The wind is howling here and it's blowing the snow around so sharply that I just want to hide out in my office a few minutes more before I trek home for a rare free evening.
On a whim I load up the London traffic cams and see the rain gently falling in London and the Christmas lights up on Regent and Oxford streets and someplace inside the memory of our time there sustains me. I am warmed by memories of your friendship and our time together.
I expect you are soon off to bed and so I hope you are warm and that your spirit is at peace enough to rest.
We? We are doing alright I suppose. Though if the truth be told both Lauralea and I are off our game just a bit. The challenges of having family who live away and not near, well sometimes that can make you lonely and a little sad. Sometimes when there are moments to be shared and things to be said and you have to share them through a mobile phone txt plan, sometimes that gets old.
It's just the stuff of life really. Nothing new or huge. Just another day in a lifetime of what I think is obedience, which may just be another way of saying choosing to live by faith.
But we have snow now and the cold isn't as cold as it was last week. We have Christmas lights up too, though certainly not as amazing as yours are. They would be fun to see in person.
I hope you have a good safe Christmas UK. I know that with so many cutbacks that some of your people will be hurting, but I'm praying they don't find themselves in the midst of despair. Sometimes the grief that comes from loss can take you into depression that just destroys everything. You crawl inside yourself because its the only thing you are left with, and you ignore the outside world because its the only way you can cope. I wish your spring comes very very soon.
Oh and thank you for the updates on Strictly. Somehow that has become a fond shared memory of our time there visiting with you, and since its still alive, so is our pleasure. Well, except for Felicity's early dismissal. Whatever were you thinking that day?
With that I shall bid you a good night.
Sleep well London.
There are many things to do and many things to be done these days, especially in regard to Christmas. It seems to be the particular time of year that ensnares people into unwanted commitments and a series of expectations that just make you crazy.
It's a time of year that demonstrates more than any other time, that your family is near or far, and how many friends you have, or even how you deal with manipulative guilt. Yes, how you deal with guilt.
Some feel totally directed by it and give in to it and obey its demands in their lives. While others reject it and fight it, being pushed past their limits and react violently against those they may care about.
Is there some middle ground where we can, unmotivated by false guilt, make clear wise decisions about the season and our calendars, and lovingly communicate those decisions to those closest to us, and just live in the freedom of that grace? Can we decide which functions we will be in attendance at and which celebrations we will enter into and feel nothing but deep abiding peace when we spend an evening at home instead, playing games with the kids on the floor or climbing into a hot bath with a good book for an hour?
Some would pull out the heavy guilt guns and call this selfishness but I'm not sure it is. If you care about the others wouldn't you be better off to spend an evening at home, taking it easy, so you are in better shape for the party tomorrow night? As opposed to being out every night, wearing out what precious little energy you have left?
Lauralea and I have been in the process of planning our yearly Christmas open house, but we feel the pressures on families and the expectations and demands they face each day. Would it be better to not host an event and offer them the exquisite pleasure of a night off? Isn't that an amazing Christmas Gift, the gift of time? Yet I know that guilt being the insidious creature it is, pressure would be brought to bear on them to use that free night in a different way.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Live in the law of love and lay down your life for your husband or wife, your children, your parents, your friends, your God. Only, don't live your life by the raw demands of guilt, live by the constraints of love.
That's my Christmas wish for you this year my children. Live well, and love well.
And that's a whole different kind of living than living life by the heaviness of guilt.
With Micah in downtown Edmonton and the Grey Cup party, originally uploaded by RandallFriesen.
And man oh man there are a lot of Rider fans here.
In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it 'Christmas' and went to church; the Jews called it 'Hanukkah' and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say 'Merry Christmas!' or 'Happy Hanukkah!' or (to the atheists) 'Look out for the wall!'
~Dave Barry, "Christmas Shopping: A Survivor's Guide"
We really are doing well out here in The Field. So many of the people here have been responding so well to what I've been challenging them with and God seems to have room to work here. Relationships are being healed and people are being healed physically. Not everyone is ready to turn inward and have a look around inside themselves and deal with some of that hurt in there, but we'll give them time and prayer. In the mean time there are many who are fed up with the pain and internal hurt that unforgiveness can cause. So they are choosing to forgive, and by doing so, they are unhooking the heavy loads they carried. It's good.
We are good at food and feeding and eating together, which was always one of Jesus priorities. We make multigenerational community look easy and people here really do pray. Whether its the guys to gather to pray Tuesday at 6:30 am or any meeting or gathering of the church people, prayer is always included. Then there are the miracles. It's been a while since I've seen so many clear miracles come as an answer to prayer. Be it stroke victims or terminal cancer patients, accident victims or people with back pain, miracles are happening here. They are generous and give what they have to others who don't have. They are good singers and don't carry on complaining if it's singing an old hymn or a new worship tune, they sing.
That's just a small list I was working on the other day.
And God has more to do here too. He's got some big ideas for these field dwellers, the kinds of things that get us excited.
Sunday mornings are seeing more and more people joining us here, gathering to be with one another and do together what we can't do alone. Babies are being born and some of our elderly are moving on to the rest of their eternity too. Life continues.
So we are working hard, and there is much work to be done.
So hey, if you are interested in dropping by for a visit, why not shoot us an email and we'll put you up and maybe you can enjoy the effects of Field living and rural church life if only for a couple of days.
It seems to have a good effect on people.
Night from the field.
So today, Monday, I'm trying to prepare for the fullness of the week, probably more internally than anything else. Trying to sort out any miscommunication between L and I from the previous week, and heading off any that are being set up for this week. Clearing the sidewalks of the built up snow. And maybe watching the Doris Day film on TCM this afternoon.
Christmas music is playing from the Sirius satellite radio and the snowplow just flew past on the highway clearing the roads. The Saskatchewan Rough Riders are in the Grey Cup next weekend and it's cold out there, so you know Christmas is coming.
Advent starts this coming Sunday so we'll be shifting gears at church a bit. The music begins to change, and we'll be having hot Christmas drinks available for a donation to the local food bank. The decorations and banners go up this week and the kids will have a unique part in the service, which they always love. And so do I.
But first, this week needs to be lived out.
And what then can we say besides, Go Riders Go!
(Pictures Here) And so I take you now to a diner in Kendal UK called The Union Jack where it seems, real locals eat real food that's basic and affordable and hot. Comfort food I suppose, where the counter girls know your name and ailment and ask how your wife is feeling after that nasty surgery she had.
We ducked in there for some lunch after a long morning of hiking and we just enjoyed the place. The food was so/so, but the people were great and the pudding was, well, amazing.
It looked like a boiled brain in custard, but alas dear reader, it was worth all the walking just to share it with Herself.
You've got to be kidding me. I can't believe it's that cold out there.
I guess tomorrow is winter coat time.
What a moment of delight when, after a long, difficult week you are walking down a street to a meeting and the snow is falling down on you and the wind is whipping at your face and you are cold right down to your insides and you reach your hand into your jacket pocket for warmth and you find a receipt from three weeks ago and a million miles away that fills your heart with warm memories of a rainy afternoon in London and a warm donut and the one you shared them with.
And hope is restored and you smile.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous.
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1 John 4:19–21
For me, for this day, these words were not incidental.
Lord, hear our prayers.
My day has been about meeting with and talking with and skyping with people in various stages of life and the struggles life brings with it. The people have ranged in their life experiences but truly it seems to be those people who can face themselves in the mirror, who can look honestly into their own eyes and speak truth, they are the ones upon whom grace seems to dwell so fully.
I know that the human heart has a thousand secrets but if you convince yourself that you only have 999 secrets in there and deny the one, in some way you open yourself up to all manner of pain and lies and it's like the thousand secrets take over your whole life driving you deeper into the abyss.
Then love, which isn't easy at the best of times, becomes difficult both to give and receive and we harden our hearts just a little more. You see how this goes.
I suppose that's why we are in need of saving mostly from ourselves. Even those who look beautiful and seem healthy and together are often the ones in need of saving the most.
In need of saving, of being saved, of a saviour.
Yeah, we all need a bit of saving, and from One who can do it well.
Lord save us.
The week was full of people connections so late this morning as I headed to the office I wasn't ready for the call that told me the dryer that had been ordered for the house had arrived.
So the afternoon kind of turned into the Randall and Micah appliance delivery and installation comedy hour.
But it's installed now and we even managed shutting off the gas fittings from the 35 year old previous gas dryer. At least I think we did... Na we did.
And we ended the day by getting the lit Christmas Star as high on the house as we dared. See, it isn't difficult putting up Christmas lights when there is no snow on the ground.
So now to a bit more study for tomorrow, then to sleep.
From the snowless field.
Then I had him up in a tree, maybe 20 feet up, helping me install a long-wire antenna. I've got two wire leads into the house that we put up in spring and the one has an 80 meter dipole on the end of it and now I've got the 100 ft long wire coming into the house too. It's mostly just for listening to shortwave with, and so far it's been a treat. I fired up the old Realistic DX-400 and it worked and sounded better than the newer, smaller one I own. Sweet.
Radio was always one of those simple pleasures I enjoyed, listening to different cultures and people in different cities and countries and continents. I used to play with it much more in high school and college, and then when I worked at regular jobs it became something that I loved to do whenever I wasn't working.
As I moved into more ministry work I had less and less time for such things. Then family came along and they were way more fun than radio. I ended up boxing up most of my radios, but occasionally I'd pull out one or two and play a bit, looking for that spark of simple pleasure again.
These days I've unboxed my simple collection and I've been listening again. Many of the old powerhouses of radio are gone, but there are still a few treats to be listened to. The Voice of Russia is still fun and you can learn some other languages over on Radio Taiwan. Today I listened as an armed forces ham station in Alaska worked a bunch of hams in the southern states. Then a small treat as I listened to a ham operator from near where we used to live in London Ontario work a few stations. Almost like being there again.
I think it's all part of my journey of learning to be a balanced individual. When life takes on too much of one thing, be it work or play or hey even golf, we get out of balance and then we run the risk of falling.
I'm trying to remember how to play again, how to have fun and how to enjoy something simple. Today stringing up wires and sending Micah up into the trees, that was fun.
Hopefully it'll help us have some fun on the radio too.
It was early on our first Sunday morning in England after a particularly sleepless night that I got up with the same sense you have when you are having a perfectly delicious dream that you don't want to wake up from because its so amazing and so real. Except upon waking I discovered that the dream was reality and I was actually in the UK. It was a pinch me moment. Indeed it came after a very poor sleep so it may have been the exhaustion speaking, but I felt like I was in a great dream, and I wouldn't ever wake up from it because I was already awake.
I got up quickly and let Lauralea sleep as long as she could and I ate some toast and drank strong tea and milk, listening to BBC 4 on the radio. I planned a quick early morning walk in the beautifully inviting overcast morning out there. Even somewhat still in a dream, I left the house.
I headed up a steep hill that overlooked the community and walked briskly in the fresh, quiet Sunday morning. Surely this is what Sunday mornings were meant to be.
As I continued up over the rise, a deep green space came into my view and rewarded my morning walk. Kendal Green it was called. A large green space with lots of grass and large old trees and a bench I could rest on and take it all in, so I did just that.
I actually soaked in the beautiful green peace, and I opened my notebook and wrote what must have been inspired words. I think that for me, Kendal Green was holy ground.
I've preached before that there are times when you live, and then there are times when you truly, really, deeply live. When it all comes alive for you and it's maybe just a touch beyond belief. That was one of those moments for me.
And if I could capture what was happening in my spirit and store it up for the long winter and just take it down now and then and have a sip of it I think it should make all the difference in my coming and going. And maybe that's why the moment was given to me, to restore my soul.
See the pictures from the whole day.
The whole collection of our trip that I've uploaded so far is here.
The original thinking on having our flight time start from Calgary and end in London about 11:30 pm Calgary time, was that that would be 6:30 London time and we'd arrive in time to greet the day and beat our jet lag into submission the very first day. So we arrived in London and hit the ground running.
I suppose we didn't look to bad when we left our driveway at home:
But it all caught up to us nicely.
We did a big loop of the City of London proper, and yes the Queen was in.
By about three in the afternoon London time, or 8am Calgary time we were quickly running out of gas, so we caught a train north to Kendal in the Lake District.
And bless her heart, our friend Rachel was there to collect us and sort us out and keep us moving before we crashed into bed to sleep for an eternity.
Our room for the time there:
Being awake for 34 hours while being 47 years of age certainly had its challenges, but I am pleased to report that we made it to England. Ready to see and experience a good deal of new things.
I'll try to use this space to record some of my memories of the trip, and to also update the photos so that you can see too.
You can see all the images from the first day, here.
I've been trying to be present at the Wednesday evening preteen and Youth activities to try and provide some continuity and connection for the twenty or so youth and the 14 or so pre-teens who come out.
Today that was after a long day that included a lunch hour of cleaning the outside of the house windows which I've been trying to get done before the weather turns. Today it was a beautiful day for it.
Last night was our board meeting, tonight youth, and tomorrow the ladies are to be at a chocolate night. So the week has filled up the evenings nicely.
And so I'm tired.
Probably still a touch of the travel jetlagitus too, but it's not nearly as bad as it was going that direction.
So we're back and the needs here are great. I suppose the stress for me and for those I've been counselling these past few days is that often the people with the deep needs don't even get that they have deep needs that need attention. Instead they just go blindly on and with each turn and twist of life they unknowingly break something, or someone. Amazingly amazingly unaware and unknowing of the hurt they have caused, or at least I hope they are unaware. Otherwise they are being deliberate with the pain they cause, and that's a whole different kind of blindness.
So there is much work to be done here, but it can only be done at a pace people are willing to be challenged with. It's often a hurry up and wait thing, and while we wait, we bind up the hurting and the broken. And we chase church mice around the office, and we feed teens supper and we wash windows.
And tonight we sleep.
It's still a good morning and I suspect I'm still in the afterglow of our holiday in England. Was it only two weeks ago that we were riding a ferry across Lake Windermere and had lunch in a 600 year old establishment? We walked up to Hilltop to see where Beatrix Potter ruled her world and cut short development of the area buy purchasing up old farms and keeping them working. We drove through the hills and dales of the lake district and discovered Lakeland Stores with their upscale quirky offerings. Then I believe it was supper at Pizza Express in Kendal.
Yes we worked hard to cement some memories into the permanent memory spaces we have in our hearts.
But today, what about today here in the field.
I should go get ready for the service this morning here at the hospital. It's my first time here and I'm not sure what's expected of me.
And you, on this cool November morning, you have a good day too alright?