Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Faith Raising

I've spent a lot of time over the last few months thinking about faith and trust and have come to some interesting conclusions that have been very liberating. Ultimately faith in God is connected to trusting God. Trust is an interesting concept because it requires us to be vulnerable to the whims and actions of others. What complicates things is that we often interpret the negative things that happen to us and around us as being God's failure to hold up His part of the trust relationship. The result is that we begin to create limits on what can realistically expect God to follow through on. That translates into taking control for those parts of our lives into our own hands. In the beginning, this seems like a very good idea as it seems "safer" than trusting God who may or may not take care of things. Like every other lie that we begin to believe this too leads to death. Death shows up through spiritual and mental exhaustion, a negative attitude and broken relationships. We are left spiritually bankrupt and broken while we frantically try to control and manage our collapsing world.

Trust needs to be rooted in a very basic understanding of God's love for us. Jesus said, "if you, being evil know how to give good gifts, how much more will your Father in heaven give ... to you..."

While I'm still on an enormous journey, I've come to the following conclusions:

1. God's love for me never fails, in spite of what I may see happening to me and around me. He is a good Father.

2. I have never gone without when I have trusted God. I have experienced pain and disappointment when things didn't work out as I had planned, but my needs have always been met.

3. God has consistently worked everything together for my good. While I have not always enjoyed the journey on which He has taken me, the longer I live, the easier it is to see His hand at work in the moments and details of my life.

4. Finally, I MUST feed myself on God's Word, if for no other reason that it increases my faith. There are many other reasons, but this one alone would be good enough. Understanding that the promises are all for me, my family and to any who are willing to believe keeps me focused on the reality that Jesus never fails and that He is constantly working out His purposes in my life.

Learning to Lean...

Monday, August 28, 2006

Bringing God Back Into Public Life: Financier

Excluding Religion Leaves Us Vulnerable, Prayer Breakfast Told
Jennifer Green, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Friday, June 02, 2006

Canadian leaders ought to be ashamed that they demur from mentioning Christ in what is, after all, a predominantly Christian country, says Tom Caldwell, a prominent investment strategist.
"Spiritual vacuums don't exist. We all believe in something. The question is, what are we going to believe?" Mr. Caldwell told the annual National Prayer Breakfast on Parliament Hill yesterday.
When government erases all mention of God, it leaves space for more dubious faith in money, fame, even otherwise worthy goals like self-sufficiency, he said.

Later, in an interview, Mr. Caldwell that the public memorials for the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and Swissair Flight 111 were disgraceful because clergy were specifically asked not to mention Jesus at all. He called the Parliament Hill ceremony after Sept. 11 "pathetic."
If Muslims and Jews might be offended at invocations of Christ, "so what?" he asked. "Anyway, they usually aren't offended." If anything, people of faith are usually more bothered when God is not mentioned at all. "My Jewish friends are the only ones who will wish me Merry Christmas.

Most people know Mr. Caldwell through the business pages, where, by any measure he is one of Canada's most successful men. Most recently, he made his clients a $100-million profit by snapping up seats on the New York Stock Exchange. He is a member of the Order of Canada and New York's University Club, the Toronto Club, the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. So how does he square such worldly success with his Catholic faith?
"It's the love of money that is wrong, not money itself." He says he stays in business because he provides a service ensuring the fiscal well-being of clients and their pensions.
To the MPs, senators, various clergy, and other interest groups gathered at the breakfast in the West Block, he talked about his Christian faith and how it grew stronger in the darkest, least successful times of his life.
Growing up agnostic in a tumultuous family, his closest contact with religion was the Catholic church where he regularly pilfered the alms box so he could afford to go to the movies.
It wasn't until his professional and personal life fell apart in his 30s, that he became Christian. He later paid back the church -- with interest -- for the change he took.

The National Prayer Breakfast started 41 years ago as an outgrowth of the weekly prayer breakfast held for MPs and senators on the Hill. This year, it included a dinner on Wednesday, with speaker Chuck Strahl, a Conservative MP from Chilliwack, B.C.
He was diagnosed last year with cancer and told the crowd that faith had helped him get through he worst days.

Yesterday, Liberal leader Bill Graham, NDP leader Jack Layton, and Conservative House leader Rob Nicholson delivered Bible readings. Various senators and Carlos Miranda, dean of the diplomatic corps, also spoke or read prayers. © The Ottawa Citizen 2006

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Staffs and Serpents

When I resigned from the church, I was determined to "re-invent" myself. Great concept because there were a lot of things that needed to change, but there was a problem in my thinking. I had forgotten that the clay doesn't say to the potter, I'm going to shape myself into what I want to be. God had another plan, and I'm glad that He did, because while I continue to be in the process of being re-invented, I see a lot of things much differently than I did a year ago and those who live closest to me will tell you that's a VERY GOOD thing!

In the week before I decided to resign, I heard a devotional at a ministerial group. The message was built around God's challenge to Moses to "throw down his staff". When he did, the staff became a serpent and when God told Moses to retrieve it, it became a staff again. What's interesting about this whole story is that the purpose of the staff changed dramatically.

Up until that point, the staff had only been used to shepherd sheep. In the 40 years that Moses was a shepherd, he would have used his staff to rescue sheep, protect the sheep and guide the sheep. After the encounter with God, the staff was never used for those purposes again. After the God encounter, Moses staff was an instrument of miracles. Over and over again, God used the staff (something that was familiar to Moses) as an instrument through which something supernatural took place. The staff was central in the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, bringing water from a rock, in military battles and many other places.

God used what was familiar, common and ordinary and did something miraculous over and over with it. None of it makes any sense in the natural, but there aren't many places in the bible where God does something amazing that makes a lot of sense.

To the widow who is starving he says, feed my prophet and there will always be enough for you, and He sustained her for 3 1/2 years.,

To the childless senior citizens, He promised an heir and at 90 Sarah delivered her first born. When Isaac was 16, God tells Abraham to offer him as a sacrifice and their God revealed himself as the God who provides.

To the terrified king, God sends a young boy to slay a giant with nothing more than a sling and 5 stones.

To a virgin, God says, you're going to have a son, to a disciple he says, walk on water, to the pharisees he says kill me and in 3 days I will rise again.

None of it makes any sense at all, but God was in it all and made all of it work!

The same is true with you and me. God is constantly calling you and I to things that make no sense, and yet that is where is He is waiting to show Himself and His great power! In fact it may well be that the key to seeing God do the kinds of things we see Him doing in the Bible in and through our lives is simply to listen and risk more.

The easy thing to do is play it safe and hold on to the "staff" in our life and keep doing the same thing in the same way. The exciting thing to do is to step out and go for it and watch God step up to the plate and do something amazing!!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Praise, Miracles and Leading Influence

We were back at our home church on Sunday morning for the first time in what felt like a month. It was good to be home. The worship was fantastic and there was a very clear sense that God was present and at work. During worship there was a prophetic word about miracles happening as we worshipped. Specifically, the word was that "some of you will go home today to discover that things have changed while you've been out." I believe in miracles and that God is always active so none of that is a stretch for me, but I didn't really expect that much would be different when I got home...

Just before lunch, I got a call from our ministry "accountant". She was calling to tell me that we had received our largest donation to this point on Sunday morning which effectively doubled our bank balance! We still have a long ways to go, but this is a great faith and financial boost for us. There was some other money as well so things are looking up for us.

Included in the envelopes that she got yesterday morning, was our first donation from a church. I want to acknowledge the Victoria Miracle Centre and Pastor Dan and Susan MacLean (
www.miraclecentre.com) for their vision and generosity. What's most incredible to me is that we have never met or spoken to each other, but that they responded to what they heard about this vision which says to me that these are "go for it" people who are full of faith and vision. I'm looking forward to meeting them the next time I'm in Victoria!

Also, I just confirmed our first public presentation today. I'm very excited to be able to present the ministry to a local church. I've been planning towards a fall speaking schedule to give churches the chance to get past the summer slump and fall kick off events. This invitation came out of the blue and I'm looking forward to preaching after being off for almost a year.

Check out the website to see where it is. I might be seeing you on Sunday!


Thursday, August 17, 2006

God and Change

What's harder for God to do? Move a mountain or move you?

Isn't it interesting how we are very keen to see God move a mountain, but often very reluctant to have God move us?

Generally speaking, I'm very in favour of change, especially when I am in control of the agenda and know where it's going. When that's the case, change is fun, exciting and part of the very big picture. When I'm not in charge of the agenda, change isn't nearly as much fun. Then I become impatient, frustrated and generally restless.

I was talking with a friend last night about how we will grow this ministry. S he relayed a story that she heard from someone earlier in the day. He was arguing with God about how things were going to happen. (Ever do that? Did you ever win? Did God ever let you think you'd won...?) Finally God says to him, "it's easier for Me to provide all the money and resources you need than it is for me to change you into the person I need you to be!"

It's nothing for God to release money, because money is inanimate. It goes where He sends it and does what it is told. Of everything in all creation, we alone our able to "drag our feet" and yet God is forever gracious and patient with us. He initiates, continues and completes what He starts in us so that one day, we are fully conformed into who He wants us to be.

"Being CONFIDENT of this that He who BEGAN a good work in you will CONTINUE it until the day of COMPLETION." Phil 1:6

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Counting the Days and Making them Count!

We are returning home to our future. Establishing and launching this ministry is something that I've been looking forward to for a long time and our return from vacation marks the beginning of the next steps in moving it forward.

There have been some surprises on the journey. Some disappointments, some pain, some rest and a lot of reflection. This has been far more work than what I thought it would be, but then again, the only time that success comes before work is in the dictionary. Laying an organizational foundation, a relational foundation and building a network of supporters has been harder than I thought it would be. In the end, this will be worth it and the price paid in order to make it happen will be very rewarding.

Joseph, Daniel and even Esther spent a lot of time getting ready to fulfill what it was God was calling them to do even though they didn't know it. In the last few days, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the value of now. Fleetwood Mac sang "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow" and that's important, but seeing the value in now is priceless too.

I saw a great sign yesterday that said "Don't count the days. Make the days count." It reminded me to get focused and stay focused on the things that matter most in every part of my life.

Hope it inspires you too!


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Vacation Comes to an end

We've been away from home for nearly two weeks so it's feeling a lot like it's time to come home. It's been a great time away. Everyone has had a great time and got to do some pretty cool stuff.

Made some new friends, spent hours in town at the mall, stayed up late, thinks she could live in Moose Jaw except that they start school in August which she doesn't like at all! She's had an excellent summer with a bunch of birthday parties. We're very happy for her and glad that she was able to spend a month here. Next year, she'll probably try to be here as soon as school is out!

Learned to shoot:
gophers (3 kills) and pool (very good at it!)

Played golf with Dad and UNCLE RODGER
Drove and rode the quad, went tubing at the lake and had a lot of fun with Tyler

Saw Grandpa's Grey Cup ring

Beat UNCLE RODGER at the Saturday Sports tournament. (This was just a fun day at Rodger and Brandon's but it might have been the Stanley Cup.

Learned to shoot:
Gophers (2 kills) and pool (learned all the pool shark tricks)
Drove and rode the quad
Went tubing at the lake
Established a cult following with all of his little cousins - they think that he walks on water! Sidney thinks the sun rises and sets on him...

WORE Grandpa's Grey Cup ring. Looks at the pictures of grandpa holding the Grey Cup. Dreams that "one day it will be me.."

This has been a great time to relax and reconnect with family. We've been blessed to be here! We are looking forward to returning home, seeing Zoe and getting ready for school and a return to our own beds.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Family Visit

I had a family visit this morning. It was very unique because I visted people I've never met and they didn't even know I was there...

Now that I have your attention, I'll tell you what happened. Last week we were at the church camp where Barb spent a lot of time when she was growing up. While we were there, I met a second cousin that I hadn't seen in a long time. We spent some time catching up over lunch and the conversation turned to the death of my younger brother. He was killed in a car accident when the car was hit by a drunk driver. It happened 25 years ago this spring. He was 6 months old, I was 18 and just completing my first year of Bible College. Needless to say it rocked our world in a number of ways. I haven't thought about James for a long time, but the conversation stirred a number of memories and emotions so I decided that while I was in the area (Melville, SK), I would visit his grave. I've only been there twice. Once on the day he was buried and one other time, so I was due for a visit...

I spent last night at my aunt and uncle's and told them what I wanted to do so before 8 this morning, my uncle and I were hiking around the cemetery. He knew where it was so it wasn't long until we were standing at his grave. At that moment, it felt like it was yesterday. The emotions flooded back, I shed some tears and my uncle and I just kind of stood there. It was awkward, painful and good all at the same time.

I spent a lot of time today thinking about how someone who lived for such a short time so long ago, could continue to have such an effect on my life? It brings "The Purpose Driven Life" to a whole new level of meaning. Sometimes our greatest purposes are fulfilled after we are gone and God continues to use memories to move us towards what He wants to work out in us and through us.

That wasn't my only visit. Because we were there, we went to visit my aunt's grave (his sister) and he showed me where he and my aunt will be buried. That was kind of strange, but there's a lot to be said for planning ahead. As we walked, I began to notice names of other people that I had met or knew because of my summers on the farm near there. Some were relatives, some were neighbours, some were family friends. We stopped and stood at graves of people he knew and that I had met. We went to my grandparents grave as well. It was a very rich experience.

Before we left he took me to the vetran's section. I have a great uncle who was killed in action in France in August of 1944. He is buried there, but there is a headstone to mark his life here too. Initially, the headstone was at a cemetry in the country. When the cemetery was eventually abandonded, the headstone was brought into the city cemetery. For whatever reason, it was just placed in the row of headstones and stayed there until someone needed the spot where it was. After that there were no other places left in the vetran's section. There is an archway that you walk through to access the vetran's section and my uncle's tombstone is placed on one side of the arch facing another in the opposite position. They look like sentries guarding the way in to the area. In the light of what's happening in Afghanastan and Lebanon, the whole thing was very poignant.

Most of the people that I visited live even though their bodies died years ago. I am confident that while I live out my life here, they are cheering me on along with many of my other heroes. One day, I will see them again (and meet some of them for the first time!) It will be amazing and overwhelming all at the same time.

I can only imagine...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Saskatchewan Vacation

It's not quite like the Griswold's "European Vacation" but it's been quite a week here in "Big Mosquito Country". We spent the week at a church camp (Keddleston) with Barb's cousins and their kids. It was a lot of fun connecting with cousins and meeting old friends as well.

Here are some of the highlights.

1) The lake turned GREEN! Hard to believe but true. One day the lake was blue, the next day the lake was green. You might think I'm kidding, but it looked like that green drink that Barb gets at Starbucks. What's most remarkable is that people continue to use the lake like it's normal.

2) The Blood Donor Clinic. All right it wasn't really a blood donor clinic because I didn't know I was donating until the next morning. Apparently my feet and ankles have tasty blood because they were covered with welts where the vampire mosquitos were having a banquet while I slept.

3) Old Friend/New Friend. On our first night there, Barb met someone we knew from Vancouver Island. She spent her summer at the same camp that we counselled and led at in other years. Louise is married with 3 sons. She lives in Regina which is a long way from Port Alberni and owns a funeral home business with her husband Miles. The great thing about old friends is that they usually bring new friends. Miles is a crazy man! I think we'll have a lot of fun together.

If you're thinking of dying any time soon, call Paragon Funeral Services in Regina. Miles and Louise will take great care of you.

4) Driving the Combine. Sorry I don't have any pictures on this, but the boys and I went for a ride on the combines with Barb's dad and brother. For the uninitiated, combines are harvesting machines that farmers use to bring in the crops. Yesterday they were harvesting lentils, next week they'll do peas and then probably birdseed, before they go on to do wheat and barley. There were 5 combines, 2 semi's and one 5 ton truck working the 200 acre field that we were at yesterday. They were done in about 5 hours. It's a pretty impressive operation. The cabs are all airtight and airconditioned. Each machine needs 4 computers to run the various processes involved so it's pretty complex. Here's a link to tell you more about what they are like.

5) Family Time. Because we are spread out from Victoria, BC to Moose Jaw, SK, the opportunity for everyone to be together is pretty rare. Last night we had a family birthday party for Brittany, Barb's sister (Rhona) and our niece (Sidney). They are all August babies and all born within about a week of each other which is kind of neat. The guys watched the Riders lose to the Stampeders as part of the evening. It was a memorable event.

Today we are just hanging out, playing pool and going out to shoot some gophers this afternoon. Nothing like "Big Mosquito Country" to bring out the killing instincts in you...

Have a good one!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Going to Saskatchewan...

So we left on vacation on Saturday afternoon with a fully loaded van and pointed it east. Destination - Keddleston Camp on Last Mountain Lake in Sunny Saskatchewan. It's been a few years since we've been back but I'm happy to report that absolutely nothing has changed here. The sky is still big, the ground is still flat, the highways still look they belong in Beruit and the mosquitos are ever abundant...

Here's some highlights from the trip thus far.

Saturday Night
We stayed in Golden at "Mary's Motel" - (Trust me Barb, it's a great price and how bad can it be??) I should listen to my wife!! The place was a dump and there were several parties going on in the courtyard. This must be at least a -5 Star hotel! Tell all of your enemies to stay there!! :-)

Sunday Morning
We left at 7:00 which was an hour later than we had planned and about 3 hours after I finally fell asleep due to the social gatherings taking place all around us. After a quick stop at Tim Hortons, we proceeded towards our destination. Tyler asked if we could drive by the Saddledome in Calgary because he's a huge Flames fan. Normally, I would have given him an excuse but I decided that in light of the journey before us, 15 minutes out of our way wouldn't be the end of the world.

It was well worth the detour. We pulled up in front and he had to get out and "touch" the building, look in the window and just "be" there. Nice little diversion for the day.

Family nearly gets hit by Greyhound.
That should have been the headline on Monday morning. I cut off a Greyhound with about 100m between us when I pulled out in front of it. There was a semi turning left and the bus was in it's blindspot. When I pulled out, there was no where to go. Thankfully we made it with a bit of room to spare. It was close enough that I probably should have stopped to change my shorts, but I chose not to and just blamed the kids for the smell... Too close for comfort, but THANKS GOD!!

Driving in a war zone
With no exaggeration, I thought we were in Beruit when we drove into Sask. What had been a nice wide, smooth highway became the worst piece of road I've ever seen. I think they only mark the really bad ones because they are still looking for the vehicles that fell into them. I'd take pictures, but you'd think I was using a moon shot because the craters are so big!! Needless to say I'm not in a hurry to drive here again. it was pretty bad!!

After 13 hours we are almost at our destination. This is after Tyler and I talk for an hour about how straight the road is (no curves for miles...) and how flat the land is. The name of the place we're going to is "Last Mountain Lake". I asked him why he thought they called it that. He said "that's probably because we saw the last mountain 10 hours ago..."

The other "Tylerism" of the day came yesterday afternoon. We are staying at a spot where all of Barb's cousins are also staying. There's 9 kids under 10 on the site. Barb's cousin has one of those "Slow! Children at Play" signs because we're near the road. Tyler pulled me aside and asked "Dad, does that mean "Slow Children at Play" or that people should go slow because there's kids playing. After rolling on the ground, I told him that it was really about people needing to drive slow because there are kids playing and that none of his relatives are "challenged".

Daugher reunited with Family
Britt met us at the van with a big hug. She's been away for 3 weeks so we were quite happy to see her. She's made some new friends and has had a great time here. This week is family camp so she's having a lot of fun enjoying "Late Night" after "Mug Up"

Life is Good on Vacation! I should get to post again in a few days. Until then, don't smile to broadly when you're running down the street, the mosquitos really show up on your teeth!