New Years in my Dreams

It was, well, a different Christmas. That I can say with honesty.

With the girls and Johanna's family in different parts of the world and the boys here with us for two and a half days, it was certainly less work.

And we did end up changing the oil on Thomas' car on Christmas afternoon which is something I've never done, at least on that day.

So it was low key and fairly restful, which was good.

It's been a crazy lead up to christmas around here, and other volunteers have been away or been unavailable because of other commitments, so I've been picking up some of that extra work that needs to be done.

Usually after Christmas I'm raring to go again because the craziness of the Christmas season is behind me. But not so much this year.

I've been working hard to find motivation to get going and balance that with the realization that I'm recuperating a bit too. Trying to take it easier, trying to rest a bit more, trying to get my mojo back.

And the old mojo just doesn't bounce back as quickly as it has in the past.


Tomorrow is a work day so tonight is a non party night here in the field.

But in other news, I have another daughter who is living out some of my dreams tonight at midnight. Hillary is in London for a few days and has connected with some new friends there and is heading to a flat near St. Paul's from where they will be walking down to the Thames for the fireworks at midnight. That is cool.


How is it that my children are living out my dreams?




A Most Blessed Christmas to you.

Well, here we are.

We’ve made it through the baking and shopping lists. Through the signing and receiving of endless cards, shopping malls, parties, get-togethers and so many people to wish Merry Christmas or seasons greeting to.
The kids have made it through learning their songs and concerts and piano pieces. And the gifts, all purchased by now, lay silently beneath the tree, awaiting their excited new owners.

Perhaps its at moments like these that we are wise to stop and remember what Christmas really is about.
George Matthew Adams said:
“Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide open heart that thinks of others first. The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history, because it has meant the pouring into a sick world of the healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for almost two thousand years... Underneath all the bulging bundles is this beating Christmas heart.”
Maybe thats one reason that the Christmas season is so busy, because we are trying to love so many at once.

While for others Christmas can be so lonely. Nothing reminds us that we are utterly alone in the universe like not getting any cards or not being invited to parties.
Taylor Caldwell (1900-1985), English novelist wrote:
“I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.”
If you’ve been overly busy or perhaps find yourself a bit too lonely this evening, I welcome you to focus on the Story of Christ’s birth.

Focus on the light of the world, born as a babe.
This is still the time that God chooses to be known.

Read with me...

Last details

Today on the day before the day before Christmas I went to town to spend some time with those who find themselves hospital bound for the celebration this weekend and those who are happily expecting this Christmas to be their last, here on earth at least.

What an odd situation in your mind. To have a lifetime of history and memories in your mind and spirit, yet to be fairly well aware that this will be your last one. Then to know that it is not only ok, but because of your faith in God and your experience with him, you can look death in the eye with confidence that He who holds your life in his hand, also has a firm grip by the scruff of the neck of Death.  It is not foolish ignorance but a confidence that comes from a lifetime of give and take, love and hate, in relationship with another. Or should I say, Thee Other.

Then there are those who face the doorway to death with utter fear and loathing. A lostness that I can't find words for in this human experience. Yes, I've seen both. I suppose that's another reason I do the work that I do.

This post didn't turn out the way I had intended, but maybe it's just a good reminder to sort out your life and choices and faith before you near the finish line. I know that's how I feel most every time I leave the hospital or care home.


Only two more sleeps.
Guys, tomorrow is your christmas shopping day so you better get your sleep tonight.



Shortest day of the year


Yesterday the meetings ran from 6 am till 10 pm, so today is much easier. This afternoon and evening is about the youth party we are running here at the church, so before that I have time to work on Saturday evenings service, and get to town to pick up some supplies for tonight.

I think though, that after this day things should settle down a bit. Quiet should reign in the field and I will have time to draw from the silence, rather than drain the silence away with busyness.

This Christmas will be simpler for us in many ways. There will be less people in the house, less meals to prepare and gifts to sort. Less snow (for Micah) to shovel, less time to celebrate together, less granddaughters crawling around your feet. You know, all those less thans that could make for a lean Christmas but we will try not to let rule the day.

Thomas is coming home for a couple of days and we will have turkey and hopefully the internet will be proper and we will skype with the girls in Oxford and Wisconsin.  That will be good.

And then the weekend will be over. Just like that.

But it is what you make it, right?

There will be little treats along the way. The boys will be home so we'll play a few COD or Halo games. Turkey will be served and I love turkey. Christmas Eve in the morning here we'll turn on the old BBC Radio 4 and listen to the service of Nine Lessons and Carols. We'll work on Christmas Eve but we are cancelling the service for Sunday morning so that will be appreciated. Maybe I'll get some play time in with the radio, or crank open one of the new books I've just purchased, a Nouwen or a Muller. 

Lots of things to look forward to.

Mostly I think I'm looking forward to a bit of rest, and that will be good. A change of the rhythms of a busy life that can be detrimental to a good life.

So on this shortest day of the year when, before we had lights we had to quit work at dark and go to bed, I wish for you some playtime, some rest, some fun. But mostly I wish for you peace of heart whatever your week is going to hold, and the realization that peace is an internal gift of the Spirit. When the Spirit of God is welcomed into the human heart, he brings peace.


Happy shortest day of the year,
from the field.




Lauralea's Pottery Skills

She is getting better and better.
Here is some of her recent work, plus a few candles. Also her creative work.


 

Upon a Snowy Day in the Field.

Well the snow is gently falling from overcast skies as I look out my office window.
It's quiet and things look mostly like they are going to be under control for this Christmas season. Although we are new to the international mailing of gifts thing and we will have to learn the timing of those things, the girls are patient. Thankfully.

I'm working on some plans for Sunday and in an hour or two the doors of the manse will swing wide for the Open House we have each year about this time. Lauralea's been baking and making cider, and cleaning and decorating up a storm. This year she also made the dishes she's serving on, with her mad clay skills. I'll get pictures of them up as I am able. They look awesome.

But we choose to try to keep things simpler this year and so it is.

As I was working at my desk, the radio started playing one of my favourite christmas carols, Once in Royal Davids City. So on this snowy day in the field, I'll leave you with the words Mrs. Alexander wrote to tell the story, many years ago.


Once in Royal Davids city,
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby,
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ, her little Child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall:
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Saviour holy.

For He is our childhood's pattern;
Day by day, like us, He grew;
He was little, weak, and helpless,
Tears and smiles, like us He knew;
And He cares when we are sad,
And he shares when we are glad.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle,
Is our Lord in heaven above:
And He leads His children on,
To the place where He is gone.

Mrs. C.F. Alexander (1818 - 1895)



Micah's High School Choir singing "Breath of Heaven"



One of my favourite pieces.

(Here's a link to the whole song, now that it's stuck in your heads.)


Finding peace on bad days

"Let my soul take refuge, beneath the shadow of Your wings: let my heart, this sea of restless waves, find peace in you O God!" - Augustine

Yes indeed. Augustines words find a home within me as I struggle to focus and prepare my heart and mind and body for the work asked of me this Sunday.

My eyes are tired and not focusing properly as they will need to when I read things in public. My psoriasis is acting up and giving me trouble which means either I'm stressed or I'm not getting enough sun or I'm drinking too much. My heart is heavy with some news that will make life difficult for a friend for a season. Some Christmas deadlines are creeping up on me that I will need to really work towards this week that will take away any day off, so there will be not much for a turn around time here this week.

Today is a full day of teaching and leading worship and preaching, you know, the usual Sunday work of a pastor. Then we need to get to town in time for the High School Christmas Concert this afternoon, then supper with field people, then home to crash.

This morning Augustines words hit home just a bit closer than usual. On mornings like this I would like to simply take refuge and hide the day away.

May my heart, on days like this when cast about on seas of restless waves, find peace in you O God.

Time for my pastoral review tonight.

Tonight amongst the youth activities and assisting Lauralea to make supper for the whole gang of them, and cleaning up, it was also time for my annual pastoral review to be completed. You need to know that the leaders in charge of it were willing to put it off a few weeks but I teased that I would prefer to know my fate before heading into the hard work of Christmas and all. So they met first and processed the data from the congregation and then I met with them so that they could go over the results with me.

Nearly every year I steel myself for surprises in those reviews, perhaps something I never saw coming sort of things. So this year was the same in that way.

It's kind of unnerving as they report that there was a higher than normal participation level from the congregation. Was it more people ticked off? More frustrated people? More people wanted to get heard about something?

Turns out it was just more people wanting to affirm me.

The list of affirmations was long and nicely repetitive. They were well thought through responses too, not shallow like some forms can produce, like "I judge a man by the shoes he wears" (yes I had that once) sort of surface answers.

No, these were very humbling observations to hear. I do work hard and I do try to work smart but sometimes in the cracks of my heart, I feel insecure and occasionally over my head in this stuff. And I wonder when they will tell me yup the game is up, you're done here so go sell vacuum cleaners.

I remember in my first year in pastoral work, my daily prayer was just "Please Lord, just don't let me screw this up." Over the years it shifted to more of a "Please don't let me screw them up," sort of prayer.

But these later years it's been more of a "Lord, keep me from temptation," sort of a prayer. There is lots to temp someone who's been involved in ministry stuff for 30 years. Temptation to check out spiritually and run on momentum only. Temptation to get angry and bitter about the petty stuff and walk away, or worse, stay in a church. Temptation to settle, to loose the fire in the heart. Yeah, all kinds of temptations.

For me it's just humbling to hear what they think about what I am doing and who I am.

This bunch have come a long long way in a very few short years, but that's more about what God's been doing in them than what I've been doing here. I just get to be here with them for now, and to point them to The One who knows what they need, deep inside.

Oh and the growth areas they saw needing attention in my life?

Well one thought I needed to stop cheering for the Riders, so I reported back to the others that I hadn't made much noise about the Riders this failing year, had I?

:)

The others were concerned for my health and that I take time for myself and my spirit to be in good places. They saw and appreciated the need for more staff here, so that I could get on with the things I'm good at. Even in my growth areas they were affirming.

See, like I said gracious field people here.

So for now I will take that as an indication from the body of Christ that meets here in a field in Malmo that I am to continue in this work to which I have been called, until He chooses to move me on, up or over.


Tomorrow is another full day so I'm heading home and to bed.

Night from the field.



When I need a little Norah

This little video has a permanent place on my desktop and when I need a little bit of Norah, I just click Play. It always makes me smile.


 



Ham I am

In 1987 we were about to have a baby, and I was working full time at Canadian Tire, and I was or we were, lay ministers in the local Mennonite church of 400. Each and every one of these was a full time job, sort of activity, but I wanted to add to that the dream I'd held for many years, of getting my Amateur Radio license.

I started to study, but a lack of funds and a real lack of time encouraged me to lay aside that dream for a  while.

Fast forward to last year when we found ourselves living in a field and most of our kids had moved on, and I needed a way to connect with a community beyond the blessed field people. It turned out that there were some Ham radio people in the congregation here and so I began to wonder and think and dust off an old dream of mine.

Yes, that old dream.

So last year I began to study when I had free time, so you know that those available moments ended up being too few and far between.

This year Andy, VE6KP and Randy, VE6RND from the church here encouraged me and checked on me just enough to keep me studying and that was a big help for me.

Then during my autumn holiday it was one of my goals to focus on studying the material so that I could maybe, perhaps, take the exam sometime this winter.

Andy got me the name of a Examiner down in Red Deer and today I met up with him at his home and I took the test. It was 100 multiple choice questions, and I was as nervous as I've been in a long time. After 45 minutes he came in and started through my answers.

No bad circles on the first ten questions, then there was one in the second ten, and so the tension inside me grew. He circled three more wrong answers and looked up at me and declared that I had passed, with honours. 96%.

Passing with honours allows me access to all the Ham bands, which was what I was after, but 96% was above and beyond my hopes and maybe even my dreams of 24 years.

So he filled in the paperwork and emailed it off and now I will wait for Industry Canada to send me my license and my call sign, hot off the press.

Another goal reached in my life and it makes me smile.




Why do we look for a saviour with the eyes of the world?

"A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him . . ." (Isa.11:1-2). 
...Our salvation comes from something small, tender, and vulnerable, something hardly noticeable. God, who is the Creator of the Universe, comes to us in smallness, weakness, and hiddenness. 
I find this a hopeful message. Somehow, I keep expecting loud and impressive events to convince me and others of God's saving power; but over and over again I am reminded that spectacles, power plays, and big events are the ways of the world. Our temptation is to be distracted by them and made blind to the "shoot that shall sprout from the stump." 
The small child of Bethlehem, the unknown young man of Nazareth, the rejected preacher, the naked man on the cross, he asks for my full attention. The work of our salvation takes place in the midst of a world that continues to shout, scream, and overwhelm us with its claims and promises. But the promise is hidden in the shoot that sprouts from the stump, a shoot that hardly anyone notices.

Henri J.M. Nouwen. - iGracias! - A Latin American Journal

Seasons Change

Seasons Change

As I sit here in my office early on this Tuesday morning my window looks out towards the house and behind it the eastern sky is starting to lighten up. It’s quite beautiful and amazing.

I notice some dark moving shadows near the house and I look up to get a better view. It looks like there are about eight Mule deer having a munch on grass and mingling around.

Beautiful, graceful animals. Mostly small and maybe not even a year old. They are preparing for winter, searching for the choice foods they will need to build up their strength I imagine. Then just as suddenly as they arrived, they leave. The smallest one lagging behind.

The rhythms of life are intricately connected here on this earth, and they feel even more tied together here in this field. Winter is coming, so preparations are being made. Equipment is being placed into storage, poultry are being sent to market, cattle are being shipped or moved to winter homes. And the land is allowed to rest.

Rest. Hibernation. Winter brings that to us in different ways, at least here on the Canadian prairies. We are forced by the coming rhythm of winter, to change gears, downshift, conserve energy, rest. And that is a good thing.

I don’t know who we would be if we didn’t have winter. I suspect choosing to rest if it wasn’t forced upon us might be difficult. Rest might even be seen as a weakness, and if our neighbours didn’t rest, then probably neither would we.

So we are forced, by the plans of God and the grace of the land, to rest. If we decide not to slow down, then that’s our choice. Sometimes the land and the rhythms of life God has given us, are smarter than we are, and if we are teachable we will learn a thing or two about seasons of rest.

Learning to live well in that balance is a secret to life that not all people understand. Whether you are a high stakes banker living in the glass towers of the big city, or a farmer working the land. There are things about the balanced life that we need to learn, so that our lives too will be blessed in ways that give us life.

The season of Advent does that for us too. Its a season in the Christian church when we pause to consider and remember the coming of Christ so many years ago, and to remind one another that he is coming again, triumphantly.

It's all too easy to get caught up in the rush and madness of trying to meet this worlds Christmas expectations. Then, just as the Christmas rush begins, Advent comes and reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas. We are reminded that Christ came into this world, not to visit, but to become one of us. To put on skin and show us what love really means.

That's what Advent and Christmas is all about.

Its a time to shift gears and slow down, to remember what is important in this Christmas season.

So take some time this Advent to consider what Christ has done for you, and how you need to respond and live.

Blessings.