Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Called to be relevant? Maybe not

I'm preaching this Sunday.  It's one of my favorite things to do. 

My topic?  Jesus' desert temptations.  Part of my inspiration has been Henri Nouwen's excellent little book, In the Name of Jesus.  In it, Nouwen reflects on his transition from Harvard to L'Arche in Toronto to work with people who have developmental disabilities.

As I sermonize, I'm struggling with the first temptation: the temptation to be relevant.  How do I speak about the perils of relevance to a church where the 3rd core value states, "We believe that the church should be relevant while remaining doctrinally pure."

What if the church wasn't meant to be relevant?

Jesus was a great example of irrelevance.  When his disciples went by boat, he walked on water.  When approached by a brilliant, spiritual, leader Jesus told him that seeing the kingdom was messy.  "You have to be born again," he said.  "Born what?"  If those examples aren't irrelevant enough, Jesus told people that if they wanted to enter the kingdom of God they had to become like little children.  Kids.  That's absurd.

Want to hear more?  Why not show up this weekend at one of the three Sunday morning services.  I'll do my best to be irrelevant.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Writing and Books

I can't celebrate Christmas in Niagara without going to my favorite discount bookstore  for their 1/2 price Boxing Day book clearance.  (These are actual pictures from the store)  

Books that would normally cost $40 are reduced to $9.99 in the warehouse.  On Boxing day, you pay half of the sticker price.  So that $40 book is $5.

I picked up about a dozen books by authors like N.T. Wright, Greg Boyd and Annie Dillard.  I also grabbed a book called "On Writing Well."

That's right, a book on writing.

I've been feeding my growing appetite for writing by submitting occasional articles to the Hanover Post (our local newspaper).  My brother-in-law (he's a writer) told me that writers get better by practicing.  It's sounds a lot like what my dad used to say, "practice makes perfect."  Getting published in the Post is a small part of honing my literary skills.  One day, I hope to publish something substantial, like a journal article in Leadership Journal or a book on Christian spirituality or pastoring in the 21st century Canadian church.

Until then, I'm happy to practice by blogging and writing "Dear Editor" letters.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Eve is coming

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.

Ever since taking my position as director of worship and the arts, Christmas Eve has meant "month-long frenzied extravaganza."

Every year our church puts on a large scale community worship service on Christmas Eve.

That means that we rehearse a handful of times the week before Christmas.

This year, 3 major winter storms have conveniently touched down same day as our practices (Friday and Sunday).

Tonight is our last practice and you guessed it.

Environment Canada has posted a "Winter Storm Watch" just in time for our final rehearsal.

God, are you trying to tell me something?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Winter is just beginning

I love the Hanover winters.

We've been without internet since Wednesday.  I think our wireless receiver got iced up. Thankfully a technician came out this morning.

While he was working on getting us online, a Purolator package arrived for Erika.  The delivery guy made an attempt at our driveway.  He almost made it to the top.

He came to the door to deliver two things: the parcel and news of his unplanned parking arrangement.  "I think I'm stuck in your driveway," he said.

I fired up my tractor (yes, the one that I used to knock down my neighbour's mailbox) and tried, unsuccessfully, to pull him free.

By this time our internet connection was fixed so the technician decided to join the fun.

We tried everything: shoveling, chaining the truck to my tractor, we even used half a bag of kitty litter for traction.  

In the end he managed to rock his way out of the icy rut.  As he backed his way the rest of the way down the driveway he signaled his thanks with a series of quick, happy "beeps" on his horn.  I was relieved that he was free a few tree branches were the only remains from the recent driveway trauma. 

The internet tech quickly hopped in his van and vacated the premises, probably eager to get his vehicle back on the safety of the road.

Here's my prediction: it's going to be a long winter.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

When nice turns nasty

Have you ever tried to do something nice and it backfires?

That describes my life yesterday.

I arrived home from Kitchener to find a foot of snow covering our driveway.  Driving through it would have been impossible so I parked at the bottom and trudged my way up.  After a fleeting family greeting I donned my winter gear and proceeded to the tractor.

Since most people shovel or use walk-behind snowblowers, allow me to describe what snow removal looks like chez Mills.  I drive a tractor.  Backwards.  Downhill.  And all the while, wind whipped snow pellets are blown high enough to boomerang back and freeze on my face.

It's not as bad as it sounds.  It can be a welcome change from working with negative people.

As is my custom, I blew out my neighbours' driveway.  They don't have a blower or a shovel so its an easy way to help them out.

It was my turn for mailbox duty.  On our road the mailboxes are grouped together so everyone takes a turn removing snow from around them.  That's when things took a nasty turn.

Picture this: a guy who spends more time using conditioning shampoo than driving heavy machinery, guiding a 6-foot snowblower and a diesel tractor around the neighbourhood mailboxes. 

Not pretty.

I must have steered a bit too close to the last mailbox because my rear tire brushed it sending the box and 2 feet of lumber cascading into the snowbank.

I felt like an idiot.  I probably looked like one too.

I walked apologetically up my neighours' freshly blown driveway to his front door.  He was gracious, forgiving and he wouldn't accept my offer to pay for the damage.

Next time, I think I'll use my shovel. 

Friday, November 28, 2008

Letter to the editor

Last week I stumbled on a column written by the managing editor of Southern Grey county's finest newspaper, "The Post".

She wrote a "how-to-understand-what-women-are-really-saying" guide for guys.

I wrote a letter of response and it was published in today's newspaper.

Click here to read it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Me and my Mouth

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

I wish I was better at that.

Lately, my mouth has led me into some uncomfortable situations.

My most recent New Testament class is a good example of opening my mouth too quickly. Without thinking, I asked my class to reconsider a theological position re: understanding the sovereignty of God.  Note to self, don't go there.

On Sunday morning a man in the congregation confronted me, yet again, about concerns he had with my area of church oversight.  As soon as he opened his mouth I knew mine would be opening soon thereafter.  I wanted to tell him to "bite me".  I didn't but I did I end up regretting what I said. 

Today I received an email from someone with high expectations.  Without thinking I pounded out a quick, angry, and articulate response challenging his assumptions of me.  Before hitting send I reread my response.  God spoke to me.  He recommended that I not send the email.  He suggested that I reword my response.

I took my hands off the keyboard, took a deep breath, and sent a light and openhanded reply.

I think my most recent interaction proves that an ability to read/rehearse words before you send/speak them is a valuable discipline.

If only my mouth typed words.  I might have a better chance of locking it down until I've taken a moment to respond appropriately.  

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Coffeehouse church

Last Sunday evening we did church in a Walkerton coffeehouse.

My tradition typically spends a lot of time preparing two aspects of a church service: the music (we call it worship) and the sermon.

The coffeehouse was different.  There was no live music and no sermon.

We spent time reflecting on a painting and a song.  We spent time listening to each other.  We spent time drinking coffee and eating brownies.  

Everyone was empowered to participate.  

At the end of the night I reflected on some highlights: one person dropped in off the street and said they were glad they did; our surveys indicated unanimous interest in doing it again; and I was inspired to keep dreaming.

Here's some video footage from the evening.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Changing the conversation

"Change takes place when people relax and start conversing with each other."

One of my colleagues made that statement in a sermon this past Sunday.

If that's the case, and I believe it is, then why do we make such a big deal out of the Sunday morning show?  

Last I checked, I didn't have very many meaningful conversations sitting in a pew.

Anyone else ready for change?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

1, 2, 3, 4.... surprise

Tomorrow is my wife's 30th birthday.

Here are 10 things I love about her:

10.  She uses "I" statements
9.  She acts more like Jesus than I do
8.  She has low expectations of me
7.  This one isn't for a public blog
6.  I don't know a better, more adaptable, visionary artist
5.  She can say controversial things and people still love her
4.  She would "sell it all" tomorrow
3.  She is the best communicator I have ever met
2.  She thinks and speaks with positivity and optimism
1.  People change for the better because of her influence in their lives 

Yesterday, I scooped her up and took her with me for a little "walk in the woods".  You'll have to contact her if you want more details.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Reading week

It's reading week.

Every year EBC students and faculty get a week off from classes: once in the fall and once in the spring.

I decided to take my last week of holidays from the church to coincide with my reading week.

Here's what I've been up to:
Cutting firewood
Playing Dora Candyland
Dreaming with Erika about the future
Trying (without much success) to facilitate a group lectio divina reading with my family
Jumping on the trampoline

This past Sunday was the first Sabbath I've had in a long time. I read a bit, played a bit and reflected a lot.

I should see if I can get every Sunday off!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Some inspiration, please

Tomorrow is the Canadian Federal Election.

In preparation for our trip to the polls, Erika and I put the kettle on and embarked on an evening of intense conversation.  

We talked about the candidates in our riding, reviewed the "Cole's Notes" version of the party platforms, and chatted about how uninspiring this election has been.

It think clear vision for our nation is lacking.

Vision is powerful.  

When a tribal chief paints a clear picture of the future--with plan for vision implementation--I get excited.

Sadly, the political scene isn't the only place in need of inspiring leadership.  

Friday, October 10, 2008

Next week: Rest

It's been an exceptionally busy week.

Here's what I've been doing:

I taught 3 Bible College classes
I attended an EMCC pastor's retreat (all day Tuesday and most of Wednesday)
I drove 2.5 hours south, just to have an exploratory chat with someone about a PhD program.
I slept away from home 2 nights
I'm preparing to preach this Sunday
I marked 2 group assignments for one of my classes
I cut the grass

If that wasn't enough, here's the icing on the cake:

I witnessed Shawna's kitten get run over by her bus.

I can't wait till next week.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Small Gospel

Is our Gospel too small?

That's the question of the day.

As an attendee at the EMCC pastor's retreat, today I've been part of an ongoing discussion about the Gospel.

Two things that have been running through my mind:

1.  Neat, modernist Gospel packages (ie. the wordless book, the 4 spiritual laws...) may have been helpful in the past.  But they are increasingly inadequate for postmodern contexts.

2.  Presenting and embracing the Gospel is costly.  It cost Jesus His life.  It'll cost us our lives as well.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Other Woman

This evening I went on a date. Erika (my wife) had other plans so I asked her if I could ask another woman.

She agreed.

My companion was beautiful and charming. We talked about her best friend, dating, and our favorite foods.

And before I knew it I told her I loved her.

Maybe it's because she reminded me so much of my wife. Or maybe it's her carefree attitude about the chocolate sauce that landed on her pink dress.

Either way, my daughter makes a great date.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My counselor's latest discovery

Recently, I've had a few of the hardest days of my year.

At first I thought I was losing my mind: small comments seemed to irritate me, my heart felt strangely heavy, and I couldn't focus on simple details.

My counselor suggested that I might be experiencing the initial stages of burn out.

So, I reflected on my current workload and realized that I have no margin.  My time is split between church ministry and teaching.   I'm working 3/4 time as a worship and arts pastor.  Our church is in transition (we lost our lead pastor in the summer) so it means all of us as staff are feeling a bit stretched already.  At the same time I'm teaching 3 Bible College courses: 2 of which I've never taught before.  That means my evenings are consumed with research and class prep. 

I think my counselor is absolutely right.

She's smart.  And very kissable.  That's why I married her.

So, for the rest of the year I'm going to ask for help.  And I'm only going to do what I'm good at.  The rest can wait.    

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Laughter and Community

Tonight, Erika and I went to our first ever Murder Mystery fundraiser.

It was organized to raise money for our community drop in center. Most of the people on the stage were folks from our church so it was a lot of fun. It was extra juicy because two of the actors were ministry council members (aka church board members).

The opening prayer was the first clue that it was going to be an interesting evening. The guy praying referred to some questionable content. He asked God to look beyond the themes of the drama and be honoured by our laughter.

I love hearing those kinds of prayers.

The night was filled with lighthearted teasing, an intriguing plot, and generous donors--people were paying over $20 for half-eaten pies.

It was a great way to spend an evening.

I left thinking about the power of laughter to foster community. Man, I need to laugh more.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Leadership Reminder


We've all got 'em but few of us spend much time honing them.  I suspect most of us spend our lives trying to achieve balance.

I've committed my life to doing the opposite.

I was reminded of this valuable insight from a sermon that Rick (HMC discipleship pastor) preached on Sunday.  Why do we try so hard to shore up our weaknesses when God has given us areas of strength?  We've been given unique abilities and gifts.  Why spend the energy to build on our weaknesses when, at the end of the day, they will still be weaknesses.  Wouldn't you rather work on your strengths?  

But what about the rest of the stuff that needs to get done?  

I'm naive enough to believe that someone else's strengths are my weaknesses.  So, if you're looking for a detailed policy maker, I'm not your guy.  If you want someone who likes dreaming about the future, leading people, and challenging the conventional "way we've always done it" mentality.  Give me a call.

The catalyst for my "play to your strengths" ideological shift was a book by Marcus Buckingham called, "Now, Discover your Strengths."  It included an online access code for a personality survey.  At the end of the survey I was told my 5 areas of greatest strength (out of 34 possibilities).  If you have some extra time I'd highly recommend this extensive, strengths-based survey.  

Friday, September 19, 2008

I 'm lovin' it.

I love teaching!

These days I'm in the classroom 3 days a week. It's demanding. But I don't mind.

Here's a secret: lately I've been getting the itch to pursue further studies. You'd think I'd have my fill by doing what I'm doing. You'd think that my weekly research and course development would satisfy my thirst for learning. It doesn't.

I know, I know. You're thinking, more school? Why?

I guess it comes from my failure to find a good, transferable, disciple-making model for the Canadian church. I'm becoming more and more convinced that we are not making disciples of Jesus. We're producing consumers of a pseudo-gospel that looks a bit like Jesus' Gospel but it lacks the marks of what you'd expect from the God of the Bible.

So, that's the why. Now all I need to know is whether this is a fading idea or something that God has planted in my gut. Maybe I should wait until tomorrow morning to decide; after the Sour Cream and Onion chips have digested.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sunday morning at the Meeting House

I'm given occasional opportunities to "check out" other churches.  That's built right into my job profile.  Thanks HMC!

This past Sunday, Erika and I popped by the Meeting House in Oakville.  It was our first visit to their new venue, located in the heart of an industrial complex.  I was struck by the magnitude of the physical space, the simplicity of their design and, of course, the pre-service smoke coming from the dry ice machines on the stage.

From the 5 minute countdown, to the trance music playing as excerpts from writers were projected on the mega screen (I'm not kidding, the screen has to be 40 feet across); the service was filled with a sensory buffet.

Of course, my favorite part was getting to hear Bruxy Cavey speak.  I'm continually amazed by his ability to make the complex, understandable; his openness to answer questions from anyone in an audience of hundreds; and his knowledge of everything from mating spiders to God's revelation of Himself as a trinitarian community.

As I walked away I asked God to do one thing with me: Help me to make disciples who make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Move over U2

Kudos to Mike.  He has found the best christian music video I have ever seen.

Check out the killer moves at the 2 minute mark.

School's in for me

Just call me the traveling lecturer.

I stayed in Kitchener last night after teaching a Thursday evening course. I finished a conversation with a fellow prof at 11:30pm before settling in to do some last minute prep for my Friday morning class. That's right folks, it started at 8:30am this morning.

I'm tired but the past 24hours have rekindled something in me that I haven't felt for a few months. My love of teaching.

In other news, I haven't seen my kids since yesterday at 4:30pm. I can't wait till the bus comes.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Learning with George

One of my favorite people these days, aside from Erika and our 2 kids, is our church custodian.

He's the same age as my dad.

Additionally, he's outrageously funny, highly inappropriate--at times, uncompromisingly committed to serving, and has a bizarre obsession with Jack van Impe.

We have very little in common--especially the finer points of theology.  But somehow we've become friends.

Maybe it's because we've had more than a few meals together.  Or maybe it's because I've stopped walking on his freshly waxed floors.  

Perhaps it's something more superficial.  Maybe it's because we don't take each other too seriously.

And in the midst of our quirky, nonsensical banter an amazing thing happens: we learn from each other.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The key and the keys

I'm always amazed when big box store customer service associates use first person language when referring to their products.

It makes me feel like I'm buying something from a likable individual who is just squeaking by on their monthly payments, not a multi-billion dollar, money hungry, corporation whose only interest is the bottom line.

Ownership.  I think that's the key.  

When someone is given ownership then they are empowered to act with authority.  When ownership is withheld then people will do either 1 of 2 things:

1.  Quit
2.  Outwardly comply while seething inwardly.

When I look at the example of Jesus I see someone who had everything to lose by giving ownership to a bunch of fumbling, spineless, uneducated followers.  But he did it anyway (Matt. 16:19).

As a leader I want to give ownership, not orders. 


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Mushrooms aren't cool

Four days until I begin another school year.

That means completing syllabii, finalizing Power Point presentations and going over class lists.

I remember when it meant getting a new plastic lunch pail with a thermos that was held in by a hard plastic thing that looked like a seatbelt.

Ah, grade 2.  I'm re-living it.  Vicariously.  Through my daughter.

She started 2nd grade french immersion on Tuesday.  Believe it or not, she already has a concept of "cool".  

I didn't know what "cool" was until grade 7.  

I remember the day it happened.  Or failed to happen.

I went to my father's barber for a new cut.  Youngsters, here's a hint: if you're looking for "cool", you won't find it at dad's barber shop.  My new dew made me look like a mushroom.  Mushrooms aren't cool.

What is cool?  My little girl.  She's super cool.  

Right now she wants to fight me.  Cool.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Christian or Disciple?

This morning I had coffee with a friend and former pastor of mine.

We talked about the brokenness in the world, attractional vs. missional church, conversations we've had about God, and the resurrection.

We could have talked all day long.  At the end of our conversation, I felt a glimmer of hope that genuine change is possible.  Change that reaches beyond me.

Call me naive but I'm starting to believe that God wants to transform my community.  And transformation happens best when Christians aren't involved. 

That's right.  I said "when Christians aren't involved". 

I don't think God is looking for Christians.  He's looking for disciples (thanks to Dallas Willard and his book The Great Omission for that thought).  Am I a Christian or a disciple?  In other words, do I simply associate myself with Jesus or am I actively becoming like Jesus.

I don't think it's enough for me to say "I'm with Jesus".  I need to be able to say "I'm like Jesus".  Being with Him doesn't demand anything of me.  Being like Him requires my all. 

Monday, September 1, 2008

Arts and Symbols

I'm on the hunt for some artists.

Part of my teaching load this fall involves teaching a course called "Arts and Symbols in Christian Worship".  As part of my class prep, I have contacted a wide variety of people: everyone from a Greek Orthodox priest to a dramatically inclined, former college roommate who is currently serving as a youth pastor.  I'd like to expose the students to a broad range of artistic expressions so that they will be able to see how diverse Christian worship experience can be.

While the Orthodox priest was initially interested, I haven't heard back from him for a while.  He might be having second thoughts.  I am, however, excited about our class trip to The Gig in downtown Kitchener.  Rob Abbott (The Gig's pastor) is a friend of mine and is doing some great ministry within the arts community.  Coincidently, the Gig also happens to be the community of faith where my father-in-law has found a home.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Angels and trucks

It's Elijah's 4th birthday today.

He woke up early with me at around 6:30am. I set the alarm so I could have some extra time to go over the sermon and listen to God. Instead, I did a lot of listening to the birthday boy.

We spent the morning at church. I preached on prayer. Healing prayer.

I don't tend to see visions very often but I envisioned angels seated around the stage. That was my clue that things might end a bit differently this Sunday. We had a time of anointing and prayer after the services. God showed up in spite of me.

When I got home we sang happy b-day, ate cake and played with Elijah's new racetrack and trucks.

All in the typical day of a pastor-dad.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


I think God has been flirting with me lately.

I'm not sure if He's going to make the dinner reservations or if He's expecting me to do it.

I'm also not sure who's going to pick up the tab at the end of the night.

He usually covers it.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Preaching what I don't know much about


That's the subject of my talk this Sunday. I'm finishing off a series in the book of James. I wish someone else was scheduled to preach that message.

For me, prayer is something I know very little about. I don't spend much time in intercession. I rarely remember to ask God for help when I'm in a pinch (like the time I got my tractor stuck in a snowy ditch at 1am on Valentine's day just after pulling my car out of that same ditch). I figure I can help myself get out of difficult situations. But the "I-can-do-it-myself" mentality is horrible when you're getting ready to preach on prayer.

There isn't a safe way to approach the subject of prayer. I can't intellectualize it. I can't give a series of quick facts or concepts that will instantly snap people into perfect spiritual shape. Prayer is one of those things that must be practiced. Like soccer, or guitar. And I'll be the first to admit that I'm more like the team water boy or the guy who strings guitars backstage than I am like David Beckham or U2's The Edge.

Nonetheless, I'll stand up this Sunday and do my best to yak about a subject I feel so ignorant about: prayer. I know at least one person who will benefit from hearing the sermon. Me.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Staff meeting interruption

I had an interesting morning.

Staff meeting was moving along at record pace.  We were on track to finish in good time.  I had poured myself a hot cup of coffee and was enjoying my chocolate chip cookie when it happened.  Our custodian caught my eye through the glass doors.  

I was needed.  

Without hesitating I excused myself and made my way into the church foyer where I was greeted by a couple of distressed women.  They had a need: a friend who had run out of money.

I've never been comfortable with people asking for cash. 

I listened a lot and promised very little.  And at the end of our chat I was left wondering why I often feel helpless when it comes to helping the poor.  Is it because I don't like giving?  Is it because I've seen the impoverished take advantage of monetary handouts?  Maybe.

Or maybe it's because I feel so helpless.  I'm so accustomed to knowing what to do and how to do it.

When it comes to poverty, I have a lot to learn.  I wish there was a simple formula or a fail safe system developed to help the poor.  I haven't found it yet.  Maybe it doesn't exist.

One day, I pray, I'll be able to offer more than I did today.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dream on

I'm at my best when dreaming.  Not a pie-in-the-sky kind of fantasizing but a "let's pretend we relaxed the rules a bit" sort of dreaming.  Of course, dreams are always best when they are grounded in a firm sense of what has happened in the past and what is currently happening in the present.

When I think about the Canadian church in 20 years, I wonder what staffing will be like.  Will there even be such a thing as "church staff"?  Will we be hiring discipleship pastors, care pastors, worship pastors, youth pastors, children's pastors, small groups pastors, young adults pastors, family pastors, executive pastors, administrative pastors, etc?  

Quick.  Did Jesus call His Church a bride or business? 

What did the early church do without all those specialized pastors?

I've got some ideas.  Maybe I'll share them another day.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Thoughts from an E

My office door is rarely closed.  I like people and I generally don't mind being interrupted by someone who needs my help.  I think it's because I'm an E.

But not everyone is an E.

Our church's leadership team recently filled out a Myers-Briggs questionnaire.  We wanted to learn about our personality differences and how we could compliment each other in ministry.  Here's what I learned: 
1.  The youth pastor and I have the same temperaments (we're both ENTP's for those of you that are interested).  
2.  The majority of our ministry council members are Introverts. 
3.  Our staff team is dominated by Extroverts (Now you know what E stands for).  That's probably why the talking keeps flowing long after the coffee has gone cold!

I often wonder how many details get missed in our staff meetings when we neglect the thoughtful analysis of our introverted team members.  I don't find it easy but I want to excel at the words of James when he writes, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." (James 1:19)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Attractional church

Why do we invest so much time and energy on attracting people to Sunday morning church?

Didn't Jesus say "Go and make disciples...." rather than come to a religious service. I don't really remember him advertising the local Sabbath service at the synagogue with cool newspaper ads and funny dramas.

When I think about the quantity of time and energy I've been investing in attracting people to our Sunday morning services it makes me sick. Shouldn't I be spending my best energy on disciple-making rather than making a slick and entertaining Sunday experience?

Lately I feel like I've become an administrator of church experience instead of a pastor who calls people's attention back to God.

Maybe I'm just feeling burned out.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Crush

I think my wife is the sexiest and most attractive woman I know.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Canadian church: society or community?

Lately I've been reading a provocative little book called Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace by James B. Torrance.

He is professor emeritus of systematic theology at the U. of Aberdeen, Scotland so it's a bit denser than the chainsaw catalogue on our coffee table shelf.

I was struck by his former prof's ideas about "society" and "community".  He writes,

"Professor John Macmurray... used to draw a distinction between "society" and "community."  He defined society as a collection of individuals indirectly related to one another by law, by employment, by contract, to meet needs (economic, financial, physical, etc.).  Community, on the other hand, he defined as a group of persons in relation, directly related by love." (p. 40)

I wonder whether the Canadian church would be better characterized as a "society" or "community"?  

My hunch?  


To me the church seems more bound up in rules than relationships.  It feels institutionalized.

I don't it, institutional Christianity.  The kind of religion that is more concerned with buildings, money and my denominational markings than it is with fostering genuine community.  I long to see people nurturing community where the emphasis is on knowing one another rather than knowing about each other.  I think it's time that my religious brand or social class isn't the primary factor that determines whether I'm accepted or not.  I dream of a day when I'm part of a community where love, not a label, is the mark of belonging.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Technology and worship

Since when has worship become so dependent on technology?

Luke and I recently mounted a new widescreen video projector in the church sanctuary.  As with anything "do-it-yourself" project, there were some minor glitches.  For example we had to adjust the mounted projector to fill the screen, we had to do some signal checks from different computers and finally we had to change the screen resolution from 800 x 600 to 1280 x 768 dpi.  Since Luke is a tech savvy guy I figured things would be fairly straightforward.

They weren't.

Something went loopy with our song projection software.  We tried to recover the song database last night.  We gave up at 11:15pm without a resolution.

I came home, frustrated and annoyed, wondering when church worship became so dependent on technology.  Does technology enhance or detract from our God directed worship?  Is what we call "Sunday morning worship" is better defined as a Christianized theatre production?  Do we gather primarily to proclaim the goodness and sovereignty of God, through Jesus, or are we more interested in being satisfied that the "Sunday morning show" was worth the hour and fifteen minutes we spent at church?  

For myself, I'm not sure I can answer that question yet.  I'd welcome your thoughts from wherever you sit.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Course writing

I've been writing a Distance Education New Testament course since May.  

It's August and I'm so close to being finished that I can almost taste it.  

Tonight Erika spent a much needed evening out with a friend.  While she was sipping coffee, I was combing through a textbook looking for juicy test questions.  

I had to find 20.  I was at number 18 when my wife pulled in the driveway.

Here's what' left to do before the course is complete:
Submit two exams (mid-term and final)
Upload the last 2 tests to my website
Compile videos, supplementary notes and the syllabus onto a DVD
Get the okay from the DE committee at the college that everything is good to go

Looks pretty simple, I know, but I've submitted enough already to know that there are always unforeseen issues that demand attention.

Here's hoping I'm all finished by this time next week!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Visit from my folks

My parents just left.

They came up this past weekend to spend some quality time with me, Erika and the kids. It was relaxing and fun. We ate good food, spent time catching up and even had time to put a roof on our treehouse.

Friday, August 1, 2008

you don't want to read it when...

Any letter that begins with the words "Dear Sir" is not a letter I want to read.

I got one of those letters today. It was from my friends at the Canada Revenue Agency. The letter asks for my charitable donations receipts from previous tax years so they can verify that I have actually given money to charities. They don't want to talk about it, they want my receipts in an envelope headed for PEI.

The people I know well don't tend to write me letters. They talk to me. When they do write me, the tone is warm and sometimes funny, like a Robert Munsch book. Other letters I receive are hand written and serious in nature. Like what you'd find in a dictionary. Usually I don't know those letter-writers well.

It's the people who don't know me, like the good folks at the CRA, who write letters with cool, calculated precision. There are no questions about how my family is doing or whether I'm enjoying my summer. No, these letters are written with an agenda; a demand; an issue in mind.

I wonder how many of those letters could be avoided if the writer used their lips to do more talking than licking.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

No one cares about the sermon title

I'm preaching this weekend.  Since our lead pastor left, I've had some extra opportunities to speak.  I'm thrilled because I love getting up and yacking behind the pulpit.  

I love taking a biblical text and wrestling with it until one of us has come away mastered by the other.  Usually I'm gripped by a new take on something familiar.  Sometimes I read something I've never thought through fully.  Then I'm forced to go deep--thinking and praying through the rest of the scriptures where similar things are written or alluded to.

Throughout the process I roll through my mind's memory rolodex.  I look for something that could help the text live.  This can be one of my favorite parts of the whole process.  It can also be the most agonizing, especially when I can't think of a strong illustration for an important point.

One of the last parts of sermon prep is coming up with a title.  Sometimes it comes, sometimes it doesn't.  The hardest part for a non-committal-kind-of-guy is getting the title to the church's administrator by Thursday.  That's today.  I didn't make it.

My wife said, "no one cares about the title."  She just said that cause she loves me.

Whether she's right or not, It made me feel better.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sometimes I act like a 6-year-old

Life doesn't always go my way.

I should have learned that by this point in my life.

Thankfully, I live with a 6 year-old who teaches me some of life's greatest lessons.

Shawna had a miserable morning.  She desperately wanted to do something.  Mom said no.  That's how I got involved.  She thought Dad might be more sympathetic to her situation.  I wasn't.  I listened to her rationale about her need to do what she wanted to do.  I offered to play with her but she rebutted, arguing that she needed a drink of milk and couldn't play with Dad until she got that drink.  I tried to understand but the more we talked the more I realized something: it all came down to her.  

Her world had come to an abrupt halt at the moment she was denied the opportunity to do what she wanted to do.  At the same time the rest of our family members carried on doing what we were doing.  The world continued to spin.

It was at that point that I realized, I was acting the same way as Shawna.  I had been inwardly sulking about something that didn't go my way.  I was acting just like my daughter only in a grown-up-kind-of-way.  I made a mental shift right then and there.  I changed my perspective.  I stopped pouting and accepted that life doesn't always have to go my way. 

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Run 'lijah Run -an afterthought

Elijah is my 3-year-old.

Run 'lijah Run

I was feeling guilty about my lack of exercise. So, I went for a 4km run. When I got back Elijah had donned a pair of mismatched socks and was ready to go running with me. I figured he'd last a few minutes before abandoning his dream of running with dad. I was wrong.

We ran close to 1/2 km before I asked him if he wanted to turn around. He reluctantly agreed. I was astounded at his endurance and fitness level. On our way back we talked about wolves. I think Elijah interpreted my amazement at his athletic ability with fear of wild animals. He assured me that wolves don't come out during the daytime. That made us both feel better.

When we got home we picked raspberries out of our wild raspberry patch. Yummy.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Shop Talk

Just got finished hanging out with one of my favorite people. We talked about the church, money, kids and basement renos.

I'm exhausted but happy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bible College Courses

I'm in the final stages of completing a New Testament course for the college I teach at. It's down to the editing details. I hate details.

I'm getting ready to teach a New Testament course in Hanover this fall. It'll be offered at the church where I serve as the director of worship and the arts. Our office administrator helped me put together a mail out to send to the churches in Grey and Bruce counties. We included a DVD promo (check it out below).

I'm also getting ready to teach 2 new courses this fall at the college:
1. Introduction to Worship and Music
2. Arts and Symbols in Christian Worship

I love teaching.

Intro to blogland

I made a "to-do" list for my vacation last week. At the bottom of the list was "start a blog". It's a week and a half late but here I am.

I've been particularly busy this week helping out at VBS. I'm one of the only male leaders in the whole program. I've been placed as the authority figure for a handful of grade 5 and 6 boys. At the start of the week I wasn't too sure about how well we'd get along. Now, with only one day left I can safely say that they've wormed their way into my heart.

It's funny. In only 3 days, a half-a-dozen boys with bad hair and weird ideas managed to change me, their leader. Who would have though that poorly behaved kids could have had such a profound effect on me. Makes me wonder how many adults felt like that about me when I was young.
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