And now Advent is upon us

Winter Snow


This Sunday is the First Sunday in Advent.
The church year begins anew.

And as it has done the previous three weekends, snow is in the forecast.
Not just a dusting of snow either. It's another 20+ centimeters on the way.

So I'm trying to enter Advent as Isaiah encourages when he says:

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. - Isaiah 30:15

Simple really, salvation is a place of rest and repentance and strength comes in quietness and trust.

I'm going to need that again this Advent and Christmas.

Peace on earth. Here we go.


There is a way back, even for a tired old pastor.

It's relatively late on a Saturday night for me to be at the office, that is true. But when I don't have a sense of peace about Sunday, where else can I go? I process internally the struggle I feel, the gap in my spirit, trying to find it's source...

I caught a bit of a chill today clearing snow on the yard for a few hours. Trying to get the doors at least accessible for tomorrow. So I am cold, even in the warmth of the office.

I've been working hard to catch up from our sabbatical, trying to get many details dealt with. I know I have been giving maybe too much attention to those things. I guess they wear me out and I end up falling asleep in the strangest places, and at random times. :)

I think that when I get busy and take my eyes off the Focus of my life, I end up working to give my life meaning. I want to have a good reputation at my work, so I work really hard at it. I want to be respected, so I work hard to clear tons of snow. I want to help people because it's a good thing, so I book maybe too many appointments. Those sorts of things are only me trying to create meaning and value out of my existence. And of course we know that that path leads to a life created just by me. It rings kind of hollow sometimes.

In a search for comfort or some kind of help, tonight I find myself in the book of Acts, in the Bible:

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.  From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.  ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’

Hmm,

...so that we would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.

Not far.
Not far, yet I try it on my own, creating a meaningful existence I mean.

Yet in him we live and move and have our being.
Have our value, find our meaning, have our hope and our tomorrow.
In Him.

Trying to do it without Him leaves me a sort of hollow fellow. I guess that's another word for empty.
That explains the drafty bit around my spirit this night.

There is comfort there, in the promise that he is not far from any one of us.
There is a way back, even for a tired old pastor.

Night from the field.

I had a thought yesterday

I had a thought yesterday
and the thought was this;

When I was a child, I couldn't wait to go to school.
When I was in school, I couldn't wait to complete grade twelve.
When I was in High School, I couldn't wait to go to college.
When I was in college, I couldn't wait to marry Lauralea.
When I was married to Lauralea, I couldn't wait for my work to get going.
When I was working, I couldn't wait for the kids we'd have and raise.
When the kids were growing, I couldn't wait for them to grow up and be out on their own.

Now at the age of fifty, I seem to be all done waiting to catch up with the future.
For the first time in life, I'm not waiting for the next step.

Honestly, a small part of me feels a little lost inside.
Is this how life goes?



And another day means another snowfall warning out here.

Snowing again



It'll get better

The week moves on.

Saturday morning. Snowing again, all night in fact.
People are snowed in, missing flights, unable to travel, to get to places.
The snow is piling up outside my door but I was able to get to my office with a bit of shovelling and effort.

This week has been one amazingly long effort.
Farmer World problems I confess, or maybe even Pastor World Problems.

A dead internet, technical breakdowns, and office staff who really need the net to do their work. Thankfully being able to bodge together a link through our phones so that we could do some emails etc. But the online meeting will have to wait. I'm thankful that the guys on the other end of the meeting have patience.

The catch up work from being on Sabbatical. I really never saw that coming, especially the many small details that are a part of the work. Yes it is catch up, and yes it's mostly things that will set our trajectory here, but the 42 hours I've already put into the past four days are about administrative things and not so much people contacts. I'd rather hang with people.

Last weekend saying goodbye to my sister. She who has sold everything and in obedience to a call she didn't expect, has moved to Cambodia from the prairies here, to work with a home for girls pulled from the sex trade. She and a couple of friends stayed at our place while she prepared for her flight on Monday morning.  It was an emotional weekend and the theme was "Tears." I'm glad we could be a part of her going, but it was an emotional wasteland around here, around our hearts.

Lauralea herself has been quite sick. Coughing and hacking and stuffy and painful. She left for the sick room sometime Monday night, and hasn't been back. And as she does, she doesn't like being sick so she denies it and gets up and makes me soup or does the laundry and then crawls back into bed. My busyness this week hasn't helped, but I'm glad that she isn't bedridden.


So mostly this week we've not had much extra energy for anything. It's been really different, but ok. Have a late bite to eat, then maybe watch a bit of television, see what's going on in the world, then to our beds. No it isn't really living, but in life there are seasons when you simply set it on survival mode and that's what you do. Young parents know what that's like. People struggling with long term illness know what that's like. Even people with mental illness know what that's like.

Of course there are many things we are grateful for. Biggest of all is that this is just one week. It'll get better.


From the snowy Field.




But the heart of the heart of the matter is that it matters what place our heart is in.


In moments now I will participate as a leader in the first worship service since my break began back in late September.

It's good to be home, and to call this place my home even though I am in a strange land. Strange because it's not my birth home nor my growing up home. Strange because apart from the work that I do here, I'd never have thought to live here, or even have had the opportunity to live here.

Still I, we, are examples of the fact that you can make your home just about anywhere, and that it can be home at very deep levels. So it's good to be home.


Gathering to worship this God we know can break down into a very mundane weekly experience. It can shift our thinking into a consumer thought process. What is going on here, what's going on there in other churches, should I go here or there...

For the leaders it can be an incredibly stressful experience with a million details to attend to and things to try and not get wrong. Challenges to our plans and sudden changes needed. Judgements about the worship experience. Being a leader of worship can be a challenging thing.

But for both groups, it can be a transcendent thing too. It can be an appointment that lifts us to another place. A place where we can do together what we can't do apart.

If we come for what we get, we miss the point completely.
If we try to offer something for everyone, we too miss the point completely.

This is a gathering for a target group of three, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Yes we will be changed in His presence.
Yes we will grow because we are in His presence.
Yes help and support will come because we are in His presence.

But the heart of the heart of the matter is that it matters what place our heart is in.

So posture your heart to receive, and you will.
Prepare your heart to cry out to God and you will be heard.
Place your heart in Gods hands, and he will care for you.


Welcome to church, the people, not the meeting.


"Prayer for use on Friday or any Evening Service"


V. Christ became obedient for us unto death;
R. Even the death of the Cross.

O Lord Jesu Christ, Son of the living God, we pray thee to set thy Passion, Cross, and Death between thy judgement and our souls, now and in the hour of our death. Vouchsafe to grant mercy and grace to the living, rest to the dead, to thy holy Church peace and concord, and to us sinners everlasting life and glory; who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest God world without end.

Amen.


After The Third Collect
E. Milner White



Sunset in the field




It's not easy, but it is good

I took it as a good sign that my sabbatical had been a success to disconnect me from the pastoral work I do here, when last night on my way back home I actually had the thought, "Good grief, how much work does a pastor do!"

It wasn't meant as a slam or a subversive shot at anyone. It was self discovery, as in I had really disconnected from the work, mostly, and now I was back doing it.

I am caught by the intense demands of it.

I mean when you are in it, the days just flow past and you do the work you need to do that day. You don't stop to count the prayers prayed or the decisions made or the questions asked or the calls answered or, you know.

So it's good to stop. To decelerate, to untangle, to not "do."

So I slept hard last night. But then it had been a real day in the life.

It began with the shocking news that a friend and colleague down the road had been killed the night before in a tragic car accident. Unbelieveable. Breathtaking. Memories of our conversations. Too many images of those stories I've been a part of in the past. Too many.

Then the morning shifted quickly into three hours of staff meetings so we could all be on the same page this autumn, and a thousand decisions were made. Very good and it will help us all do our work better. Communication is not only the key to a good marriage, but the key to good office relationships and productivity.

I was a little late to lunch, but in keeping with my day one resolve to eat properly, I did get to a quick lunch with Lauralea. Then I headed to town to meet with a friend who's been facing more and more health issues. Yes we are friends, but I am their pastor too. I realize I am overwhelmed by the daily struggle they face. Yes physically, but it's an emotional thing too. A parenting thing, a marriage thing, even a weather thing as the snow and ice make it hard to get around. Yes we have doctors and hospitals and health care, but sickness is still sickness, and pain is still pain.

And God is still God, and though I don't know the answers, or why they suffer, or even what they are going through, I can offer them my presence, my listening ear, my friendship for the journey. That's all I can offer anyone.

Well, maybe not all. I also offer my prayers for them. They are not wasted efforts, this I know and this I have seen proven true and real, again and again. As for why there is no clear healing today, I don't have those answers. What I know is that I am to ask, again and again, with persistence and at least the level of faith as small as a seed. So I pray, again and again.

Then it's a quick stop to get some drinking water and I'm heading home. I head straight to the office to organize some of the mornings work and to write a letter. Then suddenly it's time to head home. The sun has disappeared and supper is on the table.

The evening is shaped by the days events as I sit down to reflect and I remember those hurting this night. I carry those things with me as I do some house repairs and upkeep. I try to distract myself with a TV program, but classically there is nothing on that is up to that task.

I contact a few people and check up on them. Short conversations really but then a half hour is gone.

The day ends where it usually does, with Lauralea and I finding a comfortable place to sit and we chat and we pray. We lift up to God our families, each with their own unique needs. We remind him of the needs we faced in the day, praying for friends near and far. We pray for our work here and we pray for whatever else God lays on our hearts.



It's good to be home. Good to be doing the work of a shepherd, although that role doesn't show up on the list of "Occupations" on Linkedin.com.
It's good to have a friend like Lauralea to share life with, and good to have somebody who comes with a huge tractor and clears my driveway.

It's VERY GOOD to have two pretty great little granddaughters, who Facetime me in the middle of the day, just to say hi and show me how they can dance.

No, it's not always easy, but it is good.


Sisters. (Norah and Eva)


Sisters. (Norah and Eva)



The real secret is that there is no real secret.

Well day one back at work and I'm taking calls, answering txt's and emails, scheduling the weeks ahead, and I went home for lunch. As I do every year after holidays, I'm trying to get into the right place of eating regularly. So today Day One, I have eaten regularly.

Check.

Trying to be determined to keep the important things before the urgent things, and that means doing the things that don't always produce effective change immediately. Instead doing the things underneath, that will change attitudes, approaches, and in the end, produce good fruit. It requires real discipline, and occasionally some pushback as people who want results now, won't always appreciate that approach.

One of the treats of this break has been to be able to visit different churches and to have the chance to share life with a few pastors along the way. My initial oversimple conclusions are that some churches are blessed with good pastors/preachers and gifted leaders, yet they are small safe groups where God is at work. Then I've been at church meetings where the pastor/preacher sermon seems fairly thin and he is reserved and introverted and yet they seem to be growing in numbers.

Go figure.
The real secret is that there is no real secret.

Different flowers grow differently in different dirt and sky and weather. It is what it is.

But there is some deep pain out there associated with churches and what they expect and how they treat their pastors. One pastor, so burned and tired and seeming so lost that I encouraged him to think about doing something else with his days. Really. Persecution for the work of Christ may not be as it was in the early history of the church, but it is real and it is out there. And most often it comes from within the church.

The pressure on these men and women is real, and they/we are just human beings most often doing our best.

But I'm glad to be back home. It's good here, well, except for all the snow.

And no, I didn't candidate anyplace else, and I didn't go talking with other churches. I'm here for the foreseeable future and I took it as a compliment that some of you were worried I might be looking elsewhere. :)

For now you're stuck with me, so you best be praying for me, as I am praying for you.

IMG 2779



Weather comes to stay.

As the final few days of my Sabbatical unfold and I am thinking through personal changes in life patterns and family, this Sunday was to be our last Sunday away, so I had reserved it for a trip to an Edmonton church.

Maybe a nice walk through the downtown streets covered with leaves and get a warm lunch in a local cafe. But all that came to a blunt end through the night last night. Winter came to stay.

Winter Came Suddenly

Well at least I live close enough to my local church to be able to walk over and join in the gathered ones for the morning.

Nope. The service was wisely cancelled due to road conditions.

So I headed out to shovel paths to my office and cleared the stairs etc.
There is enough snow here that I can't get out of the garage with the car so I'll need to wait for help to arrive in the form of a big blade that can push tones of wet snow out of the way.

Then I watched some NFL football, like I never get to do on a Sunday, and that was a good deal of fun. But then I cranked up the old Ham radio and had a good chat with a fellow who lives in North Carolina where the day is lovely and the trees are red and yellow and orange still.

I was disappointed about not getting to the city church today. There are not many opportunities for me to visit other churches, because of the work that I do here.

But it's been a lovely off day around here. Can't go anyplace or do much outside. So we are free to explore what we want inside.

And now herself is calling me for supper for just the two of us.
This week things get going again, so we won't have many opportunities given us like we had today.

Hope your paths are clear.