prayer exists is that we are not to trust our own ability to fend off sin and the tempter. This is something we must go to God for; no if's, ands or buts. If we try to fend of temptations to our flesh, in the flesh, it will not work.
Neil T. Anderson said, "The essence of temptation is the invitation to live independently of God. " If ever there was an indictment against our flesh, there it is.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Forgive us Our Debts

A number of years ago when one of my children was battling through a tough stint in school, I was at a loss as to how I could affect their marks in a certain subject. I thought that perhaps it was just a bit of laziness. Knowing that I would be within earshot, I spoke a few harsh conclusions to Joleen about what I thought might be the problem. I realized almost immediately after I said them that they were potentially very hurtful words but I could not retrieve them. The damage was done. This became more apparent as time went on. Even though I asked forgiveness for the things I said (several years.. yes years later), I often ponder with regret those brief moments when I could have chosen my words more carefully.
Praise God for His daily invitation for forgiveness. He does not harbour judgment against us. He is always willing to extend forgiveness to us. We must ask, though. This can be humbling, but necessary because it can be pride that prevents us from asking and receiving forgiveness. Pride can convince us of our own righteousness... That's not something that I want to be convinced of.
The final detail to this transaction between repentance and forgiveness is our own culture of forgiveness towards others. Our inspiration is clearly stated in the verses following the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6: 14-15). If we forgive others, then our Heavenly Father will forgive us. And because I know the extent of what I need forgiveness for, that should be a no-brainer!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

It has been so very, very good! "The man who finds a wife finds a treasure, and he receives favor from the Lord." Prov. 18:22

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Give us, this day, our daily bread...

I like food. I think I'm in good company when I say this. As I grew up out of my childhood I figured the Lord's Prayer was God's prompting to acknowledge Him in my daily needs. I still believe that. Except for famine, illness or fasting, we have been created with this daily need that does not often go interrupted for too long. It's a cycle that includes hunger (hopefully), followed by the satisfying feeling of food. So we try not to take our daily bread for granted. We ask Him for it, then we thank Him for it and bless it.
Now, for another important truth that is perhaps best described by King David in Ps. 63: 1-5. He begins by describing his need for God like a hungry teenager raiding the fridge... "my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water." He finishes by describing how he is satisfied by God, "my soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods."
Only God can satisfy. Only He can fill the emptiness. There is no other; even as the world offers all its substitutes. Nothing will ever compare!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy Birthday Steph!

I simply want to wish my daughter a very happy birthday. Did we bribe you to take this picture?