Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sometimes, it just works

Sunday was one of those perfect storm Sundays. I returned from vacation the day before. My family was in tow (parents, 3 siblings, 1 brother-in-law & 1 niece). It was a full house. Aidan was going to be baptized. We had a Young Family potluck following worship, to which I didn't know how many were planning to attend until I got to church that morning. It was Scottish Harvest Sunday - meaning we had bagpipers parading in and a canon being fired before & after worship. Saturday night I got a call that one of our co-pastors, John, had fallen off his ladder, cleaning the gutter and I was needed to march in the "parade." Did I mention I was preaching? As I stood among the paraders, waiting to walk across the bridge following the pipers & into the sanctuary, I thought to myself "THIS could be ugly - this could be the worst sermon I've ever preached."

It just happened to be the 3rd Sunday with our lay Stewardship sharing. The gentleman sharing, whose son I'd married about a month ago, talked about the "practical" side of giving - literally, how to set aside money for when it could be needed to give away. Then he shared how he'd done that, and was presented with the opportunity to provide travel for a family fleeing the Philippines a few years ago. I almost began to cry... My entire sermon was all about creating margins (space) so that we could provide for those who exist on the margins. We never talked ahead of time - God just made it fit. Not to say the sermon went off without a hitch - We had mic problems, which meant I preached from the pulpit instead of walking back & forth on the stage. I still thought my sermon was disjointed and somewhat tough to follow. It seemed REAL short too. But it fit with everything else - it was the same message, and that gave it power, well beyond the actual words that I shared.

No, this was not the most well-crafted sermon. And I lamented the fact that it wasn't. But I swear, as I stood there afterward, hearing how some people were touched by the message, I heard God say (in my mind) - "I'm not going to let you get in the way of what I'm doing. You do what you can, and at the end of the day, my Word is going to go out." It was really humbling to be a part of yet another situation where God shows up in a VERY unplanned and wonderful way...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Buffet - Blah!

We spent nearly a week in Myrtle Beach on our family vacation. The first night we went out to dinner and the next four we traded making dinners in our rooms for each other. Then, Bridgette & I went on a little double-date with my sister and her husband. Well, we'd planned to go on a little dinner double-date, but we had to deal with an unruly child (Brennan), which meant we got out much later than we'd originally planned. Well, we went driving looking for something to eat. While Bridgette isn't much for seafood, the rest of us were interested, especially being right on the ocean, we thought it was almost a waste not to get some local seafood. Unfortunately, we made what proved to be a poor decision - we chose Original Benjamin's Calabash Seafood. Here's how it went:

host: "Do you have a coupon?" (red flag)
Me: "no"
host: "Have you dined with us before?"
Me: "no"
host: [says nothing, hands us hush puppies as we walk past buffet] - "Our buffet is here..." (red flag)
Me: (as we're seated) "How much is the buffet?"
host: "$27.99" (red flag)
Me: (trying hard to find a way out) "uhhh... thanks"

Here's what I re-learned from that dinner experience:

1) You can NEVER get your "money's worth" at a buffet, because you simply can't eat enough.
2) The Quantity of the food you consume is NEVER equal to the QUALITY that you could get if you paid the same amount at a non-buffet restaurant
3) No matter how many times I try to tell myself "you've still got room, you're not over-eating" - I still end up over-eating, a lot!
4) Aside from breakfast/brunch buffets and the occasional Chinese food buffet - I'm done with the buffet!

That anchor pictured above is a fairly good representation of what my stomach felt like after I was done...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembrance Day - the Canadian Way

Today is Remembrance Day. If you're stateside, like me, you may think of it as Veteran's Day - I won't bother to argue, the meaning of it is way to deep to spend time fighting over a name. But see, in Canada, we do things a bit differently. In the US, the emphasis is often on the military, the brave service of men and women in the myriad of areas in the armed forces. Canadians however, have a bit of a different slant - and the famous poem - In Flander's Fields, captures it well.

In Flander's Fields the poppy's blow
between the crosses row on row
that mark our place...

We mark the dead on this day, remembering all those who gave their lives - not with a triumphant pat on the back or a firm chest protruding as if somehow we were proud of the blood that we had shed. I think that the First World War was actually a turning point in our nation's history, as that poem illustrates. We saw the scourges of war, we felt it, and we were marked forever. We've been participants in wars and conflicts since, but always reluctantly calling ourselves to arms, always recognizing that peace is the ultimate goal - and that war is a painful problem that we would like to avoid at all costs. In recent decades it is the blue helmet of the peacekeeper that Canadians most often wear when sent into harms way.

On this whole subject of Canadians in conflict, I received an e-mail from my mother recently, which reproduced an article, said to have been written by present Irish Independent journalist Kevin Myers, formerly of the London-based Telegraph. The e-mail was titled "Salute to a brave and modest nation" - and I wanted to believe it was true. It spoke straight to the heart of Canadians. But as I researched it online, I kept finding various references that I couldn't substantiate, and I wondered "did some Canadian simply write this and throw it out online?" - it would make the entire argument moot. But finally, I was able to track it down, rightly attested to Kevin Myers and the London Telegraph, dated 21 April, 2002.

I want so much to reproduce the entire article here, but I abhor an enormous blog post. Instead, I'll throw down some highlights and reference the entire article in it's original setting at the Telegraph:

"It seems that Canada's historic mission is to come to the selfless aid both of its friends and of complete strangers, and then, once the crisis is over, to be well and truly ignored...

...The Canadians proudly say of themselves - and are unheard by anyone else - that 1 per cent of the world's population has provided 10 per cent of the world's peace-keeping forces. Canadian soldiers in the past half century have been the greatest peace-keepers on earth - in 39 missions on UN mandates, and six on non-UN peace-keeping duties, from Vietnam to East Timor, from Sinai to Bosnia...

So who today in the US knows about the stoic and selfless friendship its northern neighbour has given it in Afghanistan? Rather like Cyrano de Bergerac, Canada repeatedly does honourable things for honourable motives, but instead of being thanked for it, it remains something of a figure of fun. It is the Canadian way, for which Canadians should be proud, yet such honour comes at a high cost..."

When I reflect on Remembrance Day, hear In Flander's Fields and read this article, it makes me damn proud to be a Canadian...

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Chef - not yet

We've been taking part in a class at Liberty with a dozen or so other younger couples based around the book Your Time-Starved Marriage, by Les & Leslie Parrot. Well, part of this final week's session was about making time during mealtimes - slowing it down and making time for you and your spouse together. So, Monday night I thought it would be a great idea to not only cook up Monday night's dinner, but to throw in a few things and make up spaghetti sauce in the slow-cooker for Tuesday night's dinner.

It's got to be said that I love to cook. And I used a ton of yummy things in the sauce including zucchini, mushrooms, black olives and ground beef. I don't usually use recipes when I cook - I see it more as an art, you throw things together, experiment as you go and have fun. Each time you get in the kitchen you come out with a new work of art.

Well, unfortunately, when we were ready to eat the sauce Tuesday night, the sauce that was slow-cooking for nearly 24hrs... well, it was awful. So awful in fact, that it still sits on our counter in the slow cooker. Yeah, I need to deal with it. But it just goes to show that I'm not quite ready to quit being a pastor and open my own restaurant. Truth is, I don't think I'd enjoy it either...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Change is on the way, right?

Well, they've given their speeches, and now it turns towards transitioning into governing. All the talk is done, now I can only hope and pray that the US begins to truly move towards some serious change. As a Christian, I find so much in our world that simply does not conform to the Kingdom of God. I don't believe that a political figure can in anyway usher in the Kingdom of God - Jesus already did that. I also hate the idea that any one person is somehow a saviour or scapegoat when it comes to politics. But I find it really hard not to feel like this is a very positive historic moment. For a nation that traded slaves - owned them only 150 years ago, disenfranchised black voters throughout the first half of the last century and only 50 years ago still used segregation as a tool of oppression (which still exists in subtler forms now) - to see that nation elect an African American as President is pretty amazing.

I still remember sitting in my grade 5 classroom as Mr. Scarfino put on a record of Martin Luther King Jr's "I have a dream" speech. It gave me goosebumps. It still does. I know this isn't exactly the mountaintop that he spoke of, but man, this has got to be close. I pray Obama lives up to the chance he's been given - and truly brings that necessary change to a nation that is desperately in need of it...

Monday, November 03, 2008


I just spent a wonderful "weekend" up in Northern Michigan. It wasn't completely a vacation (I preached at a friend's church, baptized their son, and helped him lead communion) - but I was offline, for nearly the entire time. Which left room for talking, spending time with our kids, playing some board games - a favourite pastime of mine, and generally being available. I'm going to post more on this in the next day or two, but I hate looking at my blog and seeing it's been 6 days, so I put this up now, and will return to this thought in a more developed way...