Friday, August 31, 2012

small smile

   I hang up the phone with a smile on my face.  It’s strange because I’ve just been talking with a woman in my church whose husband has just passed away.  He had suffered a severe stroke some weeks back, had fought hard, but had eventually succumbed to the damage.  I had been up to the hospital to see him.  He was in pain.  Nonresponsive.  In those moments there’s really only one thing you can do.  I lowered myself into the chair at his bedside and began to pray.  Perhaps, more often than not, that is the only thing we are really supposed to do after all.  Surrender the pain, the confusion, the anger: asking the Lord to “come and see” the sorrow, like Mary when she meets Jesus after Lazarus has died.  We find in Mary the invitation each of us has to ask Jesus into our sadness, our grief, our sorrow.  And he comes, himself weeping.  My Saviour isn’t afraid to cry.  We can enter into the grieving together.

   Death has a way of infiltrating our senses.  The colour of the wall looks muted.  Familiar sounds dull.  We find ourselves doing menial tasks without much thought—keeping busy, I suppose—or we’re crumpled, deflated, emptied of all that feels good and right.  I remember hearing the news that my Grandpa Cain had died.  I think it was the first day of school, 1999.  Dad told me.  I was standing in the kitchen by the dishwasher, myself suddenly awash with a strange mixture of relief and sadness: relieved that the pain and sickness were finally over; sad that it had ever happened at all.  Lord, come and see.

   So what caused the smile this morning?  It was the remembrance that beyond the death and pain, there is indeed a light that shines out the clearer.  A light that does not nullify or ignore the potency of such a sting, yet bathes us afresh in memory and witness anew.  The light is hope.  Hope that rushes to the tomb and finds only folded grave-clothes.  Hope that carries still the scars of sorrow, yet is healed and made whole.  Hope that calls friends to a shore-breakfast of the morning’s catch.  Hope not as abstract principle: Hope who is a Person.  That Person who is no longer dead, but living again.  The same Person who promises that same hope for us: that death be forever broken of its power, that life be restored and renewed again in the morning of New Creation.  This is the Hope of Resurrection—made real and alive in Christ himself.  And this is why I smile, for in that simple phone call—a small gesture, attempted by a pastor to bring comfort, to simply be and be still in the presence of those in mourning—I could hear Hope already awakened and alive in her heart.  And it was beginning even then to spill over and fill me with hope.  The pain isn't over, certainly.  But it is no longer all that is.
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tower high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”  -  J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
Amen.  Come and see us, Lord Jesus, come and see.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

the company we keep

Hello!  It’s been some time since posting.  The last month has been full: two weddings with a trip both west and east, moving to full-time pastoring at the Church, saying good-bye to my work and employers at PRT, celebrating our 3rd anniversary, camping with Sarah and her brother, Josh, and enjoying this beautiful summer.

This week I wanted to provide some sermon resources for what I shared on July 1st.  I’m not sure if these will be regular addition or not, but if they can be beneficial to anyone who couldn’t make it out to church or is simply interested in diving more deeply into the text and ideas of last Sunday.

Click here to access the sermon notes, summary and reflection questions for our message from July 1st.

The Peace of Christ,


Summer Laundry

Thursday, May 24, 2012

where the eating and the remembering are one

This past Mother’s Day, Sarah and I were having coffee with Mom and Dad and my Auntie Laurel and Uncle Don, and somewhere along the way they got talking about what life was like during their childhoods.  “There were no supermarkets,” said Uncle Don.  Their memories grew more and more elaborate as they recalled early-morning milk deliveries, fresh baked bread from the bakery, old propane tanks along the house, tabs at the corner store, woodstoves and glass pop bottles.

Remembering is a key part of what it means to be human.  We could almost say that our memories are essential to who we know ourselves to be.  We reminisce over the little moments, and we pay homage to the big events like where we’ve lived, who we’ve known—who we’ve loved.  When we take the time to savour these memories, we find ourselves being drawn to see our lives as a story and as a journey.  We learn how we came to be living here and now.  Good remembering can teach us who we are.

Now there’s a difference between a simple reminder and these sort of active, full-bodied acts of remembering.  Being reminded is, I would like to think, a thing that happens to us—something outside tweaks our brains to recollect a fact or appointment.  “Dance Lessons @ 6:45”,  “Pick up the kids @ 3:00”, “Get lettuce on the way home.”  That sort of thing.  Reminding might lead to remembering, but it is not in and of itself of the same quality.

Remembering involves action.  We retell the stories.  We re-enact the moments.  We draw others into the memory.  “Remember when the van broke down with the wedding dress inside?”  We allow the meaning of an event or a person to saturate our minds, our hearts, and our imaginations.  It gets inside us.  We become changed.

If remembering is so essential to human life, it is therefore essential to the Christian life.  The people of God are called to be a remembering people.  We are a people who are being changed and made anew through the love of Him whose life has invaded our lives: Jesus Christ.  “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood.”  (John 1:14 The Message).  When we immerse ourselves in the story of Scripture we find that God is often teaching us that we must learn how to remember well if we are to stay in stride with all that is going on in this Father-created, Christ-redeemed, Spirit-blessed world.  Take these stones, build this altar, make a memorial, eat this meal.  This kind of remembering involves real people: hands and shoulders which carry altar stones, feet to walk across riverbeds, voices raised in adoration, eyes lifted, words spoken, legacy passed on.  Biblically speaking, remembering is an embodied thing.  There’s more going on here than just the firing off of electrons in our brains.  Our whole selves are present in active remembrance.

The Church is to be a remembering people.  She is a community of memory and of hope.  The Bible draws our attention both to our pasts in gratitude, and to the future glory in anticipation and expectation.  We live out our remembering in the present: in the already and not yet of the Christ's Kingdom.  All of this is bound together, sharpened, clarified, and exalted when we gather together the worshipping, praying, witnessing community to the most poignant act of remembrance:  the sharing of a meal.

Alexander Schmemann, one of our best writer-poet-pastors on the subject, gets us pointed in the right direction:  In Genesis we find that man is created hungry.  God provides for him trees and fruit, a garden, of which to eat.  God gives the world to man to become his food.  In eating, man takes the world into himself and it becomes sustenance to the flesh and blood of man.  The world is transformed into life.

In the Bible the food that man eats, the world of which he must partake in order to live is given to him by God, and it is given as communion with God. . . . All that exists is God’s fit to man, and it all exists to make God known to man, to make manes life communion with God.  It is divine love made food, made life for man.  God blesses everything He creates, and in biblical language, that means that He makes all creation the sign and means of His presence and wisdom, love and revelation:  “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”[1]

          So we come to the table, a place of family and sharing together.  We come to eat.  We take food into ourselves and it nourishes us and is transformed into life.  Only here, we find that Christ has offered himself as food for us.  He becomes the Life which will nourish and sustain and transform us:  “Take and eat.  This is my body.  This is my blood.  Do this in remembrance of me.” 

          As Stanley Grenz so right puts it: "We not only announce the truth we also mysteriously participate in this grand event."[2]  We retell the "old, old story", we respond to his gift of himself to be our food--our nourishment, our sustenance--our life.  He invites us to the table, to join with the family for the meal.  

          And so we come: eating, remembering, and living.

   “Let me go over with you again exactly what goes on in the Lord's Supper and why it is so centrally important. I received my instructions from the Master himself and passed them on to you. The Master, Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread. Having given thanks, he broke it and said, 

   This is my body, broken for you. 
      Do this to remember me.
   After supper, he did the same thing with the cup: 
      This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you. 
      Each time you drink this cup, remember me.

   What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again until the Master returns. You must never let familiarity breed contempt.”

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 The Message

[1]Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1963), 25.
[2] Stanley Grenz, Theology for the Community of God (Grand Rapids: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 522.

Monday, April 30, 2012

becoming pastoral

This week I wrote an article for Eston College’s “Life Express!” news and blog website.  I’m glad I did.  I’ve found that through writing I’m able to better process and reflect on what’s going on in my life. 

Click the picture below to read: “Becoming Pastoral”


Last week I also had the opportunity to sit down with a few people and hear their stories.  It’s an honour to be invited to walk alongside you, and I don’t take the role lightly!  It’s also been very encouraging to see how many of you are growing and able to articulate how you see God at work in your faith and your life.  As a pastor, that’s a great comfort… it shows me that you’re learning to be attentive to the ways God moves—recognizing the nuance and beauty with which He weaves our life stories together.  It’s my prayer for all of us that we continue to learn how to pay attention.  Often this means slowing down.  In this day and age we’ve become experts at filling our time, at staying busy, at always being connected.  Sometimes we can even adopt a strange sort of guilt when it comes to taking time for ourselves, for rest. That’s not quite right!  It’s also the reason I don’t carry a cell phone.

But part of maturing in our faith means cutting through that busyness (even busyness for God or for ministry) and finding rest and learning to listen to God’s voice in stillness.  My hope is, at some point, to teach on spiritual disciplines: one of which is solitude. 

So let’s be faithful to the good work, that God calls us to…but let’s not become so consumed that we are incapable of also taking the time for stillness and rest.

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." 
 - Matthew 11:28-30 The Message (MSG)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Easter Life

Though the holiday itself has passed my mind has been filled this week with Easter. We're in a season of newness (at least we're supposed to be--it is spring after all!); this has really struck home for Sarah and I as we entered into this week: a new job, a new office, a new world of thoughts and questions and possibility. I'm typing this out to you from the Pastor's Office, wondering at how I came to be sitting here: thankful for the opportunity and gift it is, and also, to be honest, somewhat anxious at all the responsibility and expectation that comes along for the ride.  Transitions are like that: even the good ones, the best sought ones, bring both excitement and nervousness, joy and apprehension.  Such is change.  Such is newness.

And such is Easter.

I've been preparing my first real message as a pastor for Sunday morning: focusing again on the significance of Easter Life, and integrating some of my hopes and dreams for us as a Church.  John 20 is also about transition, and it brings these two places of startling contrast together: the fear and despair of Mary and disciples is embraced and dissolved in the encounter with the Risen Lord.  They had believed this was transition without tomorrow: hope lost, death victorious.  Yet not so.  The Saturday Dark gives way to Sunday Glory.  Newness, life, renewal spring forth--spring forth with and in and through Jesus and his Resurrection.  

This changes how we approach life, rewrites the rules on how we interpret pain and suffering.  Christ invites us live as whole, renewed, redeemed people.  His people.  We don't always.  We still suffer and sway between fear and joy--but we're not without hope.  Easter Life means finding that hope in the midst of grief; life in the midst of death: knowing Christ and the power of his Resurrection (Phil 3:10).

This song has captured this for me today as I write and pray for you.
Be blessed, my friends.


Friday, April 06, 2012

letting God go first

My first blog post as a pastor--feels very strange to write that!

If this is your first time reading this blog then let me welcome you!  This is a place where I hope to ponder faith and life—exploring the creating, saving, and blessing movement of God which encompasses and permeates all of our being and doing as we walk out our lives in this world.  It’s a place for reflection and interaction.  And it’s my hope now more than ever that as a pastor we can explore together what it means to be participating in this life together.

I want to return and look at Joshua 3, the passage that I shared back in March: 
Early the next morning Joshua and all the Israelites left Acacia Grove and arrived at the banks of the Jordan River, where they camped before crossing.
Three days later the Israelite officers went through the camp, giving these instructions to the people: “When you see the Levitical priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord your God, move out from your positions and follow them. Since you have never traveled this way before, they will guide you. Stay about a half mile behind them, keeping a clear distance between you and the Ark. Make sure you don’t come any closer.”
Then Joshua told the people, “Purify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do great wonders among you.” 
In the morning Joshua said to the priests, “Lift up the Ark of the Covenant and lead the people across the river.” 

And so they started out and went ahead of the people. (Joshua 3:1-6, NLT)
Notice how God calls for the priests bearing the Ark, the place of God’s presence and power, to move first into the new territory.  They’ve never been here before.  This is all new to them!  They’ll have to trust in the One who has brought them this far.  This moving ahead into the unknown is framed by trust, by waiting, by watching.

Now clearly this is a new chapter in the story of Israel, but this is also so true of our own journeys through life.  How often we find ourselves on the brink of the unknown.  This can range from major life transitions to our day by day decisions.  For all our planning and preparation we can never really know what’s coming, can we?  Our reactions to that unknown can range from worry and stress to carefree abandon—often to our detriment.

So what do we do with all this unknown?  Joshua gets us pointed in the right direction.  Are we learning to cultivate an awareness of God’s leading?  This might seem like something only some wise sage might be able to do: some expert or professional.  Yet this is simply not the case.  There is no primary prerequisite for the listening life—it’s not reserved for the spiritually elite, or the highly educated, or the religiously dogmatic—because this attitude is not something we conjure up for ourselves based on good behaviour.  Israel keeps us from thinking that we’re not good enough—they miss the mark time and time again!  Just like us.  Ordinary people, ordinary sinners.  In the Joshua passage I recall my own weaknesses, and somehow find myself still loved and accepted and restored by a God who loves.  The requirement for this listening life is relationship with the one who is speaking.  It’s a willing resolve to stop, to wait, to attend to the Other.

There is another reminder here for us: the Lord will lead you into that unexplored territory.  This is a part of the story he is writing with your life.  You are not abandoned or forsaken, he will lead through it.  Take hope in that. That he is weaving your life as a testimony to his name.

Are you learning to listen for his voice, to see him in your day to day life? There is no step-by-step guide to this; it’s not a list of moral characteristics that we can cross off as we master them. Our spiritual growth happens as we live into our relationships: both God and with one another. Learning how to trust another, like learning how to love another, can’t be taught overnight.  It’s learned over time in the living.

Be blessed this Easter, my friends.

Monday, March 12, 2012

artist spotlight: boyce avenue

Song covers often seem to go two ways: really good, or really bad.  With the advent of youtube, one can find almost endless covers of popular songs.  A lot of them really aren't that good.  (Drum covers especially suffer from this!)

Once in awhile though, you find an artist whose actually doing it really well.  I had first heard Boyce Avenue’s cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You” some months ago, but rediscovered it Saturday morning as we were getting ready to head to Winnipeg for Josh’s baptism.  He also does an Adele cover—which is something many seem to be doing lately with her skyrocketed popularity (American Idol being a good example of how to not sing Adele songs).  For me it’s the acoustic simplicity that I appreciate in the "Fix You" cover especially.

Happy listening.  More to come.

Coldplay - Fix You:

Adele - Set Fire to the Rain:

Friday, March 09, 2012

what I learned from Johnny Reid

I’ve found that if I ever need to be prompted to write or respond or reflect on some topic or issue I really only need to turn on the radio for an hour or so.  Perhaps somewhat old-hat—yet I found myself tuning in quite often last summer as I’d walk our greenhouses to check on the crops.  A bit of music can help the day go by.

This isn’t a song, but an interview I heard yesterday on “Q” on CBC Radio.  I do like this show; I find the host, Jian Ghomeshi, very easy to listen to and the range of personalities and ideas from authors, actors, musicians, philosophers and more make for an interesting variety.  Yesterday however, I was really encouraged by this simple, heart-felt interview with Canadian “country/soul crooner” Johnny Reid.

I was particularly struck by how Reid talks about the impact his wife and children have on how he goes about living day to day.  As Jian says in the interview, Reid brings this “perspective”, this “outlook”: and I think in the context of this blog, can help us to ponder the intersection of faith and life quite well.

I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.  Have a great weekend!

Johnny Reid on Q with Jian Ghomeshi:

Monday, March 05, 2012

Essay: “On Myth & Life”, Paper 1 for Tolkien & Lewis Class

As promised, I’ve been able to upload one of my recent essays to the blog—a little later than I’d hoped, but better than never!

Click here to read “On Myth & Life”. 

The following is my first essay for “Lewis & Tolkien: The Making of Myth”, my spring class I’m currently taking with the Mythgard Institute.  Our assignment was to note what we believed to be the most important or significant point of comparison or contrast between C.S. Lewis’ and J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary theories: that is, how they understood the nature of fantasy literature.
  100_5166 (2)
This is a bit of a workout for a three page paper.  The idea was not so much to come to a definitive conclusion, but to wrestle with the issues, paying close, careful attention to the text and walking alongside the reader to discover together that which you desired to teach through the essay.  The emphasis here is on an inductive reading of the texts.

I chose to focus on the ways myths or fairy-stories orient us to perceive truth, reality, or life in new ways.  In a sense, it’s my bachelor thesis condensed to three pages!  The introduction starts off a bit slow, and I purposefully rerouted some of the best statements from each of the paragraphs to serve better in the conclusion.

So happy reading!  And as always you are more than welcome to leave any questions or comments you might have.

Friday, March 02, 2012

testing, testing

I’m trying out a new design and layout for the blog… feel like it needs a change.  So bear with me as I work out some details.

Have you heard Brushes, yet?


Well you should!  If you haven’t noticed I’m a bit of a crazy person for pretty much anything my friend, Koko, does when it comes to music.  He’s just released another EP, adding brand new songs and redoing some from his previous Rough Cuts EP.

The new style really demonstrates Koko’s continual growth and detail as an artist.  If you have a chance, check out his new music under the moniker, Brushes.  Oh, and did I mention you can download five songs for absolutely nothing.  Yep, they’re free.

Click to listen; follow the link for more!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

afresh again

So here’s the plan.  I need more of a schedule for blogging.  If I don’t set aside a time it will, like many things, never really get done.  So I’m thinking Saturdays…my current day off (for now) will be a good day to set aside the time to think and write.

I’m thinking of posting my Mythgard papers if anyone is interested in reading them.

Also, I saw this at work today!  Star-gazing!

Will post more soon.


Monday, February 13, 2012

finding quotes

I really like finding good quotes.  I think I started ‘collecting’ them, in a sense, while I was in college.  It was the first time in my life where I did a lot of nonfiction reading.  As a naturally fiction-loving reader, this was a bit of a stretch at first; after time, however, I’ve come to love some of my text books as much as my favourite stories.  They remind me of people who I learned with, or of ideas that I can remember wrestling with at a certain point in time.  Most of my favourite nonfiction authors are highly quotable: Eugene-Pete and N.T. Wright among them.

Quotes help to crystallize those moments: focussing our attention on some thought or attitude or comment that moved us or startled us or made us laugh out loud.  Good quotes.

I discovered while reading The Hobbit for my Mythgard class that the Tolkien quote at the top of my blog is actually something Thorin says near the end of the story.  "If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world" (Tolkien, The Hobbit).  Since it’s been a while since I’ve actually gotten to the end of the Hobbit (I’ve restarted it twice, I think?  Since first reading it…) I had no idea this was Thorin’s line!  It actually sounded like something Tolkien would say in his day-to-day life (probably was!).

In parting, here’s another great Tolkien excerpt.  This one from The Lord of the Rings:

“The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places.
But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now
mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Anyone with a favourite quote out there?  Let’s hear it!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

year one

Time truly does fly.

It’s been nearly a year since I began to make blogging a regular practice.  Some months were pretty active, some were clearly not (I haven’t posted anything since December!).  Yet it’s been a really interesting opportunity, and I’m hoping to do more of it this year.

2012 has brought new experiences.  I recently concluded a series on “Reading the Bible Well” for our fellowship’s adult Sunday school class.  It was difficult to get back into the routine of study, preparation and delivery on a weekly basis.  I’m so thankful for the time I had after finishing my undergrad to return to the college and teach for a year—I know I was calmer, and clearer for it.  Many people have expressed their appreciation for the classes.  Thank you for that!  If it made even a small difference in your life, then I can rest easy!  I look forward to doing more someday.  (Also, if anyone is interested in notes, let me know—I’m thinking of posting them on the blog at some point).


I’ve also started an online class for a Masters of Literature program through the Mythgard Institute, an online centre for Tolkien Studies.  The class is focussed on J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis—exploring their friendship, literary theories and novels in tandem.  I’ve already learned so much!  Yet with three weekly sessions, our evenings seem shorter (though fuller, if that makes sense)!  We just finished reading The Hobbit, and are moving on to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Some favourite that I haven’t picked up in awhile.

Thanks for dropping by!  Talk to you soon,