One of the gifts my dad left me, and I mean that sincerely, was this ability to hustle to get things done when necessary. I didn't always hustle like he wanted me to, in fact often I dawdled and took my time and I came to see this as a great sort of weakness in my life, this dawdling and taking my time to complete something. I grew to understand that work was the ability to get things done, and the more of that you could do, the better and less lazy a person you were.
It came naturally to me to work work work and I felt like I had value when I would do many things, especially at the same time. I remember in my grade 11 year, I had High School, I was working a job weekends and part time evenings, I was the leader of my church youth group, I was president of our school church group, I was a volunteer downtown at a TV station, and on and on it went. I would follow a pattern of getting overly involved, then crashing after a year because I couldn't handle it all, then feeling lousy about myself, then after a time, get the thing going again. I am a much better person today, but the temptation is still there sometimes, when I feel like I'm not valuable or contributing enough.
Fast forward to today.
In this ministry I do, pastoral work, there are occasionally times that I have struggled with this same sort of syndrome, although I've learned the great value of taking ones time to work and think and pray about things and not to rush people along. The big things usually take lots of time to build.
This summer has been really tough for me as this place has slowed down through the summer. I've been feeling like I'm not contributing enough to the community out here, and my response to feeling that lack has been to try to do more and get more done. Well, out here you can take a whole day just to get one or two visits or coffees or even a lunch done. It's just so different than the ministry experience I've known in the city. The result has been that my surroundings and space have forced me to accomplish less, and to slow down more, even against this inner drive. That's made me occasionally crazy around here and frustrating to live with, I know.
But it's been what is needed. After working here 20 months and only taking one week off (that was my fault, not the churches) what I needed was a forced quiet time, like being sent to my room to think things through a bit. As I look back now, this summer's silence may be the difference between a fruitful work here and packing it in early.
When there are no ways to rush things or visit 4 widows in one day, which I'm embarrassed to admit doing in the past, you are forced to do what you can and visit only one or at the most, two ladies. You take time and slow down and can't do five things on those days.
Maybe my understanding of work is shifting too. I'm learning again that its not how much you can get done but maybe how faithful you are to the things you are entrusted with doing. You can only do so much in 24 hours so let that be. Quit trying to find value in doing more.
I do work smarter than I ever have before, and I know these things, but the effect of this place on me seems to be s l o w i n g m e d o w n m o r e . So it's a richer life. Last night I walked out there again because it was cool and the bugs were being blown away and I just rested in the glory of this place. Maybe a part of me doesn't want to let go and love it with all my heart because down the road I may have to move on again. Maybe.
But I'm in a better place than I've been most of the year, and I'm loving the effect this place is having on me, though I don't always like it.
The metaphor of The Field is growing thin and weak for me these days and I'm searching for a new one. One that involves language like Home or Belonging or the Land because more and more I feel a part of this place, and just as I thought he would do, Jesus is using the space to teach me things I could never learn in other places.
For these days anyway, I'm in a good place.
I only got going taking pictures later in the day, but here are some shots of the fun.
Here's the whole set.
It's going to be a great day.
What those three letters allow me to do, is to connect to my office computer, anywhere out here in the field.
So with my iPod Touch and a small VNC app, I am able to log into my office computer, see the screen, start up any software I need, type or print or change the playlist I'm listening to or the radio station I'm hearing wherever I am.
Printing Documents for meetings, sweet, and I can do it from the front yard or the bath tub or even, as I just did moments ago, from the throne.
It's these simple pleasures that give me joy.
And yes you can call me a nerd.
To be fair, all the activity of all the boards I'm on is now ramping up into autumn, and there is much work to be done. I'm glad the people here are used to a bit of hard work, because this is a busy patch.
The morning was spent in an organizing and planning committee meeting for our youth program which is a new patch since our youth and family pastor has retired. Then I was able to get in to see a family in town in the afternoon, who are going through a bit of a tough patch.
I also had to get into the city to pick up Lauralea's resized ring that we had to shrink a bit, so I took her along and while she and the college girl picked up school supplies, I headed to the hardware warehouse to get new internals for our Moen kitchen sink faucet. Then a leisurely mad rush home with a regretted stop at the golden arches for supper, and home again by 8:30. The rest of the evening has been spent learning how to replace and fix the broken faucet, and I, (Mr. Plumbing and Electrical for a few years at Canadian Tire-Aylmer Ontario.) owned the thing. Completely dominated it after putting it together and taking it apart three more times.
So, I am tired beyond tired.
Tomorrow is prep for Sunday, and Friday is our church Vacation Bible School and Fair for the church and community. Think Bible and crafts early in the day and a bouncy castle and cotton candy and games and then a bbq supper for the whole family later in the day. Yeah, we too will be glad when that baby is behind us.
I see that our cuckoo clock has run down and stopped, like it too is tired. I best go reset it and head to bed. I'm going to need my sleep in the days ahead.
Maybe it's the harsh wind blowing through the field, or the porridge Lauralea made for brunch. Maybe it's the end of August coming too fast, or maybe it's because we are off to get our daughter Hillary as she fills the space between summer jobs and school at home. Maybe it's the workload increasing and life picking up it's pace, but it definitely feels like fall is in the air.
I have to go now, time to fight the wind and get to the city.
And while that seems to have been a good idea, it's turned into much more than just a good idea. It's really turned into a very good year.
While it's not been easy, with Lauralea's surgery and my previous limiting back pain, both of which are all better, and kids moving to and fro throughout the land and just struggling with loneliness as we learn the ways of the Field, it is better and brighter between us.
We're spending time with each other, praying together, cooking together a bit, watching movies together, exploring emotions together, talking better, and enjoying the three letter "S" word more.
The highlight of the year to date came earlier this week, on the 17th, our anniversary. We went for a romantic supper at "The Melting Pot," a upscale fondue place in Edmonton and we had a wonderful time there. Lauralea's words are better than mine, but it was truly an amazing evening.
There is something so much deeper and gracious and meaningful when you can, after 28 years of friendship, sit down with one another and love a shared moment because you love the other. You can't have it after one night together or one hundred nights even because it's something you grow and create together. It's made up of the fights and tears and a thousand forgivenesses as well as the joys and excitements that a lifetime bring. That's not a cheap or quick deal, it takes a lifetime to create.
I don't know how many more years we have together, at least on this orb, but I agree with something Lauralea said the other night when I asked her what the highlights of the past 25 years were. One of the highlights were this year together. I so agree.
You can see a small set of photos from the evening here. Unfortunately the camera decided to tell me after 6 shots that the disk was full of images. Very poor timing. Sorry about that.
Emails I get from concerned citizens that tell of great conspiracies and governmental coverups which, when I look into them a few clicks further, find the story is conveniently only halfway told.
Or even worse, when complete lies and fabrications are sent out in the name of justice or indignation or a quick reaction to a perceived lack of religious freedoms, when in fact those things have no basis in fact. Yet some people simply take the written word on a screen as fact, truth, absolute.
Yes, the Internet is good for helping get some good information, but it also seems to foster ignorance in ways that surprise me. It can so easily push the buttons of people with immature faith stories and it doesn't seem to make a difference which religion it is. People get hold of the wrong end of the stick, hit "Send All" and share their fears with their whole address book.
Most recently I've been getting email about this whole Ground Zero mosque thing in New York where a Muslim group wants to build a community center and Mosque on the site of where the Twin Towers fell in 2001.
There has been a big bruhaha going on in the media and across back yard fences in America about this act of aggression by those of the Muslim religion. I'm more of a mind that says ok America, this is where you live what you believe and if you believe in freedom of religion then this is where the rubber hits the road. It's time to be who you say you are.
But there is also a contingent of the followers of Jesus Christ who, in the immaturity of their faith, get sucked into these public arguments. Rather than living as citizens of heaven in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ, they end up living as citizens of a Country arguing for things they know little about.
Initially I was surprised by how provocative this Muslim group was being to push it's way into using some of the free space at ground zero to build such a building. But then I got onto the internet and went to Google maps to see the exact location of the lot. I was surprised to find the building they had purchased is over two blocks away from the historic site of the World Trade Center.
I hadn't heard that in the public media discussions and I suspect that some of my email friends don't know that either. What they know is what they hear or see in the media and what one email buddy passes on to another.
Sometimes we do get our tails in a knot over things that deceive us, or things that are the business of the country we presently reside in, rather than being about the business of the country that holds our citizenship.
Not many people whether in marriages or not, get to spend their lives with their best friend so I consider it a great grace to me. Lauralea has been God's gift to me and a constant reminder that he really does love me. In fact there have been days in which she is all the convincing I need that God does indeed exist and that he likes me.
For the most part we still laugh at the same jokes and as I've reported here before we still like sex, (much to the angst of our offspring who, by the by wouldn't be around these parts without it.) We still like sitting in the same room in quiet, reading. We mostly are patient with one anothers musical tastes while she roles with the hits of the 50's and 60's I'm much more of a 70's guy who loves a bit of Techno and Electronica. We can both agree on the classical and some of the better worship stuff out these days.
We still squabble over getting the bills paid (She does it better,) and the occasional communication miscue where she's clearly in the wrong. But we are able to sort it out again and again.
She's taught me a lot about grace and if she had a life theme I suspect that would be it. That is a good gift to have for some of the places we've gone and done the work we've done. She is gracious.
So 25 years ago this afternoon, at 1 pm in her Evangelical Free Church in Prince George BC, we got married with Grandpa Friesen leading the proceedings. After planning the wedding from Southern Ontario where we lived and I worked in an insulation factory and she taught in a Bible School, with her mom and dad working as support missionaries in Ireland, and my parents in Ontario, my brother Jeff and I with all our earthly possessions stuffed in that Plymouth Fury, drove across Canada 75 hours and we got married.
It was a beautiful day in mid August.
And while I looked a bit goofy with my ribs sticking through my suit and my ears flagging traffic, she was a beauty.
She still is today, 25 years later.
As a special 25th Wedding Anniversary gift a couple of our kids thought it considerate that we have the opportunity to be Grandparents. (Yeah like they were thinking that.) So it seems that early next February the best little grandchild ever to grace this earth since, well, Jesus, will be born to Nate and Johanna. This is going to be fun.
As I say, I know.
I'm a bit overwhelmed on the work front. Just realizing all that has to be done before autumn hits has made me crazy busy in the office. A couple of classes to teach, a preaching series to prep, getting a broader, country wide network of Spiritual Directors up and running, designing the fall flyer that needs to get into the mail next week, prepping for our big DVBS Carnival in two weeks, then comes Sunday School startup and small groups, and, and, and... Well you get it.
Thomas has been home too for a few days and that's been great spending some time with him again. He's off tomorrow for Calgary to find a job and take a bit of a course, and take in another year in the Life Together house. We'll miss him.
Micah gets home from camp next Thursday and I guess will start getting ready for school, grade eleven already.
Then next weekend Hillary gets home for a few days before we take her up to school for her last year at college. She graduates next spring. Wow.
And this Tuesday Lauralea and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage. And I guess we will celebrate it like we did the original day, without any kids around.
So August rushes past, leaving us just a bit breathless, a touch lost and alone. Re-adjusting to life.
It's good that we have each other, her and I. We are good together.
So that's where I've been, and that's where I'll be. Just in case it's quiet for a day or two.
Night from the field.
Three large, fat, Mosquitos challenged my right to be there. So after jumping like a white man who can't play basketball, to reach the beggars who just fly up to the high ceiling and mock me, I suddenly know my weapon. The vacuum with the long hose and shotgun like wand. I haul it out and go to town.
Three sucked up like that. Then another two go down. I see one hiding in the corner but not hiding well enough from me. Gone.
Then a quick five, and two just sitting on the wall. One sneaks up behind me and gets a bite in before I take him out.
Everyone gets scared so they hide. I quietly loop around the kitchen again, waiting. Then a quick three, then two, then four.
You need to understand, the windows have been closed all evening. The doors to the room have been closed as well, and I suck up over thirty-five mosquitos.
HOW DO THESE THINGS GET IN???
I mean really?
I go into the hall and bedroom and kill about ten more, but that's like nothing.
I think I care more that I can't figure out where they are coming from, than that they are in my kitchen.
Now that I have the weapon that can take care of the blighters, I turn my attention to how they are gaining access to the room.
The fight continues.
I accidentally woke up this herd of cattle this morning outside my front door., originally uploaded by RandallFriesen.
They were not impressed.
Off to early morning prayer for me.
Now I'm up keeping watch for a while. Killing them as they arrive. I just can't figure where they're coming from.
tune my heart to know your presence
this day and this hour.
Let me know your closeness
because life pushes in at every turn
and I need you.
In moments like these
and the other times of my life,
days of travel and study, of work and relationship.
recreate my heart and thoughts and decisions
to look like, and be more like your beloved Son, Jesus
who showed us and gave us a better way to live,
and a kingdom to live it in.
You be God, and I will be your servant.
Lord have mercy on this tired world.
For the people of Russia as their world burns
and the heat wearies them,
Lord, have mercy.
For the people of Pakistan, as the earth violently spews water
in places it's never gone before, and thousands are dead and
millions are homeless, hungry, and grieving.
Lord, have mercy.
For the people who live and work and worship around the
Gulf of Mexico.
Thank you that the oil has stopped angrily spewing from the deep pressures of the earth. Now help us to value and respect these pressures
and the lessons the earth has to teach us.
Lord, have mercy.
And for our little lot in life.
Whatever we have, whatever may come
whatever has been and whatever will be,
teach us to be grateful and generous. To love and respect and care for what we have, and those we share it with.
You be God, and we will be your servants.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
So my forty seventh birthday came and went.
All the kids txted me. The girls came early with, "Happy Birthday," and "Happy Birthday Old Man." Thomas "Happy Birthday dad" came in the afternoon when he was reminded by facebook, and Micah's came early too. I believe his birthday wish was; "When is the riders game against Montreal?" To his credit he did try hard to reach me later in the evening when we were not around. I believe one of his siblings txted him with the reminder as he doesn't have facebook out at camp.
Speaking of Facebook, this may be the only redeeming quality of Facebook in my mind anyway. Be that as it may, Facebooks simple ability to track a list of your friends birthdays and remind you of them has huge potential, as I see it anyway. They could make a buck off of that I would think. Yes it was a touch overwhelming to see 60 Birthday wishes waiting there for me, and even if you were reminded of my day, I do appreciate the effort you all went to to congratulate me. Thank you.
And there were phone messages and other txts and a humorous card from Lauralea. She also bought me a nicely bound edition of the complete works of John Donne, a personal favourite of mine.
Clearly with my need to be reminded of birthdays and my new found heartburn solution and my missing the kids, it's obvious that I'm getting older. But I am excited about the future. In half a year or so my life will take on a new role as I enter a new phase of adulthood and I will be moving into a whole new line of cardigan sweaters for myself. However, I'm not yet free to speak of my changing wardrobe, so perhaps I should close with some deep thoughts.
As I enter into this new year and I reflect on my life in this moment of clarity, I should like to record that:
The sex is better than ever. Really, I'm not just saying that because I'm a stud.
I miss our kids but I'm really proud how they are facing life.
Heartburn can be easily cleared up with the cheaper, no name version of Zantac.
Lauralea is God's gift to me.
God has amazing patience with me.
I've been wondering lately about how a society made up of individuals who each makes their own decisions about life based strictly upon their own needs, wants, and desires, actually evolves. What directions does it grow into and who do those people become?
What happens to children who grow up and are fed a steady diet of, "You can become anything you want to become. The choice is yours!"
Or the, "Where would you like to live?" discussion.
Perhaps even more painfully obvious is the "You are free to have relationships with whomever you like, for as long as it suits you." And kicking it up a notch how about the, "You are free to marry any person, any gender, any time" choice.
Being a culture that values the individuals freedom to make their own choices has it's own pitfalls. But how does that individualistic outlook eventually effect a culture?
How is the community effected, or the family? Don't they have any say any longer in the direction individuals take?
And why don't we use the wisdom of the whole? Why don't we trust our parents to choose a spouse for us, or help us settle upon a vocation? Because that would be so against our sense of free choice that it would be at least embarrassing to mention it to our friends, and at most, a politically incorrect thing to do.
Maybe, just maybe, some choices we have today are simply too great for us to make.
The choice for us to be able to stop making babies, snip, snip.
The choice for us to take our own life.
The choice for us to take another life.
Yes I know those words are used as dynamite in some corners of the internet, but being pro individual choice as a culture places the emphasis for decision making upon the individuals of that society.
I am a self confessed individual and I've known many other individuals and I'm not sure we are the ones who should be making such weighty decisions.
The reason was because I was doing a graveside service today for a friends mom. I always feel nervous doing a service for someone I don't know, but she knew Jesus and he knows me, so we got on alright. Besides, the people were generous people, and this lady seemed to leave a good legacy.
But as I was saying, that all resulted in me getting up in the morning and suiting up for the day, then the service and then we went to the open house a bit and met some older souls and had a good chat over coffee and shortbread cookies. By the time we got home and out of the suit, it had the distinct feel of being a Sunday.
Tomorrow is a worship service out at camp, so the church here is not having a meeting, instead we'll meet out there. That's where Micah has been for a couple of weeks and it will be great to see him again. Perhaps it's alright then that today felt like a Sunday, a working day.
But as I sat here to close the day with a prayer, I clicked on BBC Radio Cumbria and the live audio feed is playing their early Sunday morning programming, which amazingly enough to me, includes worship choruses and some hymns.
The world awakens there and goes to sleep here. Same with the never sleeping church, arising there, resting here. So I thought of this prayer which is also a hymn.
May God be close to you this night as you rest. May he give you good dreams and amazing visions. And above all, may he grant you a legacy of grace to leave your children and those you will leave behind.
Blessings, and good night.
The day Thous gavest, Lord, is ended
The darkness falls at Thy behest
To Thee our morning hymns ascended
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest
We thank Thee that Thy church unsleeping
While earth rolls onward into light
Through all the world her watch is keeping
And rests not now by day or night
As o'er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day
The voice of prayer is never silent
Nor dies the strain of praise away
The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren 'neath the western sky
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high
So be it, Lord! Thy throne shall never
Like earth's proud empires, pass away
Thy kingdom stands, and grows for ever
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.