Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Brand new, never seen before, art.

The new AI stuff has hit some snags lately, what with being factually wrong etc. But I am still a bit enraptured by the possibilities of it all.

I especially enjoy telling it what to create and it creates a whole new, never before seen picture for you.

My banner is an example. I told it to create a picture of a old bridge over a river in autumn somewhere in Europe. And it gave me this.

But my favourite has to be this cherry blossom tree in bloom. 

Hand crafted by a computer. 1's and 0's baby.

Thursday, February 09, 2023

I am a Friesen. I don't stop when I'm tired. I stop when I'm done.

This morning as I was checking on the church's social media account, this picture popped up on my screen. This evil, dark demonic picture just sat there, mocking me. Someone wanted me to purchase it. 

My tongue is only partly in my cheek. 

This is one of my besetting sins, my comfort when I feel vulnerable. I could always say in every situation that I faced that I gave it everything I had.  You might be able to accuse me of getting it wrong, or of missing the mark, or of failing again, and again, but it gave me comfort that you would never be able to say that I didn't try. And try very hard. 

This is the attitude that God has been in the process of delivering me from for five or six years now.  And I am a very slow learner. Working hard isn't wrong, but when that hard work becomes your identity and your protection, it is wrong. 

It seems now like my health is being used to help me learn this lesson.  This year it has become apparent that if I am doing chores or shovelling, or sweeping or vacuuming, or studying or leading a meeting or whatever, instead of stopping when I'm halfway done, I press in to get it all done.  And then I drag my sorry broken body to bed. 

Yesterday morning I had a meeting in town, and then I ran a few errands for the church. I got home a little after noon and my plan was to go to the office to work on my sermon for the day. But by the time I got to the middle of the afternoon my body was hollering enough. Enough.

As is my wont, I told my body I'm going to the office anyway and to suck it up. I went to the washroom. By the time I went to put on my shoes, the room was spinning a bit and the tiredness yelled at me again for attention. I admitted ok. Ok I'm going to bed. I slipped off my shoes and went to bed and slept for 2-3 hours.

I've been journalling about this a lot lately because its becoming more and more my life. Tuesday I slept for 2-3 hours and Monday about 1-2. Sunday was somewhere from 1-3 hours.  I'm just so tired and the things I do and the stress I experience add to my need to rest myself Thank God the church is good with it, now If I could only be. 

So when I saw that T-shirt facing me this morning I grumbled, and I murmured all right already all right. 

Father, forgive me.

Saturday, February 04, 2023

Church Meeting Done

From the perspective of a nine-year-old, Paint me a picture of a church meeting.
In my years as a full time, 35 years now, the annual meeting of the church has always been a big deal. And many of those meetings I have been fearful about beforehand. 

But not today. Today was our annual meeting at Malmo and I actually have been looking forward to it. 

Turn it up to be a longer one, 4 1/2 hours, but we also did some visioning, and some work to help us plot a path for the road forward. I was surprised at the general optimistic spirit of the crowd. Probably more optimistic than I am, but that could be other things at work too. 

No, the spirit of the meeting was so lovely and so good. And really when everyone is on the same page, trying to listen to the same spirit, well it can be amazing and wonderful.  

It's always been my sense that the church business meetings should always be in the same spirit as Sunday mornings are. Because if they are not, there is a disconnect in our faith and how we work out our faith.  And some in the churches I've served in the past have been very disagreeable to that opinion. 

But if a person or a church can't be the same on the outside as it is on the inside… well, God help them. 

God help us all. 



Sunday, January 29, 2023

About Community… Or what I learned at Midwinter this year

Midwinter is a gathering of the pastors and the church leaders of our church the Evangelical Covenant Church.  During the week of midwinter, we bring in amazing speakers. We bring in wonderful teachers. The worship music and the worship leaders are second to none in the world I would say.

The separate workshops or classes are places where we can learn real helpful ways to serve the body of Christ, and to grow in Christ Jesus himself.

And so this week I was exposed to some stunning teaching, some passionate preaching, and some insightful, life-changing or ministry changing sorts of approaches. All of which I received and was deeply encouraged by. 

But what was the best thing for me all week?  It was the conversations and reconnections I had with other pastors who I’ve grown to know over these years.

Moments where we get to share with each other how we are really doing. Moments where we encourage one another in the work that we are doing, in our struggles, and in our lonelinesses.  To listen to one another’s hurts. To check on those we know have been hurting and struggling.  To be able to hear with excitement, the possibilities of future ministry. And to pray together for those brothers and sisters. For me, those are the highlights I bring home. Because those are the moments that touched me the deepest. Probably because they’ve trusted me with their hearts, and so have I with them.

It is always a holy thing when you deal with another person’s heart. And even if they don’t trust you enough yet with their heart, there are holy things you can do to care for their hearts. Things like listening to them. Things like checking on them. Things like praying for them.  Simple yet holy gifts we can offer one another. And by doing that we live out the scriptures;  "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."

These are the ways in which we fulfill the law of Christ. And these ways reach deep into our hearts. 

The week before mid winter, I arrived in Jacksonville, Florida, for my week of Board of Ordered Ministry meetings. This is one of the two main boards of the denomination that makes decisions that will affect the direction of the denomination for years to come.  It is our work to walk with people. 

Our denomination holds the credentials of every new pastor who is ordained, or who comes to our denomination.  So it is our work on this board to help pastors and spiritual leaders grow and develop in their calling and in Christ.  There is a sense of responsibility we carry for this group of faithful individuals and we work hard at that. There are 1750 total active clergy who we serve.

With that many people who we are responsible for, at any given moment there are many who are in crisis and trouble, and there are those who have made decisions that would break their vows and even worse, their relationship with God. When that happens, we take them into our care to work to help them regain their own personal spiritual health.  Possibly, if it is fitting, to regain their spiritual ministry.

They come under suspension for care and support and help.  I am so proud that we as a church are ready to spend thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars on them and their families to help them get healthy again.

Of course, not all appreciate this level of care, and so that can mean interviews that are very tense, and can be emotionally and spiritually brutal.  And so the work can be challenging.

But this is my fifth and last year on this board doing this work, and I was reflecting on that at this meeting.  I will not miss the difficult meetings, the broken humans, the tension.  I will not miss the loss of respect for those I might’ve once deeply revered.  I will not miss the tears and anguish we have shed over sisters or brothers, who won’t return to health.  But it is hard and holy work. 

But… I will absolutely and completely miss the quality of the men and women I get to serve on this board with.  I will miss the community we have developed and the care that we exhibit towards one another. I will miss the caring I receive even after I am home from individuals on the board who have checked in with me about how my health is doing. I will miss this community of faith.

"A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." - Ecclesiastes 4:12

This is no work that one individual could do effectively. We work together and there is strength in our common unity in Christ.

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - Hebrews 10:24-25

I believe it is good work that we do and the more I have invested in this community, the more I have been blessed.  And so here is another community of people that I have found great value and love being among.   God has blessed me more than I will ever be able to say through this community of faithful servants.


And finally, I learned…

That Florida can be beautiful in the middle of winter.  And that walking along the shore in the late evening with warm breezes on my bare arms,   (and yes, I do like piƱa coladas and getting caught in the rain)  Is such an amazingly delightful gift. 

But it’s not as amazing as being home.  Home is where my core community resides. My wife, Family, my friends, my community of faith.  It turns out that community trumps sandy beaches in January.  That is a bit surprising I must admit.

You know, Covid was hard on us, and we learned some new ways to live alone. But the mental health challenges have come a good deal from being alone.  And we have learned how to enjoy being introverted. But there is something of community that is lost in such an environment as well. 

"For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." - Romans 12:4-5

Community is another of the gifts from our God, who knows us, who created us, and who loves us.  We are connected and dependent on one another, for life. And so the lessons to me these days are the lessons about community. Especially faith communities. 

Belonging to a street community or belonging to a choir community or belonging in a work community are all good communities, and bring something to us. They bring to us the sense of belonging. Of been known.  The community of the body of Christ also brings to us care, and love. It brings to us a sense of unity. A sense of being known.  It brings to us the sense that when we are in need, we are part of a greater group that cares about us.

And the more we are committed to these groups, and the more we invest in these faith communities, the more blessings we will enjoy.  And the more we stay away, and the more we separate ourselves, the more we cause ourselves hurt.

You know, each of us was created by our God to be a part of a community. Each of us was made with a deep need to be in relationship with others. And if we are willing to invest more of our selves in these communities of faith, the more fullness of life we will enjoy, the more abundance we will know. And the greater experience with love we will have.

And that’s what I learned at Midwinter this year.