Friday, March 31, 2006


So Wednesday, I met with my pastor over at my Field Ed. Church and we had our weekly check-in. Often these meetings have been driven by my questions - "How did you seek your first call?" "How do you juggle family & ministry?" and the like. But this day, as I drove in, for the life of me I couldn't think of any questions we could talk about. I was a little worried that our time wouldn't be fruitful.

So, I walk in and once we'd said our greetings, my pastor/supervisor turns to me and says "We're going to talk about you today. Tell me what your weaknesses are." And BAM, just like that I was on the "hot seat."

There was no need to ask him any questions because we spent the entire time talking about my weaknesses. The first two were easy - quick temper & procrastination/time mangagement. But despite the fact that I felt like I went into great detail about these issues in my life, he wanted more. So, out I dragged "over-competitive" and what I felt was a slew of generic little things that didn't compare to the first two, issues that I truly felt and feel are my biggest weaknesses.

As we wound down the hour, and has he'd mentioned before, he talked about how knowing yourself is important, especially in ministry. You can't slay the beast you don't know is there. But then he turned to me and rather matter-of-factly said "I think you need to do some more digging, because what you've said is rather generic and I don't think it's at the heart - so keep digging and thinking."

What? Are you kidding? If he wanted, I wouldn've sat there and named every sin I'd committed since Grade 1 (all that I could remember). I don't think I was hiding anything back. I think I know myself fairly well. Now, I should mention that he affirmed that he felt I was "healthy" and had many good skills for ministry... but when he sat there and called me out, I didn't know what to think - I still don't know what to think. Do I not know myself as well as I think? Are there unresolved issues that are sapping me and waiting in the wings to tackle me? I didn't THINK so, but now I'm not sure.

So, I was wondering. If you're reading this and you know me, throw me a bone. Tell me what you think my greatest weaknesses are - don't hold back. If you don't feel comfortable writing it in a reply, send me an e-mail. I'd love to hear your feedback...

Oh yeah, and the pic? The Wooly Mammoth was huge, but it couldn't adapt to the changing climate. It was strong & powerful, but its weakness, it's size and positive elements were its downfall when things changed. I don't want to be a Mammoth!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Who needs the sermon?

Today I preached for class - a funeral sermon. It was ok. But what was truly awesome was the Scripture. I chose to use 1 Corinthians 15:35-44; 50-58. I got goose bumps when I read it. When I finished reading it, I just wanted to sit down - anything I said afterwards would pale in comparison. I'm not saying we don't need to preach, we don't need to interpret Scripture - heck, every time you read it you're interpreting it. But I think there are some times, where if its read well, it speaks for itself - and here's one example:

But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?”

How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.

When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body...

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed —
in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Party Tonight...

My beautiful wife Bridgette, pictured above, had a very significant birthday back on Februrary 19. Of course, we were only a few weeks into the life of our new son Brennan, so we didn't do much to celebrate. In fact, we still have gift certificates from Bridgette's family for Dinner & a movie that we haven't been able to use yet - but we will.

Anyway, tonight we'll be finally celebrating this special milestone with a bunch of friends, some dessert, hanging out and a movie or two. And if you'd like, you can check out a special little slideshow I made up to get everyone into the mood for the evening.

Check it out here:
Bridgette's Video

Again, I'll get back to writing significant theological stuff soon, in the meantime I have a funeral sermon (for class) to write, a Sunday school class to prepare and a ton of reading to catch up on...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

1 Minute of Wonder

This evening I put a little video together of Brennan. It's his first cries, just a little over 2 months ago. I've been busy being a father the last few days, so I haven't posted. But I'll get back to it. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the video.

You will need either Quicktime (Windows) or Quicktime (Mac) to view the video. They're free downloads in case you don't already have them.

Click Here for the Video

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I'm Missing something...

I don't know if I will ever move back to Canada. I don't think I need to know at this point. But I know that I will continue to miss one of the greatest television shows of all time. Not to mention one of the greatest television personalities of all time. Especially when this Saturday, it will be my beloved Red Wings that will be featured. If only they knew how to cover hockey south of the border, follow the puck with the camera - maybe it wouldn't be so bad. But you can't replace the music. Da Dun Da Da - Da Dun Dun Dun Da...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Snapshot of Faith...

I'm part of a confessional denomination and that means that creeds and confessions are an integral part of the working out of their faith. In order to be ordained, I must write a Statement of Faith and present it to the Presbytery. In my ordination vows I must seek to uphold those creeds and statements of faith that have been written before and recognized as sound (we even put them into a nice book)

Anyway, as friends of mine are going through the process to write theirs, I took some time to go back over and read what I wrote last year, in preparation for becoming a Candidate myself. When I had written my statement, I took a considerable amount of time, asked friends for their input as well as mentors and pastors. I made amendments according to some of their critiques and when I was done, I felt pretty good about it.

But when I went back and looked at it just a few days ago, I realized how contextual it was. I realized how much a very few courses here at PTSem had influenced what I wrote (not necessarily negatively). I realized that it was especially 1st Article heavy and very lacking in regard to Jesus & the Holy Spirit (not to mention the Sacraments, which I didn't even list or explicate). And it was at that time that I realized just what a Statement of Faith really is. It is a document, contextually contrived and limited in scope. It measures the thought and belief of a person or people at a given time, especially related to the issues they find most pressing at that time. It cannot be otherwise, we are human and time is what we are currently bound to. Our perspective is limited.

Just like the photo above, a Statement of Faith is a snapshot of belief at a given time. The photo above just happens to be the same field at PTSem that we play intramural football & sometimes ultimate frisbee on - but not when it looks like that. We play in the Fall and Spring, not in the snow. That picture is of one moment in time which does not explain that field in all its entirity. That field changes. The weather changes. It gets used for different things.

When I presented my statement to my Church last Spring they grilled me on some points (even though they weren't technically allowed to ask me theological questions - but they didn't know that 'cause the Pastor who leads that committee was away and another was filling in - but it ended up being good). They asked me about capitalizing "Virgin" Mary, they asked me about my view of Biblical infallability and they asked me about the Sacraments, and why I hadn't mentioned them. And as I reflect back on those items and others, I realize that I'm not sure I believe the same things I did then, or at least the things I THOUGHT I believed then. Because I hadn't reflected on the Missional task of the Church, the atoning working of Christ or the nature of Sacraments. Or at least not well enough. And a year from now, ten years from now, twenty years from now there'll probably be other elements that I had not fully throught through, reflected on and developed that I would want to add to what I'll present next year.

My faith is developing. My faith is changing. My faith is not stagnant nor should it be. I am not perfect, I cannot perfectly interpret Scripture or know the mind of God and so I do not believe I can yet perfectly come up with anything but a Snapshot of Faith, one that is always provisional, always open to the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit and the critique of good men and women, seeking to align themselves with Scripture and submit themselves to the Lordship of Christ.

That being said, I invite you to read my Snapshot of Faith from May '05 and comment on it or critique it:

I believe in God who is one, in three. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, perfect unity in divine and holy community, always having existed and always to exist.

I believe in God who created the universe and who is continually at work nurturing and transforming everything to God’s eventual and perfect will.
I believe in YHWH whose manifest presence was revealed to Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, to Isaac and Rebekah, to Jacob, Leah and Rachel, to Moses and to Pharaoh, to the Israelite people and to the nations they conquered and were conquered by.
I believe in God whose voice both calls out in love and whose ear listens for our cries.
I believe in God whose eyes both watch us in our sleep and in our waking.
I believe in God whose hands both reach out in loving compassion and in righteous judgment.
I believe in God who both proclaims and enacts good news for the poor, sight to the blind and freedom to the captive.
I believe in God who I cannot control, cannot contain, and cannot even fully explain – but God who desires to make us and all of creation complete by following and worshipping YHWH alone.

I believe in Jesus the Christ, Son of God, who being fully God, was born some 2000 years ago in Palestine of the Virgin Mary, fully human in order to restore humanity to right relationship with God.
I believe in Jesus the Christ who living rightly before God and humanity, died on a Roman cross in obedience to the Father, providing salvation to humanity, being resurrected on the third day, is now seated at the right hand of the Father in glory.

I believe in the Holy Spirit who was sent by God the Father, upon the ascension of Jesus the Christ into glory, as the living and powerful presence of God in each and every believer, enabling us to lead lives of holiness and drawing us into communion with God and our fellow humanity.

I believe that humanity is created in the image of God; due to the fall it is under the effects of sin, but due to the work of Jesus, no longer subject to its power.

I believe that the Church is God’s chosen instrument to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth, good news for the poor, sight to the blind and freedom to the captive.
I believe that God’s call to the Church, in all its connectionality, is to both enact and proclaim blessings and not cursing, peace and not destruction, love and not hatred, mercy and not judgment to a world that is in desperate need of the saving faith and power of Jesus.

I believe that the Bible is the reliable and infallible proclamation of God’s Word, inspired and authoritative in all matters of life and faith...

(It should be noted, the final elipse is an addition today)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Things I learned over Reading Week (not necessarily for the 1st time)

1. My son is the cutest thing ever - and now that he smiles, I need to start running crowd control.

2. I need to start each day with the bible & prayer - it's not legalism it's called discipline.

3. It feels good to read stuff before the last minute - but it still doesn't keep me from falling asleep while I'm doing it, especially in a sweltering library.

4. Getting things accomplished feels good - but I need to make dailiy & weekly schedules for myself in order to make sure it happens(see #2).

5. I spend way too much time watching & reading about sports - period.

6. Johnny Cash is someone I want to learn more about, and hear more from - as Bono is quoted on Wikipedia "Every man knows he is, basically, a complete sissy compared to Johnny Cash."

7. It feels good to live in a place that, as my wife says, is "picked up" - see #2.

8. Lesslie Newbigin, slowly but surely, is offering me a response to just about every theological issue I've been contemplating - and he practiced what he preached.

9. I like to sleep - too much.

10. Having lunch with a friend, talking from the heart & praying together is awesome, and God speaks through it - if only I could remember everything he says.

11. It's NOT all about me...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Music you NEED to check out...

So, we had a little family weekend away. It was nice to get away. It was nice that some of our family got to see Brennan. Unfortunately, there was only some family there, and one guy in particular that we really missed was Steev. He's a musician, who like many great artists has yet to have gobs of money thrown at him, allowing him to just drop what he's doing and galavant across the country to see his family whenever he wants. But his music is awesome. He's been honing his craft for quite some time now and it seems like he may be on the cusp of getting signed. Whether that's the case or not, he's got quite a following in the OH-PA-NY area.
He's also my brother-in-law... it's a long story but he's family. I thought it's about time I gave the guy a shout-out and some well-deserved pub. Go check out his website and get a listen to his music. It's REALLY good...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"Jehovah" - and the problem of naming

I've been reminded lately of our uniquely human penchant for naming, categorizing, labeling. It is one of the first things we do once we meet someone, we ask their name. But even after that, most of our questions are in some small way, an act of definition. We seek to categorize and package people. Jeff is a lawyer. Suzy is always late. Mike is a flaming liberal. Becky is narrow-minded conservative. We do it all the time. We name, we label and we try to sum up people and their opinions into neat little packages so that we can get on with our lives. It's a lot easier to have a summary of who Jimmy is and what he believes than to take the time to actually get to know Jimmy and live with him in the tension that is relationship - the tension that exists between what can be communicated and what can be understood, what can be vocalized and what is merely sensed. We just don't have time for that.

I was reading the other day, and I was really surprised to see God referred to as "Jehovah" - I hoped by using it in the title it would get the attention of a few. Now, a year or two ago and I might never have batted an eye. But now (and thinking back, I learned it in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade") I know that "Jehovah" is actually a MIStranslation of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton (the four letters that represented God's divine name, the name that was too holy to speak) and so the Hebrews substituted the vowels for LORD into the actual name of God, Y-H-W-H (the vowles being a-o-a) and that gives us YaHoWaH or Jehovah. Sadly, this is just wrong. What the Hebrews actually SAID when they saw Y-H-W-H with those vowels underneath was Adonai(Lord), because they substituted the consonants in themselves. Anyway, seeing Jehovah just made me sit up a bit and go - whoa, we've still got some edumacating to do. Not everyone knows that we messed that one up.

Now, its significant because we only get the divine name from God himself - at the burning bush, speaking to Moses. God tells Moses to go to Pharoah and demand the release of the Hebrews so they can worship God. Moses says, by whose name? And God gives the most interesting name possible. It literally means "I am who I am" and "I will be who I will be". Now, is this a name? Yes. But its more. God knows our penchant for naming, for defining, categorizing - labeling. A name boxes, hems, defines and limits. "Jacob" meant deceiver - imagine spending your life being called a deceiver - straight out of the whom! That's sure to set a nature-nurture debate going. Anyway - by God identifying himself this way, God's saying "You will know me by what I will do and have done" Essentially - "I will be the one who defines me, not you". God is beyond our capacity to pin down. Not that we can't know God at all, but we can't know God in God's totality. And when the silly Western translators tried to - they got mixed up and came up with the WRONG name! Ha!

But, I can say the same thing about us humans too. Try as we might to define each other, we always fall short. Jeff may be a lawyer but he's also one heck of a tennis player. Becky may be a narrow-minded conservative but she also believes in gun control and is against the death penalty.

Yes, it's easier to pin people down and label them - but labels are limiting and they're often inadequate. And when we rely on labels we refrain from doing the hard work of living in the tension of community - of really experiencing the other person, of really getting to know who they TRULY are. That's why God didn't bother giving out the name "George" or "Gunthar" or "Sally". God isn't that easy to pin down, and as people created in the image of God, I'm not sure we are either...