The farmers are starting to twitch just a little bit now...

as they get ready to start seeding.


Seeding season



Father, we are a church planted in a field.
And though our own fields may be in different places
we are still, in many ways, people connected to the land.

For our food and sustenance, for our daily bread, we give you thanks.
For the strength to work in our fields of service, we give you thanks.
For this place, a gathering place in a field with roots that go down over a hundred years,
we thank you Lord for those who have worked here, before us.

Now oh Lord, we ask that you would again, bless the land.
Bless the seeds and the earth.
Bless the skies and the sun and the rain.
Bless the workers with safety and the wisdom to know,
when enough is enough.
Oh Lord, bless this season.


It is good for us to stop and to remember and to say it out loud,
that our life comes from you Lord, and not from our fields.

So thank you Father, for whatever you’ll do with the work that we’ve done.
We know that without your blessing, we will struggle.
And without seasons of drought, we forget to pray.

So we’ll take what you give, just as you give it,
for you are our father and you only give good gifts.
Though we tremble a bit, because we want what we want,
We choose to entrust this year to you, because of your great love for us.
And so we ask for the Blessing.

Father, Bless this year
Amen


R.F.


Congratulations Micah

The last child, in our case his name is Micah, has the benefit of parents who have learned a thing or two on raising kids by the time it's his turn at bat. I suppose sometimes that has it's strengths and weaknesses but it is what it is.  We are all human and we just do our best as we move through life and what it tosses in our paths.

Anyway, that's a little too moody for today. Today Micah graduated from CLBI. The Camrose Lutheran Bible College, and that's an event worth celebrating. He's spent a good year rounding off the edges of life, learning to live in community, finding out better who he is, and growing in connection with God. It's a pretty good sort of school, and in terms of doing those things, it does them very well.


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Micah

He's grown in his sense of himself and he's developed some good leadership skills as his heart is in worship and helping others to worship God too. He's learned some things about faith and trust and God's ability to meet a need.

It's always pretty cool to see who your kids become, their strengths and graces, and if they can get through the tough times, life can open up in front of them.





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Leading worship at the banquet

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President Harold Rust congratulating Micah


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The 60 person school with one to fourth years


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Micah and his mom


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Micah and Me



















The next chapter for him starts this Wednesday as he undergoes major facial reconstruction surgery. It's enough to make me choke, but he's facing it quite well, at least on the outside. If you think of him, send up a reminder to God hey?

But as for today he's moving back home, at least until he's back up and running. So that will mean which channel will we watch and who gets the good seat and "Turn the music down" and like that.

But that's ok. He's not here for a long time any more.

Congratulations Micah.

When a wall is not a wall

It’s been a busy few weeks since getting back from Israel/Palestine and getting things ready for Easter have been front and center. Mostly.

I have reoccurring memories of people I met while in that part of the world and I am finding that prayer is a good response as I think of the new friends there and the ongoing story unfolding in that region. I read the news now with a much keener sense of the dynamics for the local people. It saddens me to see the peace process struggle.
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Selfie at the Western Wall


There were, during the trip, a few surprises for me. Certainly one of the biggest came on the last Sunday before we left the country. We had been moving through the market tunnels of the old city of Jerusalem, clearing the gates and metal detectors as we went. The dark tunnels suddenly gave way to the bright daylight sun as we entered into a great square. The ground was stone and the walls reaching up around us were all made of stone, and as my eyes grew accustomed to the bright sun, I saw ahead of us in the near distance, a great stone wall. The Wailing Wall, the Western Wall.

This wall is apparently a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple's courtyard, and is arguably the most sacred site recognized by the Jewish faith outside of the Temple Mount itself. It has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage for centuries. Some of the earliest sources mention Jewish attachment to the site as early as the 4th century.
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The Wailing or Western Wall. Men on the left, ladies on the right.

I stopped and stood there sort of gazing at it like I do when I come face to face with a piece of geographical wonder that I’ve only seen in photos. You know, sort of like when I first came up out of the tube station and saw Trafalgar Square or when I stood at the base of the CN Tower in Toronto or saw the skyline of Chicago or when I first saw the Empire State building in person. There is for me a “Ahh” moment when I take the time to be present to where I am and what I am seeing. So it was for me at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Of course I took pictures, but then I wanted to, you guessed it, I wanted to touch it. I wanted to pray where millions have prayed. To call out to God, not out of a sense of superstition, but more from the place of my inner relationship with God, in this very outer, very prayed at place.

I entered through the mens side and selected an appropriate head covering, and started to walk to toward the wall. Thankfully it wasn’t a crowded day so there was room to pray.

Now, I have been in places that some people including myself, have experienced as “Thin places.” Places where heaven and earth seem to meet and the access to prayer and to God is almost seamless. Places or times when it seems like one’s heart is instantly drawn to prayer, and to God Himself. I have been in those sorts of places. This, was more open to heaven than many places I’ve been.

As I drew near to my selected place for prayer my spirit was already engaging and as I lifted my hands to lean into the wall, it was as if I was received into it in a most hospitable, gracious way. I leaned into it more as my spirit began to pray and my forehead found a place to rest in the rock. It was amazing.

Quietly and quickly the words poured out of me, words of conversation and connection with The Holy. Words and senses I did and didn’t understand. But my spirit was conversing with The Spirit.

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Me praying. (Taken by my friend John.)


I knew that time was limited but I also knew I was in no real rush to reconnect with my travel companions. I stood there for what seemed like a mini forever and I didn’t want to leave. I pressed in and prayed further and there was such largeness to pray. Such room to call out praise and thanksgiving and to petition and to pray. Such a large space for my spirit to explore the praying and where I was, time stood still.


Finally, finally, after a season I began to pull away, as though I started to recall my spirit back into it’s container. Called it back from the wide open space and time. Called it back to the present with the same sense of “I’ll be back” as the children felt when they returned to the Now from Narnia.

I stepped back from the wall partly in awe, partly sad to turn away. Glad for the moments, wishing for more. What a gift it was to me. A promise, a future, a now.


And so I’ve been reflecting since then, was it just me? Was it the wonder of being in the physical place? Did I make that all happen in my head?

No.

There are places and times when God is near and ready and open to conversation and connection. That’s the beauty of a two way relationship over and above a one way worshipping a God on a shelf sort of thing. It’s dynamic, it’s living. Others experiences there may vary. But it fits quite nicely with the God I’ve come to know, through Jesus, who as it happens, has prayed in the area too.

It was a grace to me and a reminder of so many things yet to come. Amazing things to see and hear and know.  Amazing and wonder-filled.


a pastors role

“In the modern church the role of the pastor is no longer clear-cut… For much of the history of the church, the work of the pastor was quite unambiguous: the ‘cure of souls.’ The shepherd is to help the sheep assimilate and live out the spiritual life. In short, the pastor is essential a spiritual theologian and a guide to godliness. It is this work and nothing else that gives the pastoral vocation its distinguishing mark.” — Simon Chan, Spiritual Theology
via.


This is what I'm saying "Yes" to when I am answering the call He has invited me to.
It is the heart of the heart of the matter. As out of step as that may make us.

Upon reflection, maybe that's why I'm ministering in a field.


Exactly how many Christians are there in your town? In the West Bank they know.

One of the funnier sort of moments I enjoyed in Palestine was when I met Arab Christians who would tell me about when many Western tourists would come and ask them when they converted to Christianity to which they would smartly reply "Oh about 2000 years ago when Jesus did mission work in the area."

See, sometimes our worldview shapes how we see events happening in other parts of the world.

Youth in Jenin sharing their stories
I had the opportunity to meet with different religious leaders while I was in Israel/West Bank, and one of the paradigm shifting concepts I heard repeatedly was that there were no non-religious people in the Middle East. Everyone had some religious approach to life, often that was handed down to them by previous generations. You were either Jew, Christian, or Muslim.

From a secular society perspective where I come from in Canada, that was a stunning sort of thing.  That everyone had a mark on their papers telling what religious flavour they were. This was why religious leaders were able to tell me exactly how many muslims there were in their town, or how many christians there were in this or that location.

There were no atheists or agnostics, at least officially anyway. Though within their own characterizations there must be those who are more or less faithful. So this religiosity was tied into their culture and history and family name.
Muslim shop owner who helped us out.
When I asked what would happen to a convert to Christianity from a Muslim family the answer was quick and clear. "They would be killed." Usually by the family. When we asked about converts from christianity the answer was much less violent. Admittedly that question was asked of an Anglican priest.


There were those who had made conversion choices who would continue to live as cultural Muslims as long as it wouldn't mean they would have to renounce their following Jesus Christ. They were known as secret believers and they exist, quietly. But for many today, being a Muslim or Jew or Christian for that matter is not a matter of the heart or faith but a matter of the culture and family they were born into. You don't just turn away from that and head in another direction after your family has been known differently for thousands of years.


This difference was interesting to note.


It comes into play when the Jews want to be recognized as a State and the Arab nations surrounding don't want to give in to that requirement to peace.  Partly in that mix is the question asking does Israel wish to be recognized as a full, secular nation state, or are they asking to be recognized as a religious, Jewish state? The subtleties of these arguments can easily be lost on us Westerners as the Arab neighbours react strongly to the idea.
Palestinian Kids

In the mean time local neighbours, Muslims and Christians, and in parts of Israel, Jews, live with each other as they have for thousands of years. They get along for the most part and care for one another. Their kids play together in the streets and they both hide when the tensions turn violent. Then they check up on each other and watch out for one another. In that way they create amazingly warm communities where good neighbours make good neighbourhoods.

Now if only the politicians and the extremists on all sides, could figure that out.