Saturday, May 25, 2013

Moving forward by standing still

I'm amazed at how many times God calls His people to increase their faith by standing still.

Here are a few examples:

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Ex. 14:13-14)

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Eph. 6:13)

You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and seethe deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you. (2 Ch. 20:17)

So, why not try it.  Pause long enough to allow God to do something.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Reflecting on Dallas Willard's recent passing from life to Life

Last week I heard the news first from Erika: Dallas Willard died today.  I was shocked and saddened.

Although I never had the chance to meet him, I consider him to be one of my mentors and pastoral guides.  I've read a handful of his books and, while biking into work, I often listen to his podcasts/iTunes U lecturers.

Some of his ideas and definitions have become permanently embedded in my mind:

"A disciple is one who is with another, learning to be like him or her"

"Grace is not opposed to effort it's opposed to earning.  Effort is action, earning is attitude."

"I think that, when I die, it might be some time until I know it."

I could go on and on but I won't.  You'll just have to pick up one of his books or listen to one of his podcasts to hear for yourself.

In the meantime, here are two Christianity Today articles that offer some insight into Dallas' character and legacy.

Tribute by John Ortberg

Remembering Dallas by Richard Foster (former pastor)

I look forward to meeting him at the resurrection.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Deck frog

Growing up in Niagara, the only place I'd find frogs to catch was in nearby ponds and swamps.  Not in Grey county.  My kids need only go to the edge of our deck.  This funny fellow showed up in that spot around lunch time and spent the afternoon unmoved.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Old friends and new at Assembly 2013

This past week our pastoral team participated in the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada national assembly--a biennial gathering of EMCC church leaders from across Canada.  It flip flops between eastern and western canadian cities.  This year it was in Toronto.

The speakers and conversations were engaging, the food was delicious, and the pool was large.  We learn new things and we were reminded of some things that shouldn't change.  As always, I ran into a handful of co-labourers that I've had the privilege of serving with over the years.  Here's one example of a former HMC staff member posing with a couple of current pastors and spouses.

And a certain shy musician playing without sticks or a drum kit...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Team Teaching

Our pastoral team shared the teaching during the service this morning.  Amos, our children's pastor, wasn't able to participate in the teaching end of things but he gladly pitched in to do the announcements.  The rest of us--Connie, Lyndsay, and I--divided up Ephesians 1:15-23 and we each took a few minutes to talk about it.  The context was the apostle Paul's prayer for the Ephesian church.  Our context is prayer for Hanover Missionary Church.

It felt good to work collaboratively on such an important subject with a gifted pastoral team in a congregation that finding hope in surprising places.

I'm already looking forward to next week's guest speaker.

Friday, May 3, 2013


It's another sign of spring: rhubarb.  The reddish green stalks and oversized leaves are some of the season's first edible plants that appear around our house.

A few posts ago I raved about planting sugar maples--another leafy friend that produces in early spring.  I thought it would be fun to do a small comparison between rhubarb and sugar maples.  Here's what I've come up with:

1.  Time needed for plant/tree maturation.  Rhubarb: one year.  Sugar maple: half a century.  
2.  Ease of harvest for a child.  A three year old can snap off a rhubarb stalk and eat it in seconds.  Ask a toddler tap a sugar maple and turn the sap into syrup?  Maybe not.  
3.  Season length.  The maple sap flow is usually measured in days.  Alternatively, our rhubarb patch will still be producing in July.
4.  Ease of spelling for a child.  The silent 'h' can be a hangup even for adults.  Alternatively, 'sugar' and 'maple' are straightforward.

So, tonight we left the maple syrup in the fridge and put our rhubarb shoots to good use by making a rhubarb dessert.  The kids were invited to 'wash the dishes' or 'pick some rhubarb'.  They chose harvesting the tasty tart treats.  I got dish duty.  And we all ended up with a bowl of rhubarb crisp a la mode.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Two wheelin' again

Finally. A day when I didn't need the car and the sun was shining. Ideal conditions for a two wheeled commute into work.

According to google maps it's a 11km trek, one way. There are rolling hills, gravel roads, and today I met black dog that ran after me barking and smiling with his lips curled up to show me his nice big teeth.

I plan on riding as much as I can. Riding into the wind and up the hills will keep my body fit. Listening to my favorite professors on iTunes U will keep my mind active. And being chased by dogs will keep my faith strong.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


I spent the morning with our pastoral team.  It was our first focused planning session since last spring.  We looked at our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.  It was an interesting exercise.  

I think we're still in the transition phase.  We're near the end but we're not quite through it.  Between 2008 and 2013 we've said goodbye to 3 longstanding, veteran pastors.  That kind of quick turnover after so many years of consistent leadership takes it toll on a congregation and staff.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed.  But I try not to dwell there.  Instead, I think about the things/people I'm thankful for.

Today, I'm thankful for Jesus and the scriptures.  I'm thankful for my wife and kids.  I'm thankful for the staff team.  And I'm thankful for the frogs I can hear croaking in the pond not too far away.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Mmmmm, pancakes in 2053

Today I planted some sugar maple saplings.  And, if they survive the cottontail rabbits and misguided toboggan runs, I might be able to tap them when I'm seventy-five or eighty.  Of course, I don't plan on living here then but it doesn't hurt to plan for future homeowners.

Besides hoping that future residents will tap them, here are some other reasons why I chose sugar maples:

1.  They are the quintessential Canadian tree.  (Doesn't the new Canadian $20 bill prove it!  Cough cough)
2.  I understand that they are one of the most shade tolerant hardwood trees.  I'm planting saplings under the branches of my Ash trees for replacement purposes.  Yes, I am preparing for imminent Ash tree death whenever this pest reaches my yard.
3.  Sugar Maples are not affected by juglone.  Juglone is released from the roots of Black Walnut trees into the soil and it's toxic to many varieties of plants and trees.  That's important to us because we have quite a few Black Walnut trees.
4.  They were available when I stopped by the Arbour Day tree sale today.

Now, if only it didn't take so long to go from this:

To this:

And this:

Friday, April 26, 2013

Starters and Finishers

Home projects always go better when Erika and I are both involved.

Erika's a starter and I'm more of a finisher so it works out well.  

Take this window for example, it's stain didn't match the other windows.  

Here's a step by step of how we dealt with it:

1.  Erika started sanding it months ago.  
2.  She 'got distracted'.  (aka. she finished sanding but the window wasn't fully sanded)
3.  So, last week I picked up some scraps of sandpaper and started sanding.  
4.  After a few days of on-and-off sanding I finished sanding the window.  
5.  Erika, seeing the opportunity, started staining. 
6.  Erika finished staining.
7.  The window is done.  Yay.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Go away winter

Spring, where are you?  It's snowing outside right now!!!

Here's a photo I took--looking down my driveway--this morning.  Good thing I've still got the snow blower and chains on the tractor.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

At the end of another's rope

Two ARC ministries associates were among our congregation this past Sunday.  They've been hired to do an assessment of our church.
During their information session they cited a handful of author's names.  One was a rabbi named Edwin Friedman.  It just so happened that I'm currently reading a book with a Friedman fable in it.  Here's the story in a slightly abbreviated form than the one found in The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero.  
The fable begins with a man wrestling with his own thoughts about his future and what choices he wants to make about his life.
After much contemplation, he achieves great clarity and is excited about the vision he can see for his life. He starts off on the journey to his future. 
He must travel to another town where an amazing opportunity has presented itself but he must get there by the next morning or the opportunity will pass.
He travels many hours, each step getting more excited about the life he is creating. As the full moon rises, he is alone in his thoughts as he starts crossing a bridge.
The man sees out of the corner of his eye a stranger coming towards him. He thinks the man approaching is putting his hand out to greet him. However, the stranger has the end of a rope in his hand with the other end wound around his waist.
The stranger asks the man to hold the end of the rope. Although perplexed, the man complies.
The stranger asks the man to hold on tight with two hands and then promptly jumps off the bridge toward the swift running deep river below. “Hold on!” the stranger cries.
The free-falling body hurtled the distance of the rope’s length, and from the bridge the man abruptly felt the pull. He held tight despite being almost pulled over the side of the bridge.
Peering down at the stranger who was close to oblivion, the man yelled, “What are you trying to do?”
“Just hold tight,” said the other.
The man tried to haul the stranger in but he could not. He could not get enough leverage. His strength was almost perfectly counterbalanced by the other man’s weight.
“Why did you do this?” the man called out. “Remember,” said the other, “if you let go, I will be lost.”
“But I cannot pull you up,” the man cried. “Just hold on. I need you,” the stranger yells.
The man looked around for help, but no one was near. The man holds on for a while, and then calls, “Please, I cannot hold you. Please climb up.”
“I am your responsibility,” said the other. “Well, I did not ask for it,” the man said. The stranger cried, “If you let go, I am lost.”
The man tried to invent solutions, like tying the rope to the bridge, but could not find any that would work.
Fearing that his arms could not hold out much longer, he tied the rope around his waist.
He thought if he just waited long enough, someone was bound to come and help pull the stranger up. He waited many hours, but no one came.
“Why did you do this?” he asked again. “Don’t you see what you have done? What possible purpose could you have had in mind?”
“Just remember,” said the other, “my life is in your hands.”
Time passed and a decision needed to be made. The man could not hold on much longer.
A thought occurred to him. If the stranger hauled himself up and he kept the end steady and pulled a bit, together they could get the stranger back to safety.
But the other wasn’t interested.
“You mean you won’t help? But I told you I cannot pull you up myself, and I don’t think I can hang on much longer either.” “You must try,” the other shouted back in tears. “If you fail, I die.”
More time passed and finally, the point of decision arrived. The man said to the other, “Listen to me. I will not accept the position of choice for your life, only for my own; the position of choice for your own life, I hereby give back to you.”
“What do you mean?” the other asked, afraid.
“I mean, simply, it’s up to you. You decide which way this ends. I will help you if you help yourself.”
“You cannot mean what you say,” the other shrieked. “You would not be so selfish. I am your responsibility. What could be so important that you would let someone die? Do not do this to me.”
The man stated again, “I will not stand here and hold this rope. If you want to live, you must start moving now, and I will help you. Please, start now.”
He waited a few minutes, but there was no change in the tension of the rope. “I accept your choice,” the man said, at last, and freed his hands.
So, what do you think?  Did the man act using healthy boundaries or heartless cruelty?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Norman. Meet Taylor.

We added a member to our family today. Taylor. I found her on Kijiji. She used to live near Tobermory with a wonderful man named Kevin.

She's mainly for Erika. But I've taken a liking to her as well.

For now, Norman, you'll have to be content being second fiddle. I mean guitar.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Learning about satan

Satan.  The devil.  The ancient serpent.  The dragon.  The adversary.  The accuser.  The opposer.  The ruler of the kingdom of the air. The father of lies.

Sometimes he comes near to me.  I don't like it.

Last Thursday was one of those dark and lonely days.  I find that he closes in when spiritual breakthroughs are happening or about to happen in my life and family.  Thankfully, I know Jesus is near too.

So, it comes as no surprise that I've been asked to teach about the Lord of the Flies (yup, that's another name for him) this Friday night at Sr. Youth.

I guess I'll have the conch.  I'm hoping the teens keep their rocks and spears at home.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Defining Church

I've been working on a definition of the church.  It's for our upcoming sermon series.  I'd like to develop a definition that would allow me to explore a single word from the definition each Sunday.  The whole venture could take six to eight weeks.

Here's what I've got so far:

The Church is the community of the Father, Son, and Spirit--baptized--that live and proclaim the kingdom of God in the world.

We'll begin on Sunday, April 28th.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Getting Closer...

"Get closer."  It came as God's invitation to a distant pastor.  Me.

I'm exiting the most difficult ministry season of my life.  It has been a year of wrestling with heaviness, fear, loneliness, and sin.  

But something is different now, after God's invitation.  I'm leaning in; I'm picking up the phone and calling people.  Some are scary conversations; some are not so scary.  I don't have much to say.  I don't have much to lose.  Just an invitation from God and a mind and heart that is ready to listen.

So, I blogged about it.  There.  It's another way for me to become vulnerable and let you in on my ideas and musings.

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