Be still my soul

It's been one of those weeks that I would call a people week.
After the intensity of Christmas and then the month to do year end and annual reports, business meetings and budgets, I've been so looking forward to these days of connecting more with people again.

Today I am ready for tomorrow, and trying to gain some rest from the past week. Rest is needed after a full season, after a full people week, and after a very emotional week. Rest is welcomed as my body groans against the rhythms I'm living in.

So I am resting. Its good.

And on my mind today is an old song. Be Still My Soul by Katharina A. von Schlegel.
I'm holding on to these promises today. You can too.

Be still, my soul, your God will undertake
to guide the future as he has the past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul, the waves and winds still know
his voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.


God, Bless America?

It was halfway through the primaries on a Sunday morning and I was walking through the church when I had a picture or a realization that Donald Trump would win the primaries and then go on to win the presidency.

It was not what I would easily declare to be a God moment, although it was a very clear picture that I can remember to this day. It was profound because no one was giving him a chance to even be the republican nominee for president.

Personally as I watched the election process unfold and was shocked again and again by his person, I did go back and forth between him and his rival. The American/Washington system needed such a good cleaning out and I knew that she wouldn't be able to do that. But his character was so broken... I wouldn't wish that character on any nation.

Now here we are, a week into the Presidents rule. There are reactions against him from coast to coast and around the world.  He's already brought more change than some presidents bring in a whole term, partly because the Republicans control of the Senate (and control both houses of Congress).  However its also because of who he is, his character.  I find myself grieving over who America is now going to become.


I suspect that America will shrink now, will begin to diminish in its historical influence and power. There will be more and more conflicts within its borders, and less respect from the nations.  Its days of being a superpower are, I think, behind it now.

If it happens at all, it won't happen overnight. This will be a process that will erode the historical nation over some time.  As long as it doesn't do something so self destructive as civil infighting, which I suppose could still come.

The great nation will recede, but maybe that's not such a bad thing. (Said the Canadian)



On January 20th I wrote;

Oh America,
You voted him in. You chose him.

He is the fulfillment of the American spirit
He's money, he's Hollywood, (He's blond)
He's brash, and bullying, he's in your face.
Strong, uncompromising, arrogant, manipulative.
He get's his way, he plays with truth.
All you value is in him America.

Why is he worse than the others?
Is it because he doesn't hide his sins?
His character is deeply flawed.

Others hide their sins and we call them good
yet there are none perfectly good.
He sins without shame and we don't like that at all.

But America, you voted for him.
More of you voted for him than didn't vote for him.
Your renouncement and repudiation of him now
is only a renouncement and repudiation of yourself.

Admit your sin and repent of your true character
and maybe God will relent.


You now have as your leader the fulfillment of your identity.
He is you America, at least he is the majority of you.

As your king takes his place, think hard America about who you want to be.
Maybe God will have mercy.

Maybe God will use him to change the spirit of America.
To humble her and to break her.
Maybe that's why he beat all the odds and all comers.
Maybe God has given her the fullness of who she is in her leader,
to help her see who she has become.
Maybe.

But for now America, behold your King.






I miss these people


My best Christmas miracle will always be that I get to spend a few minutes with these little ones even though I'm thousands of miles away.

This mornings few minutes with Papa were gold.

:)


A Good Day Vs. A Bad Day


Sometimes the only difference between a good day and a bad day are the lies you tell yourself about it.

Me

Have a Wonder-ful Christmas



In October I was contacted by the Editor of my old denominational magazine, The Recorder. The Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference has been publishing this for years and years.

Anyway she asked if I'd be willing to write the Christmas piece for it this year, and I was excited about doing that.  It was good to be asked and great to do it. I still feel like they are my spiritual history and so much of our training and pastoring was done there with them.

So the magazine ended up in our mailbox this week,
talking about the Wonder of Christmas.

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Wonder has always been a part of Christmas.

It was the night before the night before Christmas, and I was a skinny lad of about 5 years of age who lived with his parents and siblings in a small, two bedroom house in an older neighbourhood in Saskatoon.

It was already dark that cold winter’s night, and we had just finished supper. Mom was by the kitchen sink washing dishes, humming along to the sound of Harry Belafonte singing “Mary’s Boy Child,” which was on one of the three Christmas albums we had. Dad was sitting in the brown chair across the small living room from me, reading the evening paper.

It had been a long season waiting for Christmas to arrive that year, but now it was very nearly upon us. I had somehow made it through the gut—wrenching event that was the sunday school program, as a shepherd again. I hated the up front, main spotlight, “say your lines right” kind of pressure. I was always sure I would be sick before I went on stage, but I was never sick enough to stay home. Besides, that would have meant no peanut and candy bags from the Sunday school afterwards.

Earlier that day I had gone with Dad to the Pop Shoppe to get our special Christmas treat— a twenty four bottle case of whatever kinds of pop we wanted to pick. We only did that at Christmas time.

But now in the living room I was half sitting, half laying on the floor, and I was edging myself slowly under the tree just a bit to maybe catch a glimpse through a possible tear in the wrapping paper of the gift that was to come to me in just two more sleeps. It was a box that was small enough to hold my medium sized dreams, at least by the Eaton's Wishbook standards, yet big enough to give me hope.

I had wiggled my head well beneath the brightly lit tree, and it was looking distinctly possible that I might be able to see some little clue, when my dad said, without lifting his eyes from the paper, that if I were to touch it then it would go away for who knows how long, and I probably wouldn’t want that to happen on the night before the night before Christmas.

I was ok with that, and I was grateful that he had made things so clear for me. No problem with that then, I could do that.

And so I stopped my squirming and just lay there. I lay there staring up into the evergreen branches at what seemed like hundreds of coloured lights shining and reflecting off the colourful bulbs hanging on the tree. I was mesmerized.

Then Andy Williams began to croon on the record player: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” and as I lay there I thought, Andy’s right, it IS the most wonderful time of the year.

It’s a time of possibilities and maybe dreams coming true. A time for family to gather and be together, just to be together. It’s a time when you eat special things that you don’t get all year round and a time when the inside of your house smells like the forest outside.  It’s the time when you can sing “Silent Night” by the light of the tree and it does something strange inside your five year old chest.

And I remember laying there beneath all that glory and all the weight of those deep thoughts, and I realized that this is the most wonder-ful time of the year. I understood that with all my being —at least all the being that a five year old can muster up.  I’m sure I was glowing just as much as the tree that dark cold night in that warm little home, in Saskatoon.

Wonder has always been associated with Christmas.

Shall we speak of Elizabeth and Zechariah who had no children because Elizabeth was barren? Although they were both older, they were told by an angel that they would have a baby boy in their advanced years and that they should call him John.  That’s pretty wonder-full.

Or the shepherds who were visited by an angelic choir in the middle of a dark night outside Bethlehem and were told some history changing good news?  How about the Magi, wise men who came from a great distance because the stars and prophecies told them to go?   Or perhaps most stunning might be that a young girl, a virgin, was told by an angel that she would have a baby and he would be the savior of the world? What a wonder that she willingly played her part in salvations story!

Wonder was everywhere then. What about your Christmas now? Is there still wonder in your season?  Are we still filled with wonder at the truth of the great event or have we become jaded by the commercialism of the season? Are we able to live into the awe of the Good News which is still for all people or have we become lost in new levels of hopelessness this year?

Christmas was always about light shining in the darkness —Jesus entering this human existence. Although the darkness didn't receive it or understand it, it didn’t stop Christ from coming. It didn't stop the wonder from filling the night air or filling people’s hearts.

Nor should the light and wonder be stopped in our hearts this season —and all year, for that matter. Maybe we should let the light of Christ shine out from us a little more and let wonder grow.

How? Well prayer is a good start. What if you were to pray for something or someone you’ve never prayed for before —a neighbour, an enemy, a whole nation? For peace, for leaders, for coworkers? For hope, for joy, for wonder? Why not start there?

How about giving more? Practice deep generosity to people who need it. The Salvation Army Christmas Cheer Bubble at the entrance to the stores this season needs your generosity. Those gifts work to bring light into many dark homes and hearts this season.  There are many opportunities to be extravagantly generous. Be a giving light and that will add wonder to your season.

Or how about serving? Get involved in the seasonal opportunities to serve in your building, town or city. Most organizations are glad to have volunteer help, especially during this busy season, and you can make a big difference in lives. Not only is light and wonder created in this dark world, but you will find it created in your heart as well. Be light, as Christ is the light.


You see, wonder has always been a part of Christmas.  It’s not just for five year olds and for women having babies. It’s for each of us because the God of Wonder is the God of Christmas.

Open your heart to wonder this year, and as you experience more of Christ in your life may you also know the wonder that He alone can bring to a tired heart.

May the Wonder of Christmas be yours this season.

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Bio

Yes, I’m Reuben and Eva’s son and I grew up in Saskatoon, SK. I received my pastoral training at Peace River Bible Institute and did my Spiritual Direction training at North Park Seminary in Chicago.

Lauralea and I began 30 years of pastoral work in the Aylmer, Ontario EMM Church and went on to pastor at Richmond Gospel Fellowship in Winnipeg. In 1998 we moved to pastor the Evangelical Covenant Church in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan for ten years, and now work in a rural church south of Wetaskiwin, Alberta.

We've been pastoring for 30 years and the past 18 have been spent helping broken churches get healthier. I do some writing at www.friesen.me and Lauralea and I are discovering the wonders of being Papa and Nana.

I want to be known as a husband to Lauralea, dad, dad-in-law and most fun, a Papa. Mostly I’m just a guy who loved and followed Jesus.