P is for…. Purple (& Panic)

P is for…. Purple (& Panic)

This week we were given this beautiful bouquet of deep purple lilacs by our neighbours across the lane. They had no idea that:

a) this is my favourite shade of lilac,
b) lilacs are SUCH a reminder of home, or
c) that our spirits could’ve used the boost that comes with the smell of lilacs filling the room!

With our departure only 3 weeks away… we were a little bit in panic mode this week. But before I get to “panic” let me just talk “purple”…

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Beauty from Ugly

Beauty from Ugly

This week we’ve begun getting ready for fall. A final trim for the hedge, cleaning up the garden beds, harvesting the last of the tomatoes and tackling one of the two full-sized apple trees (I’m still sore from that one – Tree #2 will have to wait). I’ve noticed, though, that every day gives us opportunity to learn from and about the Lord… even in the midst of ugliness.

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Don’t Kill Hunger!

*Sorry folks… usually my midweek post falls on Wednesday, but it occurred to me that I’d not “bumped” this one from saved-draft status to scheduled status… so it didn’t publish this morning.*

I’m feeling something that I haven’t felt for a while… it’s both familiar and rather new at the same time.  Let me give you the background.

Visit to the Family Doctor

Last year at about this time, my family doctor did the run-through and indicated (in no uncertain terms), that she would like to see me lose 10lbs because it would be better for my overall general health & energy level and would set a good example for my family.

I’m neither dangerously overweight nor even close to being obese, but there are several inches and pounds that could be shed and I seriously wouldn’t miss them. In younger years, I could eat whatever I wanted in just about whatever quantity I wanted and the scale wouldn’t budge from 145lbs… then the upper 30’s hit!

In my most recent visit to the doctor, in preparation for our departure to France, she noted that while I’d gotten the 10lbs-thing right… I’d headed in the wrong direction… gaining since last year rather than losing (she was not impressed).

So since then, I’ve been eating less. And I’ve experienced a feeling that I’d not felt in a long time. Hunger.

Hunger

This has been my rhythm for the past few days:

  • Limit of 1 slice of bread per day (heaven help us in France… baguette-land) and have eaten a very light breakfast.
  • Lunch has been 3 pieces of fruit.
  • I’ll have my “meal-meal” at supper time (I know… not the best, but it’s what fits the work schedule).
  • and yes… I’ll still have a snack or dessert at some point in the evening.

Overall… the quantity of food has diminished and I’ve been better about not snacking on junk. which leads me to this strangely new (re-discovered) yet familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach… hunger.  It’s kind of odd to feel that feeling, yet it’s surely there. The growels can attest to that.

…and in an odd way, it kind of feels good.

Absence of Hunger

Hunger is something that is, by and large, absent in most of the homes & families that I’m connected to on a daily basis. Generally speaking, we. have. plenty!

– Oh we may have cravings, but that’s not hunger.
– We may be dying for a burger, but that’s not hunger.
– We might kill for a good steak because we’re famished
but is it a hunger or simply a craving…
is it a need or a want.
– I would love a bag of chips… but that won’t nourish!

We satisfy our wants before our needs.  In this manner, hunger is masked by shallow satisfaction, and true nourishment is sidelined in favour of the sweet & salty snacks.

Suite 88, Montreal, Belgian WaffleIt’s the morning coffee syndrome:

  • Wake up… Not hungry enough to eat, but not awake enough to leave without coffee (which stifles appetite).
  • Grab a cup of java & head out the door.
  • Mid-morning… a little hungry but not enough to really eat-eat and since it’s not lunchtime, we don’t want to ruin lunch.
  • Grab another cup… get caught up in work
  • Mid-afternoon…. Man that pastry / bag of chips / chocolate bar is looking good!”  you have one or two… after all, no sense eating now. You’ll be off in two hours and it’ll be supper time.

C’mon. Don’t act like that’s never happened to you!

Spiritual Hunger

Have you ever felt the same way spiritually?

There’s a hunger there deep down inside…

  • Hunger for a meaningful walk with God.
  • Hunger to accomplish something meaningful for Him.
  • Hunger for meaningful relationships in the church.
  • Hunger for a better prayer life.
  • Hunger for a deeper understanding of and relationship with His word.
  • Hunger to see someone close to us experience salvation and start a walk of their own.

We’re hungry.

But we’re not always satisfied.

Why?

Could it be for the same reasons as outlined above?

We know what will truly satisfy our hunger, but in the meantime, there’s a snack over here and a treat over there. Something that will temporarily abate the hunger and take the edge off… “dulling” the pangs so that we don’t feel them as keenly… but it doesn’t really nourish, give our bodies what they need.

There’s something actually kind of nice about feeling a hunger pang or two. It tells me that I’ve not over-eaten... and have you ever noticed that when you’re truly hungry… healthy food tastes better… you’re glad to have it?

Thanks…

…for stopping by again today!
My wish for you?

… just enough hunger to keep the edge on.
… just enough hunger to help you appreciate the good food.
… just enough hunger to let you know that you’ve not eaten junk.

Both physically and spiritually!
Don’t kill the hunger!

I Wonder…

After a productive couple of days, I found myself – yesterday – sitting alone in the office for a few moments.  The white-noise machine was humming and there was nothing else but the rhythm of my pulse ringing in my ears and the clicking of the keyboard beneath my fingertips… the steady staccato interrupted periodically by the need to backspace or select & delete to correct an error or a misprint.

Many tasks had been scratched off of that day’s to-do list and as for the greater list… the one that’s still looming, well… there’s still work to be done. But for a few moments, the weight of that list was offset by the thoughts… the hopes… the dreams… the promises of what will begin two months from now.

I wonder…

  • Châtellerault, by Night, kiosque à musiqueI wonder what it will feel like when the plane touches down at Charles-de-Gaulle, knowing it’s not for a 2-week stay.
  • I wonder what it will feel like when the car exits the highway into Châtellerault for that first time.
  • I wonder what it will feel like to take an early morning walk down by the Vienne River, breathe in the musky air as the current ripples and bubbles its way downstream and pray over the city that God has called us to…
  • … to greet the boulanger (baker) or the caissière (sales clerk) at our local grocery store for the “Nth” time… to get to know their name and to somehow be both an example and conduit of God’s love.

I know that I have the opportunity to do that in the city where I live now, and I do. But this is my hometown. I didn’t choose it… I chose to stay. Our family will be in Châtellerault, not “by default” but by choice… God’s choice and our agreement with that choice.

(btw… that bandstand photo, that’s part of our city, Châtellerault… by night. Isn’t it beautiful!?)

…and I wonder!

I wonder… and I wonder. Oh the two words look the same, but put together in that short sentence, they don’t mean the same thing.

  • I wonder = I try to guess, to imagine… to conceive in my mind what it will be like.
  • …and I wonder = I’m a bit… no, let’s face it, a lot in awe of what we’re on the brink of. To think… that we get to be part of God’s great Kingdom and secondly, that we get to play such a part in it, through our involvement in Short-Term Missions… and I say like the Psalmist:

What is man, that thou art mindful of him?
Psalm 8.4

It’s like that song that Jason Crabbe sings… “Who Am I?”

.

Enjoy your day today.

Whoever you are and wherever you are reading me from … know that you are important enough for a “King to come and die for.”  For that very reason… be conscious – today – of what you do by default and what you do by choice for they are not the same, nor do they produce the same result.

You are too important to simply live by default.
Live by choice. Lead.

 

 

Afraid of Change

Some call it a fear, others a phobia. For some it’s a dilemma and for others, an outright disorder. But regardless of the setting… whether in the workplace, in relationships… even in personal style or habits, change is not easy!

Fear of the Unknown

I have stared change right in the face over the past two weeks and have survived to this point (we’ll see what tomorrow holds) I updated the operating systems on both my iPhone and my MacBook Pro.

Don’t check-out just yet… I’ll get to the “meat” in a bit… I promise.

  • Why did I wait so long with my phone that the iOS went from 6.1 t0 8.1?
  • Why, on my MacBook, did I have to jump from Mountain Lion to Yosemite without even looking at Mavericks?

Because I dislike change. I’m uncomfortable with the unknown.

Have you ever heard the old classical musician’s quippy pun?
“If it’s not Baroque, don’t fix it!”  (word play on ‘broke’)

Dealing with Change, Afraid of Change, Uncertainty, Fog, Leap of FaithMy phone and laptop were working well enough for the most part, but then, in each case, there was an app that I wanted to use and was unable to because I’d so successfully resisted change. What if I did the update and it set off a domino effect, requiring me to update a never ending succession of programs and patterns?

Worst case scenario: Total system crash requires me to purchase new.
Definite scenario:  I might have to … ugh… learn to do things differently.

– and that takes time, which I don’t have enough of…
– and it takes effort, which I’d rather devote elsewhere…
– and it means accepting to become uncomfortable…

Dealing with Fear

Not only am I a Christian… I’m a pastor for heaven sake. So I am very familiar with the many times that Jesus commanded people to “Fear not!”, I’ve heard countless verses and messages that deal with putting things into the Lord’s hands and leaving them there, and I’m very familiar with Hebrews 11 that defines Faith as: the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

  • So why does fear still creep in from time to time?
  • Why will I avoid situations, actions or even people sometimes?

Because every day presents us with numerous opportunities to embrace change or to shrink back from it. Oh now I’m not just talking about updating an operating system… that’s just a lightweight example. This is the nitty gritty.

In short, I’d have to say that we don’t deal well with change because we’re still on the earthy side of heaven’s gate. You know, where weeds still grow in the garden and our flesh is not completely wiped out by our spiritual self. Our faith is still… being perfected.

Change-Related Stress

As I age I find I have less tolerance for change in general. Consequently, there are times when it amazes me that we are preparing to shove just about as much change into our life as can be imagined.

I did a quick tally on an interactive version of the Holmes & Rahe Stress Scale (try it out here) and scored 270. If you’re not familiar with the scale, the authors assign a numeric value to various life events, the combined total of which quantifies the level of stress that you are managing. It considers things like, in my case:

– Change of financial state
– Change of residence
– Change of responsibility at work

My 270 is not good. A score of 300+ generally indicates a high or very high risk of becoming ill in the near future and you must get below 150 to have a low risk.

Why on earth would someone who is increasingly averse to change consider willingly introducing so much change in their life?

Key to Embracing Change

I don’t know that you’ll be able to understand unless you experience it for yourself but in my mind the only reason that a sane person willingly introduces that much change in their life is that their minds are captivated by something that is worth much more than their personal comfort.

william barclayI call it being in the Will of God.

William Barclay put it this way:
“There are two great days in a person’s life; the day they are born and the day they understand why.”

When you know, beyond the shadow of a doubt that you are doing what you were created to do, it is much easier to embrace change and temporary discomfort.

That’s why we are preparing to leave a secure position in an established church, sell our house and move our family some 4,982km away to live in a new city, with a small church and depend on others for our livelihood.  Because we are in the will of God.

Expressing Faith

When momentary fear tries to raise its ugly head, we remind ourselves of this fact. We express, whether silently or outloud, that we trust the One who is trustworthy; the one who does all things well.

*God, I trust you for the big things…. and the little things too.*

Thank you for stopping by again today.
Be strong and courageous…. you’re in good hands!

The Power of One

I hesitated between entitling this post “The Power of One” and “Quiet Strength”… both of which describe Rosa Parks well. I was recently exposed to her story in incredible detail and left the experience deeply moved.

Her Story

Portrait (top) by Susan Tusa

Portrait (top) by Susan Tusa

On December 1, 1955, Mrs. Parks refused to give up her seat to white people, boarding a bus in Montgomery Alabama’s then-segregated municipal bus system. Although the particular seat she was in did not technically have to be yielded to whites, according to city by-laws, the over-zealous bus driver either forgot or disregarded that detail in order to make an example out of Parks. He had her arrested for “disorderly conduct.”

The exchange between Parks, who practiced peaceful disobedience, and the driver, James Blake, went something like this:

Blake: “You gonna give up that seat?”
Parks: “No.”
Blake: “You better give me that seat.”
Parks: “No.”
Blake: “I’ll have you arrested.”
Parks: “You may do that.”

Parks’ quiet refusal and subsequent arrest sparked a year-long boycott of the bus system, by 50,000 African-Americans; causing the company to lose some $3,ooo / day. Her actions resulted in the US Supreme Court ordering full integration of the public transportation system. Thus began the modern civil rights movement.

There were other battles fought as part of the overall war on race-equality in the United States, but this was a major one.

Moved

Of course the name Rosa Parks was not unfamiliar to me, but I came away from this experience of the story deeply moved for the first time.

In the 1990s, while honoring her, Bill Clinton referred to Mrs. Parks, who was sitting in the audience with then first-lady Hillary Clinton and he said something to the effect (as everyone around her was rising to give her a standing ovation)

“Mrs. Parks may stand OR remain seated… as is her good pleasure.”

When I heard this, it took me several minutes to regain my composure.

What is the Power of One?

It is the power of one decision, made by one individual… the result of which is neither known at the time nor guaranteed to be favorable. It is a belief that the possible (though not guaranteed) outcome is worth the risk.

Though she new it would have ramifications, she probably didn’t realize just how far those ramifications would be felt and how many people they would impact. At the very least, it affected the 50,000 people who spent a year boycotting the Montgomery bus system… but we know it went further than that.

What about you… what about me?

Is it possible for us to make such a difference?

Is it possible for us to experience the power of one?

I hope so. I believe so. This is why I serve the Lord and seek to become more like Him… because, at the very least, the repercussions of that daily choice, will impact the four other lives with which I spend the most time… my family. Beyond that I desire to have this daily choice impact future generations in France.

  • Because John & Anne Nowacki chose to plant a church in Melun, France… some 400+ people worship God there each Sunday and communities around the nation are hearing the gospel as well.
  • Because Paul & Darla Brochu chose to establish a church in Châtellerault, western France back in 2000 there is an incredibly firm foundation and infrastructure upon which to watch the Lord take the next step in impacting a region.

Thank you, Lord, that we have the opportunity to be part of that next step!

Want to help us in this endeavour?
Click here

Have you…?

 Those two words, which begin a question, can be followed by any number of words… making for a variety of questions: “Have you…

  • …made your bed?”
  • …taken out the trash?”
  • finished your homework?”
  • …packed your suitcase?”
  • etc.

…all of which can produce a variety of emotional reactions from anxiety to anticipation to annoyance… depending on the circumstance and the tone of voice.

Today, however, I heard it completed in the following manner…

…read your Bible yet today?

Liz was asking the last of the kids to rise from their car-weary slumber… “Have you read your Bible yet?”

We have just come through Mothers’ Day and in a way, this post is really a tribute to the mother in our family… my wife.

Preparing your kids for life, in general, is difficult enough, let alone preparing them to grow up with a strong sense of who they are … as individuals and as Christians. Then factor into that, as well, a trans-Atlantic move. It takes discipline and dedication.

The Context

Years ago, before our oldest was even six, we made the decision to enter the world of home-schooling, and we continued with each of the other children as they came along. As time went on and the level of involvement increased, Liz decided that it was of greater value for her to leave her full-time job of sixteen years rather than continue working and discontinue homeschooling the kids. I honor her for making this difficult choice.

Through our time as a homeschooling family, one of the things that was always included in the day’s work was devotions(time spent in God’s word and in prayer). It has taken on various forms over the years… from picture books of Bible stories to going through the Exploring God’s Word home Bible study, to reading and discussing passages together.

The Team

Liz’s dedication at home, combined with great Sunday School teachers at MissionPoint who encourage and reward Bible reading & memory work, have built into our kids the habit of Bible reading.

A Healthy Habit

IMG_7137It never ceases to amaze me when I walk by a bedroom and look in to see one or another of my kids lying in bed reading the Bible, either before going to bed or before starting the day. Many times, with the two older kids, this happens without prompting from Liz or I (of course, for the youngest, a little more prodding is required, but even when prodded, it typically happens without protest or procrastination).

Without anchoring our faith in the words of scripture we can easily fall into simply living in a more or less Christian culture as opposed to living by Christian conviction. Christian culture is, of course, not a bad thing… but it is not always enough to keep you rooted in tough times of conflict, controversy or confusion.

Our Family’s Example

have-you1As a “post-mothers’-day-tribute”… my hat is off to my wife, Liz. Not only does she model this herself, but she consistently fosters and encourages this habit in our kids.

“Have you read your Bible yet today?”

…one of the most incredible things a Christian man can hear his wife say to their kids.

Happy (belated) Mother’s Day…
You’re the BEST!

 

 

 

 

Will of God… more than location

One of the hats I wear, in addition to being assistant to my pastor at MissionPoint and AIMer in preparation, is that of editor for our monthly district publication, The Pentecostal Messenger.  From a recent interview I did with a young churchplanter in our district, I gleaned the following comments on understanding the will of God.  The churchplanter is Kent Carter, pastor of Life Source Church / Église Source de Vie in Shediac, NB. and his comments reveal a wisdom well beyond his years.

While the starting point of my questioning has to do with church planting in particular, his comments quickly point to the process of determining and moving in the will of God in a more general sense. See my questions in black and Kent’s answers in blue:

The Interview:

Me: Why start a church rather than being involved with an existing church where you could grow yourself personally and help grow the existing church?

KC: It happened so naturally for us. My third year of NCC was winding down and I wanted the will of God for my life. I took this thing called the gospel, the good news… and it just seemed right. Although I’d driven by many communities, during Bible college, where I could’ve started a church, I somehow couldn’t imagine driving by that community knowing that no one was there to tell them.

Me: So that community is the will of God for you?

KC: We felt  there was a need there and we wanted to fill it. While the will of God can be tied to a location, it’s more than that. The will of God is righteous living… holy living. That’s the will of God. We can get that mixed up with location. I try to do the will of God: to live righteously, to live a holy life to the best of my ability. If I can fulfill the will of God in my life, then he’ll take me where I need to be.

There are times when he’ll call you to the desert, like with Philip, but the will of God is greater than simply a location. Why Shediac? I can’t be sure. I really think the community is one of the coolest in New Brunswick. I’m young. I love the vibe. It’s a very vibrant community (Now it sounds like I’m trying to pitch it to everyone to come and move there!).

I thought it was a place that we could grow and if we could grow there, then a church could grow there and other people could join us in that growth.

Me: Tell me more about your experience of the call of God because it seems there are two schools of thought: some wait for God to indicate, without question, a definite location, while it seems that some of the ministers of yesteryear simply went wherever they saw a need.

KC: The lightning-bolt moment never happened for me. If I had been waiting for that, I’d probably still be waiting. Sometimes God is not in the storm or the hurricane, but in the still small voice. For us, that still small voice gently nudged and pushed us toward that community. There were also confirmations by men and women of God, but never a lightning-bolt moment.

Me: How did your wife experience things?

KC: My wife wasn’t completely against me so that’s a good thing!  No seriously… she was happy to go and I couldn’t be more thankful for that. I told her that I never wanted our ministry to look like she simply followed my call. I want to be like Priscilla and Aquila, where we are a team. That’s how we went into it in May. We’re a team.

************************************

In an upcoming series of posts, my wife will describe how she experienced my sense of a call to France and making that call her own as well. In the meantime, I can say that while I had a very definite moment of clarity (what some might call a lightning bolt moment), it came after a number of years of simply trying to add something of value to the field of France, while I had opportunity to be there.

I have heard both the loud thundering as well as the still small voice.
Thank you Kent Carter… you have taught me by your example!

Not a Suffering-Kind-of-Sacrifice

In a previous post, it only took roughly 598 words to summarize nearly 26 years of my life… I’m either great at writing or I have a really dull life!

Have you ever heard or gotten the following idea: “If missions represents a sacrifice, then forget about going someplace I love… sacrifice means suffering!”  The result of this kind of thinking is that we expect God to call us someplace that we will not particularly love!  This has not been my experience.

The places that I went during my teen years were not chosen because I felt a particular call there. I went because this is where the group was going and I was part of the group. Someone else made the decision and someone else oversaw the planning, I simply followed.

The first time this changed was in 1988 as I was afforded the choice of either going to Bolivia or Belglium for a 2-month stint the following summer. That’s a rather large choice, but it came at a particular point in my life as well… I had graduated from high school and was already in college. I had chosen to move away from my parents’ home. I had chosen to go to another city. I had chosen the school and I had chosen the courses. Through the standard process of maturing as an individual, I was also learning how to evaluate options and make informed choices in everyday aspects of my life.

The process of maturing spiritually mirrors the process of growing socially, intellectually, emotionally and even physically. Making spiritually informed choices involved a healthy balance of evaluating what made sense, what fit my desires & personality and what I felt the will of the Lord to be.

Ah yes… the will of the Lord. Often seen to be this cavernous place of great mystery, it need not be the case. In fact, I’d say that the will of God expressed itself simply by the practical choice of language back in 1988.

From there… one thing led to another: two months turned into two years, which later turned into three short-term summer tours in French-speaking Europe, which led to three multi-week teaching sessions at the Bible School in France which led to the current plan that we’re hatching.  Let me be perfectly clear on this point… None of this has EVER felt like a drudgery or a “suffering-kind-of-sacrifice”!  On the contrary, these times represent some of the greatest memories of my life as well as keen faith-building moments.  Without question, God knows that there must be a love for the place of your calling, because it will be necessary in order to sustain you or keep you there on difficult days.

Feel free to fall head-over-heels in love with the place God is calling you to… it’s actually a very healthy thing. Imagine not being head over heels in love with the person that God was calling you to spend the rest of your life with…. that’d make for quite a marriage!  The Lord wants and expects you to derive joy from being in his will, so I would say… look at the places that you already have an affinity to and see if that affinity is there for the right reason. The next step is to say… “God, is there a place for me to fulfill my calling here? Is there a role for me here? Is there a way that I can contribute to the furthering of your Kingdom in this place?”

If you answered yes to any or all of those questions… then that’s a positive thing to consider as you’re weighing all things together, seeking to make a spiritually mature decision. Let God’s Spirit lead you… he specializes in that!