Thursday, July 31, 2008

Coffeeshop Conversations

I'm out of town for a few days so I stopped by a coffeeshop to access their wireless connection. While I was setting up my laptop I overheard two ladies talking behind me. They were talking about prayer, missions and what God could do. You could hear their faith and confidence in God in their conversation. It was obvious they were Christians. As they were talking about some books that I had read or recognized, I interrupted them and suggested one that I thought they might enjoy to. As it turned out, they were both ministry wives. One lady is returning to Egypt on Monday to resume serving in a ministry that she had previously done with her husband. He passed away a few years ago and you could tell she still missed him. The other lady is married to a denominational leader. It turned we had some common friends and we had a very nice (but brief) visit. I feel richer because I met them.

Still in need of a wireless connection, I packed up my laptop and headed down the road in search of another 'Wired Monk' where I could spend an hour or so sipping coffee and taking care of a few things.

Upon arriving at my next location, I sat near two other women having a conversation. It's a fairly quiet place and it was hard not to overhear what they were saying. The contrast amazed me. One woman is having a recurring dream that is troubling her. The other is an astrological 'coach' who is trying to discern what the stars are saying to her. The one woman is afraid, the other is grasping at straws.

It's hard not to see the contrast. Even if I wasn't a believer in Jesus, it would be hard not to see the contrast. We are so blessed to have a Father who loves us and cares for us. Even when the mountains tremble, we need not be afraid. He is our Rock and Redeemer.

I feel so sad for the two women beside me. I'm not sure if I'll interrupt their conversation or not. If I do, I'll let you know how it turns out...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Island Champions

We've watched a lot of baseball this summer. Zack and Tyler both played House League ball which means that we were at the park about 6 days per week. After that, Tyler wanted to play summer ball which meant even more baseball. Summer baseball qualifies your team to play in both a regional playoff and, if you are successful, a provincial playoff.

This weekend, the Victoria Rebels (Tyler's team) played Campbell River in the regional playoffs. They won the first game of yesterday's double header and then lost the second which left today's a game a 'winner take all' affair. Our guys played a fantastic game today and won 10-1. Here are some pictures of the big day.

After the game they were presented with the Vancouver Island Championship trophy.

Then they each took a turn running around the bases carrying the trophy. It was cute but got a bit long until all 12 boys had their turn. For some of them, the size of the trophy was a little big for them to manage and we were concerned that there might be a broken trophy.

Here's Tyler with his friend Matt and today's MVP, Peter. Peter hit a home run that really sparked the whole team to some pretty exciting offense. Peter basically slid into the picture just as I was taking it, hence Peter's 'gravity defying' pose.

Way to go Rebel's! We're looking forward to the Provincial's next weekend.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Barak Obama's Prayer

Barak Obama visited Jerusalem this week and spent a few moments at the Western Wall. While there, he acted on a long-standing tradition and slipped a prayer inbetween the rocks in the wall. A reporter took note of the location and later retrieved and published the prayer. Here's what he said.

Lord — Protect my family and me. Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair.
Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will,"

I'm not sure how Mr. Obama feels about his prayer being published and I tend to agree with the rabbi who said that prayer is between a man or woman and their maker. However, when I read the prayer, I wanted to publish it here for several reasons.

First of all, I like the way he begins. He recognizes God as LORD. He's not praying to the sun, moon, stars or wind, but to the LIVING GOD. Secondly, I'm inspired by his desire for protection for his family and himself. The LORD is our protector and defender and I'm glad that the man who could/would be the President of the United States recognizes he needs some help. I like how he asks for forgiveness. Who among us doesn't need it and even more significantly doesn't deserve it? Yet, he's willing to humbly ask and confess his need. The fantastic thing about forgiveness is that God only grants it to those humbly ask for it.

I like his recognition of the perils that come with pride (I need nothing and no one) and despair (the state of being overwhelmed by fear and anxiety) There's tremendous wisdom in that request because both are equally perilous in our lives and particularly in the life of a leader. In the next line he asks for wisdom, the very thing that God guarantees to grant to those who ask for it. I'm confident that God has already answered his request.

Finally, he seeks just to be an instrument of God's will. It reflects the heart of a servant but also the heart of someone who is living with purpose. My prayer for Mr. Obama (and for you) is that God would answer his requests fully and faithfully.

Aren't you glad his request wasn't 'Dear Lord, please let me beat John McCain...?"

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What some pastors do... and endure

From Yahoo News:

A pastor in Indiana decided to bring out a dirt bike during a church service to demonstrate the concept of unity.Now he's demonstrating the concept of healing. Jeff Harlow, thesenior pastor at Crossroads Community Church, broke his wrist when helost control of the motorcycle at the start of Sunday's secondservice. He ended up driving off a 1.5-metre platform and into the vacant first row of seats.He's now recovering from surgery on the wrist.

His wife, Becky, says the pastor is OK but "his pride was bruised." Becky Harlow said her husband had recently attended a motorcycle race in Buchanan, Michigan."He had this idea that he would bring this bike out on stage and show people how the rider would become one with the bike," she told the Kokomo Tribune. "He was going to just sit on it and drive it out. He was just walking the dirt bike out onstage and somehow it got away from him. It was not intended.

"No one else was hurt. Jeff Harlow had performed the demonstration at earlier services Saturday night and Sunday morning without incident.

And a follow up from a friend...

In our church in 1998 a group of us wanted to do something that would bring attention to our Debt Retirement Campaign - of "the Mountain Movers" - one man rode into the church down the aisle on a motorcycle - a small dirt bike... it was a total shock to every one...

There was no accidents. He then came on to the platform, with his bike parked down front, dressed in a hard hat...

After a short bit of time of talk and some silly actions (fun stuff) - a very Holy-e-er than all of the rest of you stood up and began shouting - THIS IS NOT OF GOD - THUS SAITH THE LORD - THIS IS AN ABOMINATION - yadda yadda yadda... he stomped out dragging his wife and a new person that they brought to church that Sunday... it was the last time we saw the dear brother.

Oh Boy....

Some people left with the YELLING and PROPHETIC DUDE... some went to a nearby church...

A week or so ago... the pastor from that church rode into the church in a small kind of go kart - I think it was electric... the cart caught a speaker stand and a large banner and pulled the whole thing over... his cart turned up on end and he was dumped out on the stage...

Basically the service was over with great peals of laughter.... and no one caught it on video.

10 years makes a difference in the Holy-e-er Than Thou dear folks...

The YELLING and PROPHETIC DUDE sits in his garage playing his accordion now... speaking words of prophecy over who ever comes into his business to get their car fixed...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

5 Years Forward, 5 Years Back

This is part of an email I received today from Keith Cameron Smith. I hope you enjoy it.

How fast did the last five years go by????? How fast are the next five years going to pass? The next five years will go by just as fast and may even seem faster than the last five. Our life is but a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Another way to say it is that our life is but the blink of an eye in the scope of eternity. If a tiny little bird were to pick up a single grain of sand in his beak from the beach on the east coast and fly it all the way to the west coast and leave it there and then fly all the way back to the beach on the east coast for another grain of sand to take back to the west coast and he kept doing this until all the sand from the east was transported to the west and then moved it all back again, then that would be one second of eternity.

Life is short. Shorter than we can imagine. I am only 37 years old but several years ago I made a wise decision to spend time with and learn from very successful men and women who are 20to 30 years older than me so I could compress time and add more life to my years.Adding years to your life is a great goal but adding life to your years is even better.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Getting Ready for the Fall

We just got back from a fantastic weekend in Kelowna, BC where our youngest son (Tyler) was playing in a baseball tournament. His team placed second but had a very strong showing. We hope to meet the same team in the Provincial Championships in a few weeks.

On Saturday afternoon we took a break from the heat and found comfort by going to the mall. The summer clearance sales were in full swing which seemed kind of premature, especially in light of the fantastic weather outside, but we shopped anyway... well, Barb and Brittany shopped, I watched a football game and enjoyed a cup of coffee in one of those nice soft chairs provided for waiting husbands and fathers.

While I was waiting I started thinking about my own plans for the fall. My August schedule is already full and I have 6 engagements scheduled for September. It's going to be a busy fall season, but I am SO excited about the possibilities and opportunities. Over the next few weeks, I'll provide some more specifics about what we'll be doing. I believe that God has given us some very clear direction about our next steps here in BC and where our focus needs to be over the next year. I also believe that the results of what we will undertake will be historic for our province.

Delerious ranks among my favorite bands. In one of their versions of 'Did You Hear?' they rhetorically ask if it's true that God can shape a nation. My emphatic answer is YES HE CAN! HE WANTS TO AND HE WILL, AS HIS PEOPLE PRAY!

The question is will we??

Saturday, July 05, 2008

God and Going Green

Like most British Columbians, I got my Climate Action Dividend Cheque last week. If you don't live in BC, this is a $100 cheque given to every British Columbian to assist in transitioning to a more green approach to living and to off-set the cost of the carbon fuel tax that was added on July 1. The intent is to encourage us to live greener lives and to become more aware of the impact of our actions on the climate. I wish this had happened at at time when world prices weren't hitting record levels, but at the same time, I think it's important to recognize that we have a responsibility to the environment in which we live.

The church has been strangely silent about the green initiative. For the most part our approach has been to hold to the idea that Jesus could return at any time (which He could) and that we needed to give ourselves to evangelism rather than than worrying about social and environmental issues. In most cases those who expressed environmental concerns, were seen as fringe and marginal. I think that is changing and for good reason. It's one thing to be seen as being culturally and socially relevant and so the idea of being seen as being 'green' has become very appealing to churches. I read of one denomination that is going green by changing to LED lighting in their facilities, upgrading windows, furnaces and kitchen equipment in order to reduce their carbon footprint. I'm not sure that going green is going to actually translate into seeing people come to faith in Christ, but that doesn't mean it's a bad idea.

I found an interesting article today about a church conference recently held in Vancouver called 'Faith and the Environment'. Apparently 125 theologians from multiple faith groups came together to talk about God, the Church and the Environment. You can read more about the actual event by clicking here.

I believe that God has given us dominion over everything and made us stewards of creation. For most of North American Evangelical history, we have approached the environment as a resource to be plundered and pillaged. I think we missed the point. Stewards care for resources they are entrusted with. They don't indulge themselves on resources that don't belong to them. We have indulged ourselves to excess and lived without regard for the environment around us. In the process we have fouled lakes, rivers and streams with our pollution. I grew up in Northern Ontario about an hour from a pulp mill. I remember the smell and the pipe dumping murky brown liquid into the river. Years later (after First Nations people began dying from mercury poisoning on reserves downstream), the company was forced to do a massive clean up and had to dredge the river to clean up it's poison. I can still remember the smell of the mud.

We have filled the air with toxins and cancer causing chemicals without thought or regard for the safety of future generations. When it became socially unacceptable to do these things in Canada or America we off-loaded those processes to countries where pollution didn't matter or affect us. I've been to both Mexico City and Beijing, China. On most days the air is murky at best.

At the same time, I believe that God has entrusted us with the resources of the earth for the purpose of sustainable provision and enjoyment. The issue is in what we do to the earth as we use them and in how we obtain them. The church needs to lead in this area and have a credible voice because of our actions that support what we say.

Sallie McFague said it this way. The earth is our home, not a hotel room. That's a new way of thinking about things for most church people, but maybe one that we need to embrace more seriously. What do you think?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The WHO called?

I'm taking some down time this week. For the most part I'm hanging around the house doing some reading, watching Tyler play baseball and thinking about finishing up a few projects around the house that I haven't had time to get done.

Today I decided to ride the motorcycle along the West Coast of Vancouver Island. It would be a nice way to chill out and just enjoy the scenery. I left about 10:30 and got to a little place called French Beach about 45 minutes later. I pulled my phone and saw that I had 3 missed calls. I'm not sure about you, but in my world, 3 missed calls in 45 minutes tell me something's up. I listened to my messages. The first was from a blocked number but no voice. The second was from a blocked number with an important message to call as soon as possible. The third was from Barb saying there's an important message from the security department at the bank that you need to follow up on.

I tried to call from where I was, but the wonder of technology is that I could only get a US cell signal and even though I was standing in Canada the cell service thought I was in the USA. Therefore, I couldn't call to see what was going on. So much for some quiet, reflective time at the beach. All I could think about was what was going on. After about a whole 2 minutes of trying to relax, I got back on the bike and came home to find out what was going on. the trip home was much quicker than the trip there. Nothing says urgency like 'the bank wants to talk to you'.

I got home and picked up the phone and made the call. When I gave the agent the file number, she told me that my card had been 'compromised'. Somebody had stolen my information and was trying to make a bogus card. I asked how she knew this. She told me that someone had likely been arrested with my information in their posession but beyond that, she couldn't tell me anything more.

I had two very different thoughts flood through my mind at that point. The first was 'Thanks for calling and looking out for me'. The second was 'somebody stole my information.' 'How did they do that?' I'm pretty careful with my card. I don't let it out of my sight nor do I leave it lying around. But somehow, in someway, somebody was able to record and store my information. The irony is that a friend had the same thing happen to them a while ago and was telling me how they felt about it. In their case the person who stole the number used it to pay for the paving of their driveway. (Thieves can be really stupid!!)

I want to come back to my first thought for a moment. The credit card company watches over my card because it is an investment for them. I spend their money and they charge me interest if I don't pay it all back on time. They want to make sure that it's only me who spends their money because if it's not, they don't get their money back.

As I write this, a small bird is on the branch in the tree about 8 feet away. It's got a red crown and kind of brown and grey feathers. It's about the size of a sparrow. As I watch it, I'm reminded of what God says about his care for me. A sparrow isn't worth much, He says, but He sees it when it falls from the sky. He then goes on to ask how much more will He care for me and you because of His great love for us.

Talk is cheap. Love steps up to the plate and follows through. I didn't get the connecting time with God that I was planning for at the beach because I was distracted by my unsettling phone message. But... God sent me a message anyway through a seed thought for a blog post and the appearance of a sparrow in front of me as I wrote it.

The link takes me to one of my favorite songs. It is full of great memories and constantly inspires and reminds me of God's care and concern for me. I hope you enjoy it!