Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Week from Stress

It's been exactly one week since I last posted here. I had quite a busy week, leading to some big stress, which was impacted largely by the fact that I had a house full of sickies. No sleep & increased work is not a recipe for blogging, at least not for me. I've got a slew of things I want to blog on, including my "fitness" updates, a book review and some other stuff. Since tomorrow looks more and more like a complete "snow day" for the state of Ohio, there's a good chance I'll make time to get back on the horse. Truth is, as the week wore on, I DECIDED not to post. And I think it was a good decision. But I'm ready now...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Another Day, Another President, Another Prayer

Aidan was sick today & Bridgette took him to the Dr. (nothing too bad, Croup, got some meds, he'll be fine), but it left me home instead of in the office for the inauguration, which allowed me to see not only Obama's speech, but also Rev Lowery's closing prayer. There were a bunch of great lines during Obama's speech which I may highlight later, but there was something particular that popped out during Rev. Lowery's prayer. It was relatively early, when he said this:

"But because we know you got the whole world in your hand, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations."

What he said here is the kind of thing that we need to hear daily. Maybe it's because I'm a Canadian, living Stateside that I have different ears to hear this. But I often wonder whose allegiance are we really bowing our knee to? Whose kingdom do we pray will come? Are we excited about the peace of our nation, or the peace of Christ? Are we excited about the economy of our nation, or the economy of grace? Are we eager to shout "hail Caesar" or "Hallelujah Jesus"? Where is our allegiance? This one line - which many may have seen as a throwaway line in the prayer, I saw as a stake driven into the heart of nationalism - which in my opinion is just as insidious an idol as consumerism or communism or individualism or socialism. And here, we were reminded that God cares for EVERYBODY. It's not sufficient to say "God bless America." Unless it's followed with "so we can bless the world."

I'm glad to have the opportunity to live in the United States. I'm glad to have the opportunity to raise my sons here, to allow them to be citizens. I'm not bagging on the US (although Bridgette may feel otherwise. I just want us to remember that, as Christians, we're required to care about the world at our own expense, and not ourselves, or our nation at the expense of the world...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Less is More? My Update

Not necessarily. This didn't necessarily apply this week in my 2 "fitness" areas. When I weighed myself today, this morning, AFTER breakfast... 211 lbs. Technically that's a drop of 1 lb. But since I can't really say I did anything in particular, I'll call it a wash.
As for the financial fitness - we're a couple more chapters into the book - working our way through the myths of debt. One of the best parts of Dave Ramsey's book is that he hit you straight between the eyes and says he problem is you. So...

Here's the hinge that'll take me to my song (yet again on Sunday night) - the change has got to come from me, 'cause that's where the problem is. That said, here's an excerpt from the David Crowder Band's Surely We Can Change

Where there is pain Let there be grace
Where there is suffering Bring serenity
For those afraid Help them be brave
Where there is misery Bring expectancy
And surely we can change
Surely we can change Something

And the problem seems Is with you and me
Not the Love who came To repair everything


Oh, the world's about to change
The whole world's about to change

In many ways, that's the good news of the gospel - I'm the problem, but there's also something good out there that has & will repair everything. Tomorrow is MLK Day & the day after that the first Black president will be sworn into office in the US. No, that doesn't mark the change of everything, but I do believe it's something. And as someone who believes that I'm the problem, it's great to be able to see, at least small signs that point to God's repairs being made - even if they happen VERY slowly...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


On Sunday, this little boy celebrated his 3rd birthday. That would mean that 3 years ago today, I woke up for the first time with Brennan in our "home." It's been a wild ride since. He never ceases to amaze with his vocabulary, his perception, his compassion - or his strong will. I can't imagine where he got that last trait. One of the most interesting things that he's begun to do is mimic me. He's begun to "preach" to people. Only a few months ago we were just describing what I did as "speak" to the people upstairs in worship. Now, he not only talks about me preaching, he wants to do it too. In all honesty, I'd love for him to find his calling in full time Christian ministry. However, I'm not going to push it AT ALL. He can be a faithful follower of Jesus no matter what he does. In fact, it'd be cool if he were a chef (he loves to cook) or a mechanic (he loves trains & cars). I'll encourage him wherever his gifts and passions take him. And at the heart of all my prayers for this little guy, is that he would know how loved he is by God, and that he would love God and find his place in God's mission. Hopefully I can be a good enough example for him that he'll want that too...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Saturday's Song - late Sunday night

I've got this imaginary file that seems to keep growing - it's the list of songs that I hear and go "wow, did you hear that? That was so profound, I swear it echoes God." It's more than possible that these weekly song shout outs may turn into something like that. I'm always blown away by what I hear, especially from "secular" artists. Honestly, there's a lot of crap out there in the "Christian" world that makes me want to "say no, and go, and tell someone you trust."

Anyway, here's the song I want to plug: Far Away, by Nickleback. I'm 99% sure this song is written from the perspective of a guy who's on the road a ton and hasn't seen his love, who's at home. He just wants to tell her he loves her and wants to be with her. Nothing original there. But as I hear this song, I swear I hear God singing and I have visions of the story of the prodigal son. In fact, it's almost like a back-and-forth between the son and the father. I know I'm taking liberties here, but I hope the band doesn't mind. I'll pull out the lines that really hit home and let you go through the whole song if you're interested. It begins with the son:

Son:This time, This place Misused, Mistakes
Too long, Too late Who was I to make you wait...
'Cause you know, you know, you know, you know

(Chorus)That I love you, I have loved you all along
And I miss you, Been far away for far too long...

Father:...'Cause with you, I'd withstand
All of hell to hold your hand
I'd give it all, I'd give for us
Give anything but I won't give up
'Cause you know, you know, you know

(Chorus)That I love you, I have loved you all along
And I miss you, Been far away for far too long
I keep dreaming you'll be with me and you'll never go...


But you know, you know, you know

Father:I wanted, I wanted you to stay

Son:'Cause I needed, I need to hear you say

Father:That I love you, I have loved you all along
And I forgive you, For being away for far too long
So keep breathing, 'Cause I'm not leaving

Son:Hold on to me and never let me go

Just re-listening to this song to put it up here was emotional. I mean, how can it not be, imagining the embrace of God, to us - hearing that God would (and did) withstand all of Hell for us, that God has always loved us, that God wants us to keep breathing, keep living. And then, my response? Exactly that last line of the song - "Hold on to me and never let me go..."

Friday, January 09, 2009

Fitness Update #1

I posted last week my need to get fit, particularly in 2 areas - physically and financially. The problem of course with this whole thing is that anything I put up here is public record and there's just some things that should be private - or at least semi-private. So I've needed to come up with a little plan about how I'm going to share updates on these two areas. My plan is still in its infancy, but here's what I'm thinking.

A) Physical - this is the easiest and should be the easiest thing to check up on. I'm going to post 2 things on a weekly basis. 1) My weight. 2) What steps I've taken during the week to lower that # and to make my gen fitness increase. Right now, it's baby steps:
1) As of yesterday, 212lbs. Ultimately, I'd like go hit 180, but I'm willing to get to 195 and feel successful.
2) I've cut out snacks after 9pm & purchased some "running" shoes. Baby steps.

B) Financial - this is the harder thing to check. I'm not about to post my budget, not that my salary isn't already public knowledge, as a pastor. Tell me one other place where people see your compensation on a yearly basis on paper and vote to decide whether it's appropriate? But I'm not complaining, just saying it adds another dimension to things. And it's also misunderstood. So, I'm going to base my updates on Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover book, which we've begun to read. 1) What we've read in the book, by chapter. 2) What we've implemented in the plan.
1) Introduction & First story. Chapter 1 we already read online, prior to getting the book. Hoping to get through Chapter 2 or beyond this weekend.
2) We've gone pretty much cash only, which I know is something he'll say but we haven't technically "read" it yet.

What I realized about these two areas of my fitness is simply this: I used to be physically fit (I was a college athlete, running track) & I used to be financially fit (didn't have/use credit card or paid it off monthly, strict budget, knew where I was in planning for the future) and now I, and we, are way off from that. I'm acutely aware of my unfitness because I was so fit before. Now, it's time to get back there...

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Book Review - The Great Divorce

One thing I'm going to try to do this year on my blog is to give at least a cursory review of a book once I actually finish it. Since I've usually got 6 (or more) books on the go at any given time, there's usually a little while in between each time I finish a book, and sometimes I don't read the whole thing before I'm "finished" with it.

Well, I just finished reading CS Lewis' The Great Divorce for the second time. It may be my favourite Lewis book. It's somewhat of a hard book to review because it's so short and it's a work of fiction. If you're not familiar at all, it follows a man who finds himself in what he later realizes is Hell, before boarding a "bus" and traveling on to Heaven. It's a little odd at first as you spent the first half or so trying to get your bearings, much as the character is. He eventually is taken under the wing of George MacDonald, who he refers to as his Teacher. This is about the midway point of the book and things start to make sense from this point. This Teacher begins to walk the man around and shed light onto the experiences he has had in the "Grey Town" (aka Hell, or purgatory, depending on your perspective) and the interactions between the "Ghosts" and the "Solid People" that transpire around him. This excerpt from their first discussion is a truly interesting concept:

"'Son,' he said, 'ye cannot in your present state understand eternity...But ye can get some likeness of it if ye say that both good and evil, when they are full grown, become retrospective. Not only this valley but all their earthly past will have been Heaven to those who are saved. Not only the twilight in that town, but all their life on Earth too, will then be seen by the damned to have been Hell...the good man's past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man's past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why, at the end of all thigns, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say 'We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven,' and the Lost, 'We were always in Hell.' And both will speak truly." (p. 69)

What I really appreciate about Lewis depiction of Heaven and Hell in this book is that it's a picture - not a photocopy, but more of an impression that opens up the door to new possible conceptions of life after death - which is grounded in Scripture.

If you're interested in exploring life & death in a new way, that is very accessible, I'd highly recommend this. It's a relatively short read at 146 pages and I saw it as cheap as $3.89 used on Amazon ($9.20 new). I'd recommend borrowing it from the Library, but it's the kind of book I like to have on hand because it's got so many great quotes. I'll finish with this one from the tail end (pp 138-139):

"'Do you mean then that Hell-all that infinite empty town-is down in some little crack like this?'
'Yes. All Hell is smaller than one atom of
this world, the Real World. Look at yon butterfly. if it swallowed all Hell, Hell would not be big enough to do it any harm or to have any taste.'
'It seems big enough when you're in it, Sir.'
'and yet all loneliness, angers, hatreds, envies and itchings that it contains, of rolled into one single experience and put into the scale against the least moment of joy that is felt by the least in Heaven, would have no weight that could be registered at all.
'For a damned soul is nearly nothing: it is shrunk, shut up in itself. Good beats upon the damned incessantly as sound waves beat upon the ears of the deaf, but they cannot receive it. Their fists are clenched, their teeth are clenched, their eyes fast shut. First they will not, in the end they cannot, open their hands for gifts, or their mouth for food, or their eyes to see.'
'Then no one can ever reach them?'
'Only the Greatest of all can make Himself small enough to enter Hell...

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Saturday's Song

I'm going to try to highlight a "new" song on Saturdays this year. But since I don't do much "new" music, a lot of it will be digging up songs that I just happen to love that might be new to you, especially since I grew up in Canada, and I've got a ton of favourite music that didn't quite crack the US music scene. That's what I'm going to highlight here:

"At the Hundredth Meridian" - Tragically Hip

2nd verse rocks:

"If I die of Vanity, promise me, promise me
That if they bury me some place I don't want to be
That you'll dig me up and transport me
Unceremoniously away from the swollen city breeze, garbage bag trees
Whispers of disease, and acts of enormity
And lower me slowly, sadly, and properly
Get Ry Cooder to sing my eulogy"

What's great about this song, and this section in particular, is that it really hits on the kind of Canadian nature-loving spirit that still makes my heart sing. It almost makes me want to jump in my car and drive out West...