Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Words of Encouragement

My life in Toronto is spent, for the most part, inside an 8'x8' padded wall cocoon.  I have a desk, a chair, books, and two pictures of my hero, Eugene Peterson.  In the one picture, positioned on a shelf overlooking my desk, Peterson's head is tilted back and his eyes are on me.  The speak balloon says, "Don't fail me".

The other Peterson picture sits just behind my computer.  His head is tipped slightly forward and to the left.  He's sporting a just-about smile saying, "Hey!  You got this!"

These opposing snapshots are happy reminders of the need to simultaneously work hard and rest.

So, when I find myself getting lost in articles about decolonization and indigenous identity or the need for both proclamation and dialogue in faithful Christian witness, I'm reminded that "I got this".  And, when I'm tempted to take and extra day or two or five to relax, I hear Peterson's reminder "Don't fail me..."

So, after a couple of days of reading and writing, I'm signing off to have some time to rest and play.

P.S. If you're wondering where those Peterson pics are from, they were a goodbye gift from a certain HMC kid's and youth pastor!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967

After responding to Alanna's blog comment I thought this song worthy of a post by itself.

Sometimes John Mayer plays in our home.  Not John Mayer (that would be cool), his songs.  A few months ago I tuned in and actually listened to the lyrics of the song Walt Grace's Submarine Test.  It made me cry.  It's one of the weirdest songs I've every heard but I embraced it because I felt a strange connection with Mr. Grace.  I can't relate to all of it (i.e. my wife is far kinder, wiser, and loving than his) but the image of paddling into the unknown with little more than a dream and a loose plan... it captured me.

There's something beautiful about saying goodbye to the things that offered stability (a church family, denominational network, neighbourhood, house, friends, job, etc.) and venturing into the waves with little more than a handmade submarine in hopes of reaching the other side of the world.  Most people never get the chance to take a faith risk.  I'm privileged to have done it more than once and I'm even more amazed this time.

So, our little submarine hasn't sunk yet but I've seen some amazing things.  Our kids have each found really great part-time jobs that they enjoy.  Our daughter just got back from an 11 day canoe trip in Killarney Provincial Park.  I've been affirmed in my PhD program and not only am I keeping up with the pace of reading, research, and writing, but I've also had a chance to narrow down my thesis topic through the excellent support of some world class faculty.  I am overwhelmed by God's provision.

I'm preaching tomorrow so it's time for bed.  I hope this post encourages you to take a submarine ride of your own before it's too late.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Good bye Hanover house... Hello new life in Clarksburg

Yesterday marked the conclusion of life on Mulock Road for our family.  And, since as of last week we still had things to move out of the house, it meant that our family spent Thanksgiving weekend packing and cleaning. 

Can you believe we lived in that house for more than 10 years?  I still remember the day we moved in, July 11th 2007.  It was an unusually cold July day.  Our daughter was turning 6 and our son was turning 3.  Them included, a lot changed over the years.  The road went from gravel to tar and chip, the house went from propane heat to natural gas, and homes changed hands all around us and got younger every time.

I loved that house.  But if I could give it up for what we've got now, I'd do it every time.  I love our new community, our house that's becoming home, my new school and accompanying friends, the wonderful folks that are part of our new church, and my new weekly routine.  

Maple and I still try to get out for walks.  It takes us close to seven minutes to get from our house to the Beaver River and that includes time for her to stop and eat some apples that have fallen on the path.  Life seems simpler these days even with doctoral studies in the mix.  I'm not looking forward to the winter drives to Toronto but I know it's only for a season and spring will be here soon!


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Hang in there, and try to write something everyday...

That's my takeaway quote from one of the the many readings I've been assigned since starting back to school in September.  Here's the rest of the quote from an article by John W. O'Malley,

"The moral of the story: hang in there, and try to write something every day no matter how banal or stupid you think it is going to sound.  When you come back the next day, you might be able to salvage a paragraph or two, and thus, agonizing paragraph by agonizing paragraph the book gets written." (O'Malley, The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 93, No. 3 (Jul. 2007), p. 586.)

Some days it feels like I've jumped into the deep end of the pool and I forgot my bathing suit.  It's terrifyingly vulnerable as a first year PhD student.  Other days it feels like I've stumbled through an open door into a Narnia like world, with endless possibilities that await in my tiny, grey, library cubical.

Aside from school, we're saying goodbye to our Hanover house next week.  It's bittersweet since our whole family loved that house: so many beautiful moments.  But its time to set it free to become a memory box for a new family with young children.  Besides, a new world with rich memories awaits us in the town of the Blue Mountains.  For example, today, a new friend from the Blue Mountain church and his friend helped load and move my tractor to our new community.  Unfortunately, we couldn't predict the weather so it happened in a downpour.  I'm grateful to be warm and dry now.  I'm also thankful for a couple of new friends willing to get wet with me to relocate a tractor.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Preoccupied with PhD studies

I'm still here.  In the absence of blogging I've been consumed with reading and writing for courses that have deadlines and required word counts.

I am officially back in full-time academic studies for the first time since 2006.  The adjustment has been smooth but abrupt.  I'm enjoying getting settled in.

On a sad note, just days before the start of my program I found out that my doctoral supervisor took a sudden medical leave.  He's been diagnosed with late stage cancer and will not be returned to his post.  Thankfully, the college where I'm enrolled has provided two co-supervisors to ensure my study is not adversely affected.

In terms of what I'm doing right now, I'm taking three courses this semester.  They all have two word titles so they're easy to remember: Research & Scholarship, Faith & Culture, and Wisdom & Schooling.

I gained access to a library carrel today.  It will be mine at least until Aug. 31st, 2018.  It's sort of a home away from home (except that I can't cook or sleep in it).  I anticipate spending a lot of time here (I'm writing this blog post from within its confines) or in a small back corner desk in the Thornbury library that I've already grown attached to.

Here's a photo of my carrel at the Kelly Library, U of T.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Co-Pastors at Blue Mountain Community Church

It's official!  Erika and I have been hired as co-pastors at Blue Mountain Community Church beginning September 1st, 2017.

Our house is up for sale, our kids are gearing up to go to new schools, and the Mills family finally knows where we're going to land in September.

Our life as a family has been a wonderful, faith-filled, winding road and we are all excited to be able to see the way ahead.  We've had a 'serving-as-equals-in-pastoral-ministry' vision for many years and the arrangement at BMCC suits our dreams beautifully.   Being co-pastors means that Erika and I will be sharing one F/T role while we both work outside the church too.  Erika will carry most of the pastoral load at BMCC and continue to work one day a week as a chaplain at a long-term care facility in Owen Sound.  I will be enrolled as a F/T PhD student while working roughly one day a week at BMCC.  God's grace and provision overwhelms us.

So, if you happen to be in the Town of the Blue Mountains, stop by.  We'd love to see you!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Birthday Fun at Grundy Lake Provincial Park

For those of you that don't know, I turned 40 this past Monday.

So, to celebrate, we rounded up our kids, readied our shedding yellow dog, gathered our camping gear, and headed to Grundy Lake Provincial Park for and overnight escape.  While it may seem strange to drive three hours north for one night in a tent, it's a park with special significance.  It happens to be the place my family camped nearly every summer when I was growing up.

I remember one pre-teen Grundy birthday scavenger hunt.  I biked around the campground looking for clues my family crafted.  It was a dismal failure.  I found a few paper hints but not enough to make it fun. I cried a lot that day.  I remember screaming, "It's my birthday!  Why did you have to make the hunt so hard?"  I think that was the year we ended up driving to Sudbury to get a special birthday coconut cream pie to make amends for the frustrating clue chase.

I remember one year (not for my birthday) when my university-aged brother and I drove to the park without our parents.  We canoed to an isolated lake to fish and camp in the backcountry.  I enjoyed fishing then.  But that trip fished me out.  Since that time I've lost all desire to pick up a rod.  I think it was a combination of the quality of small pike we caught and the long, boring days sitting in the canoe with the terrible stinging itch of deer fly bites on my exposed ears and feet.

One year my whole family tried backcountry camping to parts of Grundy with no backcountry sites.  We rented a second canoe and our ill equipped family-of-five strapped our bulky sleeping bags, orange bubble pads, and an assortment of other heavy gear into the canoes.  I still remember the taste of my sweat and the feel of my drenched warm cotton t-shirt as we clamoured over rocks and around blueberry bushes with our 10,000 lb. canoes.  Thankfully we figured out a way to leave our canvass behemoth tent at home and we found a swimmable lake at the end of each near deadly portage.

Then, I stopped going to Grundy.  I grew up, got married, had kids.

Then, things changed.  Two years ago I took my wife and kids camping at Grundy.  I booked a site a month or so in advance. Unbeknownst to me, my parents & my brother and his family had booked sites just a couple of spots down from where we were going to land--the same week as us.  It came up in conversation weeks before we arrived so our surprise happened in advance of tent pitching.  It turned out to be a highlight for our whole family.

So, back we went on Sunday for my birthday.  After making so many good memories at that park it was great to add a few more.  Here's a shot of my birthday sunrise at Grundy Lake.  That's two of my favourite people in the foreground.

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