In honour of my recent fall on the ice

Saturday, January 26, 2013


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January 26th of the year 2013. Mark that date.
If I was a farmer then this would be the noted day that the harvest is all taken in.
If I was a tax accountant in Canada, this would be the last day in April.
If I was a professional hockey player, this would be the last day our team played a game in the playoffs.
If I was a university prof, this would be the day that all the exams were completed and marking done.

But I am a pastor in a church in a field, and the stress of December with its many special services, party's  and so on and intensive personal Christmas struggles among people is done. The long long days of January's annual reports, budgets, meetings, special weeks, weddings, funerals and counselling people who have already abandoned their new years resolutions, deep breath, is done.

Today culminated in our church annual meeting.

I know I know, a rural pastor in the bliss of these glorious natural surroundings, what stress could shake off that contented bliss?
Well yeah. The stress of expectation, from myself most of all. The stress of all the different pieces of the puzzle, needing to get done. The stress of people, and depending on the people, the stressful demands of people. Believe me, for a person who struggles with the whole administrative part of the work, and whose batteries are emptied by being with people, December and January are completely exhausting.

So today with it's completion of the personally stressful annual meeting, we mark the end of a very very tough season. Done. Let's look to recharging the batteries, renewing, resting, rethinking, starting on some new ideas.

Because oddly enough, through this haze I'm not discouraged. I'm actually quite encouraged by what is happening to this church here in The Field. God is at work and good things are happening. It just requires, for me anyway, a tough season of very hard work. And hard work itself isn't bad, if it's balanced with rest and recreation.

So for now, to balance life a bit.

Wetaskiwin Times piece on the Vandersluys family

- Special by Adele Peterson

It's not the cover of the Rolling Stone, but then again Marc isn't Dr. Hook.

Thanks Adele. That's a good piece.


Stages of Faith

Friday, January 25, 2013
Faith is a coat against this nakedness. For most of us, most of the time, faith functions so as to screen off the abyss of mystery that surrounds us. But we all at certain times call upon faith to provide nerve to stand in the presence of the abyss -- naked, stripped of life supports, trusting only in the being, the mercy and the power of the Other in the darkness. Faith helps us form a dependable "life space," an ultimate environment. At a deeper level, faith under-girds us when our life space is punctured and collapses, when the felt reality of our ultimate environment proves to be less than ultimate. 
"Stages of Faith" by James Fowler.

Some selfish thoughts on close calls and death

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I don't know what "Normal" people think about when they think about how they want to die and how their loved ones will be a part of that process, but perhaps because I have been a part of many people's passing and the communication and care that is needed for their families, I've thought about these things. Too much sometimes.

Last Monday evening as Lauralea and I were headed into town to lead a prayer meeting at someones home, the weather started playing tricks on us, and the snow began to rain. In January no less. My speed was considerably less than normal as I was taking the weather into consideration and there was no indication that the slush on the road was slippery, as in icy.

But then as they say, suddenly we were in a fishtail that I was able to correct nicely, or at least was correcting nicely until we hit some more ice and before anything could be done, we were doing a violent 360 down the highway in the darkness going about 80 kph. Upon the completion of one revolution the front right tire caught the edge of the road and we shot into the snow filled ditch. Hard. Because the snow was deep we didn't go far in and it slowed us down from 80ish to 0 in less than 15 feet.

When everything had stopped and the grunting and scraping sounds were silenced and the car was dead with only the windshield wipers squeaking back and forth, we sat there a while, stunned and quiet. Banged heads and arms on hard surfaces, my radio normally on the dashboard had found its way on top of my left arm still holding the steering wheel, and us with a profound sense of shock and surprise.

I remember realizing that the car was dead and so I took it out of gear and started it again. I remember a sense of gratitude that there were no oncoming cars when we spun out of control. I remember being so glad that the airbags hadn't deployed. Lauralea had hit her door as we hit the ditch kind of sideways, and I had hit something or rather something had hit me, and I remember my back feeling sore. After a bit, Lauralea began to call the people whose house we were expected at, and she txted Hillary who she had been talking to while the incident happened. I climbed out of the car to see the mess, and it was a climb because we were on such a steep angle. The car was up past the mid of the door on Lauralea's side in snow, but I was able to get out of my side. There would be no driving out of this or even shovelling out of this mess.

I was able to reach a willing friend who headed out to us with chains and ropes and as chance would have it his brother happened by on his way home. So between the two of them and shocked me, we managed to get it back on the road after some more stressful moments. We limped home with the undercarriage of the car and wheels packed with snow so we could only manage a slow speed. It took forever to get home but we were so glad to get here.

In all my 34 years of driving, and hundreds of thousands of miles travelled, I've never had such an experience of being out of control on the road as I did that dark Monday night. By Tuesday we were in some physical discomfort, bumps and strains here and there. And emotionally I think we are recuperating fairly well, although it's taken till today for me to start to feel mostly whole again.

But it is always that emotional piece that takes longer to bounce back.

We've had friends die in traffic accidents, even two who had the exact same thing happen, except that for them there was a truck in the oncoming lane.  The Lord only knows how many times I've been there to tell a family or spouse or a child that their loved one is dead as a result of an accident. So many of their faces have travelled though my mind again and again over the years that I've thought a lot about how I want to go.

I think that the ones who are held in love by friends or family who are there to see them off, they are the blessed ones in that regard, passing from life to death. How often I've thought, wished, and prayed that my family never has to have a stranger show up at the door with such bad news. Or have to go to a hospital and have a strange pastor stand beside them as they identify someone, or me. Yeah, I've thought those thoughts because I've been the strange pastor in the room.

I know that in bigger ways, life and death for a follower of Jesus should be a different thing. Yet we are all still human and as we all face death, there are different feelings and thoughts that happen. Yes as a Christfollower I know that the one I follow has faced death and as a result of beating death, has given me a similar opportunity. I know that death and the grave is only a physical death and that we are more than just physical creatures. So there is Hope, and good reason to have hope.

Still its been my experience and my work that death can be harsh and violent and messy and terrible and pain filled and if I were asked my opinion on the matter, I would much rather prefer to go, with a bit of notice and some people I love around me. :)

Of course, in death as in life it's not about me and my opinion. I'll be glad to defer to the One who knows the end from the beginning. At least I can trust him.


Going, again.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

This time of life with kids who are adults finding their way in the world, feels like most of our time is spent saying goodbye.

Last night we said goodbye to Hillary, again.
This time the goodbye was said at a train station, and like some lost little family we stood by the tracks waving out love as she left for a new adventure in Winnipeg.

And I thought how many times and how many ways have we've said good bye to our kids over the years.

You would think we were becoming experts at it by now, what with all the experience we've had. But oddly enough it still is tough to hug your girl or son and release them into the world again and again.

Last night we said good bye as she heads to Winnipeg to get a job and settle in to what God has for her there.

It is a good thing that they feel free and healthy enough to leave and to get on with their lives. And it's kinda cool that each of our kids has been responding to a strong inner sense of direction. For some they've experienced a calling to a place, for others it's a calling to a job or work, and for others its a sense of deep clarity about who they are to be with, as they move through life. Each has a clarity about things that is there and invites them to walk along side the One who can see the end from the beginning.  What more could we ask for?

It is good. And it is hard to say good bye. That's the oddness of this part of being parents.

So in the middle of last night, we stood beside a train and said good bye, again.

These kids...

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