Post Easter Recovery

As I wrote in a previous post, it was busy last week. An unusual week.
I think I logged on average 9-10 hours a day last week.  

So this Monday was a day of naps in bed and sitting in my chair and thats all I could do, all, day, long.
Yesterday, Tuesday, I took off as well, and started to feel human again.
Today I'm back at it and feeling mostly like who I should be. :)

Feels good to work hard. Feels good to rest. Feels good to be back at it.
And there's a deeper sense of gratitude for each new day, in my heart. That feels good too.

God's in it all

Easter is my favourite part of the church year, and yes its busy and yes it can be intense, but hey, its spring-ish, and Jesus kicking the crap out of death is the reason I follow him.

This year because I had a serious illness, I was only allowed back to work last week, the week before Palm Sunday. So I am suppose to take it easy and rest lots and not overdo it.

Um yeah.

We do a Maundy Thursday evening service with Holy Communion, and then a Good Friday service with a neighbouring church. But this year a friend from the church who has been in palliative care passed away and we wanted to have the interment and funeral today. Then tomorrow is Easter Sunday, the biggest Sunday of the year.

So its not a great way to return and it's been a bit too much, but God is in it all.

I've felt strength for every service, and then exhaustion afterwards, but not until the work is done. And seeing God in the study with prep work going so smoothly. I'm so grateful for that.  By yesterday at 5:30 I had the funeral all written including the meditation (Or the talk) and Sundays notes were well underway. So God is in this all.

People are praying, and I almost feel guilty how many prayers I am the target of. And people are offering to help and of course Marc is helping lots.

So God is here, for real. Active in our lives, present in this community, moving, working, saving, healing, getting us through the tough parts.

That's just another reason we'll meet to worship him tomorrow.

Hope your Easter is amazing too.

A Prayer At Death

I'm in the office this afternoon, working on a funeral for a friend tomorrow.

And I come to this part in the day where this is our prayer. It moves me every time I pray it, because it sums up our lives concisely.

"O Lord: support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

Lord, have mercy.
Kyrie eleison.

Feelin my age. Subtitled: When I Was A New Pastor...

I used to think, right up until two years ago, that I would continue to pastor right up into my 60's and pass 65 and if anybody wanted a long in the tooth pastor in his late 60s around, I might keep on keeping on into my later 60's.

But these days... these days are hard going.

Admittedly I am still in recovery mode after a serious illness, and so I am still not 100%. But dang I'm only in my mid fifties. I shouldn't be feeling so tired yet. But the truth is, I stand in the shower before bed, exhausted, standing there just letting the hot water wash over me, trying to warm up a bit. I feel bone weary tired. Not just physically tired but you know, brain tired, heart tired. Worn out by the rough edges of life tired.

I was at our local ministerial last week and New Pastor was there. He just graduated and is in his first church and he's keen and has that new pastor smell about him. He seems a really good guy. Eager and willing to do whatever he needs to do for the kingdom and the glory of God. A good heart.

I saw myself in him, thirty whatever years ago. New, inexpensive but all you can afford, notebook. New plastic pen. All the blessings and poverty of starting ministry. Completely motivated and passionate. Yet unaware of where this would take me, and what the future held for me.

I was that guy once. I'd go go go, heading out another night to meet with someone who needed help. Another night, another night, and all the days. Work hard, start the church right, work work work. The older kids now say they noticed I was gone a lot. I didn't think I was, but I was busy changing the world.

I couldn't figure out the guys who were my age now. Why were they so, so sluggish, so old. So worn out of great ideas to pursue. Why indeed. It's been a long road with so many bumps and potholes to navigate. I don't bounce back so easy from the hits any longer. I wear out quicker and I just don't come back like I used to.

The theological discussions and conflicts have changed, but the spirits are the same. Many of the manipulative tricks are the same. The ways to build the church are mostly the same, only the names have changed and the costs have gone up. I still get so much mail on how to do better sermons that will impact more and more people. Or how to build up your church to amazing proportions. Its just that they are emails now and not usually mail to my door, although they still do try that.

I hope I am not getting cynical, that would really disappoint me. I mean many of the motives out there are probably good motives. But we do try to find the quickest, easiest way to do the most amount of work. And I add myself to this lot.

But the work itself is hard work. It learning and using prayer to change spiritual climates.  Its loving the ones who really mean you harm, who seek to hurt you, emotionally or even in your reputation.  Its getting the call late at night because loss has happened and you need to be there, present and in your right spiritual mind, or heart.  Its about being present at the right time and place, and not missing those nuanced indications of need or openness to light. Its about working with volunteers and Boards and leaders that change yearly, so you start over.

It IS challenging work, requiring youthful energy with elder wisdom. Too bad you mostly can't get those things in one person.

Where was I....?

Oh right, I'm feeling it these days. My age I mean.
I can't seem to do what I used to could do.

I have overdone it this week already. For reasons that are unusual, this Holy Weekend will have five services in four days. Highly emotional services that will require a high degree of presence and awareness. I entered into day one today with much hope and energy. But by noon I was struggling hard. Three more days to go.

So if you have one, pray for your local pastor on weekends like these. It can be a really tough gig.

Yeah. This would be a good weekend to pray for your pastor. It really does make a difference, really.

Have a great Easter, and celebrate lots.


Our family is expanding

As the children have all left home and we are here talking to each other and missing 25% of what we seem to be saying, because we are getting hard of hearing, it was felt that we needed someone else around the house to be a third member of the family.

So it is with great pleasure that we announce a new addition to the family.

Richard, the goldfish, came to live with us and we are pleased to report he’s still alive. He’s very excite-able and seems to be pleased with his new home. He wiggles around his new home with great enthusiasm and delight.

We are enjoying his company as he is very friendly and he doesn’t talk back when we ask him unnecessary questions or I tell him corny dad jokes. He seems to be a good listener in that way and maintains secrets as well as any priest. He is already fitting in well.

We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship.

First Sunday back

Tomorrow is my first Sunday back at work since February 11th. That's been a while. I'm nervous.

I always get nervous after being out for a while, and tomorrow won't be a normal day. I'll do some sharing and we'll celebrate Palm Sunday together. It'll be more of a simple day, I hope.

It's taking time to rebuild my strength and my weakness surprises me sometimes. I reach unknowingly for a wall to steady me. Especially if I've been driving a while. The sitting seems to do it, then I get up and get a bit, weak.

I'm grateful for how well I do feel, all things considered. I've added a couple of pounds to the 20 or so that I lost. Not that I want to do that, but I guess it happens.

Anyway, my first five days back at it and things are humming along. Its been a full week and I've been able to keep up, with my late afternoon naps in place.

So, we're back.

Billy Graham and my early story of faith

Billy Graham died on April 21, 2018 and on that day I was in the hospital on my worst day fighting a nasty blood infection. Found out later I was fighting for more than my health.

Later on that day I recall through the haze hearing on a nearby TV that Billy Graham had passed away. Billy Graham was gone.  He had made an impact on my life, not the least of which was that as a pastor he taught me that simple sermons could be good sermons. I have worked to keep my sermons fairly simple all these years.

But he was called and anointed of God (Forgive me for using such an old word as anointed, but it fits.) for this work to which he was called.

I saw him preach in person once in my life, and it was amazing. God spoke through him right to me.

Some time ago I wrote down the following. I include it here to add to my story and how God met with me in a new way, through the good preacher.

Each of us has his or her own very personal story.
I was born into a christian home and I remember as a child when I asked Jesus into my heart.

It was a very intentional act and God was faithful to me as a child.

Through my years of childhood, God was always near, in my home and upbringing.
There were never any dramatic changes from darkness to light for me.

As I grew into my teen years I became really frustrated with depression and trying to make my own way in this life, I began to make choices that led me away from God.

Anger grew, with my parents and school and I made choices to skip classes and steal and, yeah.

I began to try to deal with it by becoming very busy, leading groups in church and school, working part time, volunteering in the community. And all those things just made me angrier.

My parents tried to help, with strong punishment. The effect of that made me more angrier with them. But it also began to open a crack in my spirit that led me to start to look at how far I’d come.

How far I’d moved from God.
I was angry with him because he wasn’t answering the prayers I was praying.

My teens were pretty much about darkness and depression. Despair was there too.

I wasn’t great at schoolwork. Didn’t fit in at school for these reasons, and it made me really angry why I was made that way.

By the end of grade 11 I was a mess, inside and out.

I remember my parents planned a weekend in Edmonton that summer.  Billy Graham was preaching there for a week and my folks wanted to see him.

So we came out from Saskatoon and heard the good brother preach on Friday and Saturday night. But it was something about the Sunday afternoon preaching that finally reached my angry heart.

August 17 1980 as a 17 year old, I finally gave up my agenda, my anger, my will, for Christ's.

And certainly though it hasn’t been all easy or pie in the sky, it has been good. He has been good.

I have been saved from the dangers of myself, my sin, my anger, my darkness, my lostness.

Saved to a new life. A new birth.

Video of Billy Graham at Edmonton, August 17, 1980

Bon soir

One of my most favourite places to be on earth, one of the best feelings to experience, is crawling into bed after a long tiring day and a hot shower. This can only be improved upon with freshly washed bedding.  It absolutely is the Best. Thing. Ever.

I used to think that was just me. However I've been reading through "Letters of C. S. Lewis" and in a letter to his friend Aurther Greeves, Lewis wrote:
"Tang-Tang there goes eleven o’clock ‘Tis almost faery time’. Don’t you simply love going to bed. To curl up warmly in a nice warm bed, in the lovely darkness, that is so restful & then gradually drift away into sleep . . . I’m turning out the gas. Bon soir!"
Bon soir indeed.

Celtic Memories Today

It was a Sunday evening in June on the Isle of Iona. We had worshipped that morning in the Parish Church with the local people and spent the day in the quiet of the Island, unaffected by day-trippers who would start coming again the next day.

By this time the clouds were rolling in and the sun was beginning to set, casting it's bright golden glow across the bay. It was still as we walked down to the water.

That's where my memory has been today.

It was a very good day.

Ok 2018, I didn't see that coming.

Well dear reader, in a strictly physical sense 2018 has been a most lousy year.  However, there have been some nice pluses. Family visiting, and people caring, yes there have been some positives as well.

To summarize, my kidney stones came to visit January 6th causing me significant daily pain until Friday February 16th when I underwent a second surgery to attempt to extract them, which was a success in that regard.

But by Monday February 19th there was something seriously wrong and Lauralea rushed me to emergency. It was a very long night as I descended into some sort of delirious, fever and chills, hallucination state. By Tuesday morning the Doctors were very concerned and the situation quickly deteriorated to a "Very bad" condition.

I had picked up a kidney infection and then a blood infection. Tuesday night and Wednesday were really bad as the sepsis raged through my body. The things I saw in my mind still are with me.

Anyway, they began treatment with powerful antibiotics and for the next nine days I drifted between sleep and wakefulness. I was most glad to regain control of my bodily functions. :)  I didn't understand how close it was until the Doctors met with me after I started to get a clear head. They were afraid I was past hope, but as they said, it was "That close."

So they released me and ordered rest and nothing but rest for the next weeks. Next week I get to go back to work.

Its pretty humbling, in the truest sense of the word. Life is simply a delicate gift that could tilt in either direction on any given day.  During the worst of it I remember having a very clear thought that this whole thing didn't surprise God. It didn't catch him unaware or make him have to play catchup in anyway. I felt peace and though I felt as sick as could be, I never felt alone or lost. There was comfort and peace through it all.

And now its halfway through March for Pete's sake, (Sorry Pete) and I'm still waiting to get on with the year. Now as I pick up my life in mid March, I am a different person than I was three months ago. I'm still working out how I'm different and though some things are very clear, some parts are not clear at all.

I think it will be a better deeper presence than it used to be. Even the sense of vulnerability is a gift.
I'm just glad I can get back into life next week. I'm looking forward to it, a lot.