Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What are we for?

Recently, children have begun the pains-taking wait for Santa, opening the doors of their advent calendars one agonizing day after another. Adults may be waiting for that elusive job they have been hoping for. Personally, I am anticipating renovations to my apartment after a kitchen fire. Others might be waiting to be asked by that special someone, and my sister waited just a little bit longer than she intended to give birth to her second child. But what does waiting mean, and what does it involve? Besides the dictionary’s definition “to remain inactive or in a state of repose,” which we usually do not like, I have a few ideas of how to do it.
Watching – Though it is normal to become lackadaisical when we are left in suspense for a long time, keeping our eyes open is essential if we are to see what we have been waiting for. You never know when you might just see it.
Active – Being active is different than being anxious. Just as we might be waiting with frustration for the NHL strike to end, we do not need to be anxious about what we do not have. Instead, I want to be anticipatory of seeing my Canucks win the Stanley Cup. Who knows how long I will have to wait for that!
Initiate – As a fan of the NHL, though I cannot ask Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr to kiss and make up, I can initiate an act that might effect how my appreciation of the game will continue when the strike finally ends. So, let’s ‘intercede’!
Thoughtful – But however active or tolerant we are as we wait for a response, may we do it thoughtfully and with tact. Then, maybe our state of repose won‘t last so long and our waiting may end well.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Monk-eying Around

Recently, I visited Westminster Abby in Mission and spent a week trying to live the life of a monk, reading and attempting to follow St. Benedict’s order. The brothers’ objective is to understand God better by disciplining themselves, focusing their eyes on Him and away from distractions that might capture their attention. If you have read the children’s book “You are Special” by Max Lucado, the character Lucia is very much like a modern-day nun.

Like what criticisms and blessings do to our spirits, the Wemmicks of Lucado’s story gave each other dots and stars depending upon what they were able or unable to do. Though Lucado’s clumsy main character, Punchinello, is damaged greatly by his dots, he later learns a great deal from Lucia, a Wemmick who is not impacted by the stickers she gets. Her reason for this is that she regularly visits Eli, who created the Wemmick race from his workshop overlooking their village. She encourages Punchinello to do the same and everything begins to change for him.
As I practiced being a monk, I learned that Lucia’s quality of humility seems to be Benedict’s highest priority. As he writes in chapter 7 of his rule, “Without a doubt, we understand . . . that we descend by pride and ascend by humility.” Together with the monks of Westminster Abby, Lucia ascended by humility and encouraged her friend to do the same.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Proverbs 31 Woman

Earlier this month, a friend of mine posted a list on my pastor’s Facebook page. It wasn’t just any list: shopping, school supplies needed or invitees to a party. No, instead of changing one’s day, this list could, in fact, change ones life. This was because she was not looking for something she could buy; she was looking for someone she could love.
In response to my friends’ predicament, her pastor, who happens to be mine as well, responded: “Make me a list, and I’ll find you your man.’” My friend “laughed it off, partly out of embarrassment, and partly because, well frankly, I gave up on my list about fifteen years ago.”
Though I had sometimes thought about making such a list, instead of giving it the time of day that it needed, I would usually think about it as I tried to reach dreamland late at night. It wasn’t until after I read Kirsty’s list that I took it seriously. So, right after lunch one Saturday afternoon, I sat down at my computer and thought about the attributes my Proverbs 31 woman should have.

1) She must love Jesus. She must challenge me in my relationship with Him and be willing to be challenged in hers.
2) She must be a pray-er. Both of us want to grow closer to each other, but if we both grow closer to God, a closer relationship between us will soon follow.
3) She must think I’m the coolest person she’s ever met and not feel bashful about it.
4) She needs to be someone who doesn’t need me, but wants me more than anything.
5) She doesn’t need to be a sports fan, but she needs to humour my interest.
6) She needs to laugh at my attempt at being funny and be my reason to smile.
7) She must be able to care for herself on her own so we can care for each other together.
8) On that note, she needs to want to be cared for, and be patient with me as I learn how.
9) She could be a giver (generous) but she needs to be a forgiver.
10) She enjoys physical contact. Not aggression, just good, long hugs, holding hands etc.
11) She needs to be open with herself i.e. be willing to give what she sees I need and be willing to receive the things I have to give.
12) She must not be a controller. Instead, she must be willing to give and take.
13) She must put my needs and the needs of our family first and help me to do the same.
14) We need to accept and slowly enjoy the differences between our families. Then we would look forward to visiting the in-laws rather than simply tolerating them.
15) Though my creative side comes out when I get excited about someone, she needs to be the creative queen. This is because . . .
16) Though monetary gifts are nice, I prefer gifts that have a lot of thought put into them.
17) She needs to enjoy music and my attempts to play it. If she can play an instrument, that’s even better!
18) Her dwelling must be clean enough to be healthy and cluttered enough to be homey, and help me to do the same.
19) She must be ambitious and passionate. This means that she has dreams and pushes the envelope to make them happen.
20) She will be a “yes, let’s try it!” kind of woman. She may show anxiety about new things, but is willing to try them anyway.
21) She has to be able to challenge me, and gently tell me when I’m wrong.
22) Though I might say this word more often, when she messes up, she has to be able to say “Sorry” and mean it.
23) She has to be good tempered, have an even keel and teach me how to react when things are not.
24) Though I may have a few ideas, I need her to show me how I can be her best man.
25) She has to know everything about and accept my past, loving me not in spite of my weaknesses, but because of them.
26) She has to be able to say “No,” even when she doesn’t want to, because she has my best interest at heart.
27) She needs to be patient, because these things need to be learned slowly.

A list like this might look kind of odd on a blog which is supposed to be about enhancing one’s relationship with God. But over the years, though they are not exact, I have learned that the desires we have in a mate are similar to the desires we have for God.
  • What are your expectations in a mate?
  • How can God meet these expectations?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

From Zero to Hero

Several years ago, I was introduced to one of the simplest of silent prayers I have ever heard. When we breathe in, we were encouraged to pray “Father” and on the exhale to say, “I belong to You.” The teacher (Brennan Manning) said that seven is the ideal number of syllables in one breathing cycle. Therefore, if we decide to pray this way, we can “pray continually.” (1 Thes. 5:17)

If she was not praying this prayer, I imagine the Syro-Phoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30) was praying something very similar. She may have been praying “in You, I have all things” or “my soul rests in You alone” (Psalm 62:1) as her actions showed a sense of desperation. It was with that kind of drive that this Zero-Phoenician woman recognized that though she had nothing in herself, what she needed was available to her if she only asked for it.

However, moments after she asked, Christ criticised her harshly, calling her, a gentile who was plainly inferior to the Jews, a dog (v27). Instead of being overwhelmed with sorrow or surprise, she knew that behind this criticism was a loving and healing touch, and she was humble enough to receive the criticism so she could get what she believed would soon follow.

Therefore, in spite of Christ’s comments, she played His game and responded boldly, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” (v28) Her attempts to clamber for Christ’s attention clearly show how desperate she was to receive anything that might come from Him, even the crumbs.

When I was a child at camp, I remember trying to Limbo underneath a stick without touching it. All this time, my friends, who patiently awaited their turns chanted ‘How low can you go?’ This woman had gone lower than anyone expected and Christ therefore rewarded her by granting her request. It was with her persistence, humility and quick wit that this Zero-Phoenician came trembling, and left rejoicing because her status had been permanently changed.

  • When was the last time you prayed like this?

  • What difference would it make to you if your status permanently changed?

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Different kind of White Cane

John 9 is known for a miracle Jesus performs when He heals a man born blind. It proves again that He truly is God incarnate. This passage is also an ideal example of spiritual direction. Here, Christ is the director, the disciples are the directees, and the blind man is not Christ’s focus here, but rather someone He simply uses to teach his disciples a lesson.
The spiritual direction portion of John 9 is in verses 1-5.
1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
When they saw the man on the side of the road, the disciples quickly decided that they knew what the blind man’s problem was. Many people who come for spiritual direction believe that they know what the problem is. If they only help the director diagnose it, the problem should be solved.
The dah-ciples are like this. Though they think they know the problem, they don’t. They are students after all. Instead of ridiculing the blind man or his parents for their sins, Christ turns the tables and tells his students, “Stop pointing fingers! Nobody did anything wrong! This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” (Verse 3)
As He often is with his students, Jesus was probably more then a little bit disappointed with their “lack of faith.” They were not doing their job. Instead of asking petty questions like these, their job was to carry out the tasks assigned to them by the one who sent their Teacher into this world. In the next verse, Jesus says, the night is coming when work ceases. While, I am here, I am the light you should live by.  In other words, “Stop dilly-dallying, do this work quickly, and start now, because I won’t be here for long!”
As a spiritual director, Jesus might say, ‘before our next session, I would encourage you to start doing the work of God as you .have seen me do it.” And they returned for their next session, rejoicing because “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” (Luke 10:17)
In John 9:39-40 Jesus said, "I have come into this world so that the blind will see and those who [think they can] see will become blind." Some Pharisees heard him say this and asked, "What? Are we blind too?" The Pharisees and the disciples had the same problem. They were both spiritually blind. Once directees learn that they are “blind too” Jesus’ shows directors how to walk with them in their desire to understand more about Him.
Here, Jesus takes the initiative and finds the man, who has just received his sight, and asks him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (9:35) He had probably heard the crowds talk about Jesus before, but had not yet seen Him. “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.”
“I am him,” Jesus said.
“Yes, Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Jesus.
Like many people, this man had a “seeing is believing” type of faith, but it had taken forty years for him to truly exercise it.
A spiritual director’s response to the question of “why” needs to be something like Christ’s, focused beyond the immediate situation. Maybe God wanted to teach the man a lesson. As many teachers in Jesus day thought, maybe God was paying the man back for some unbeknownst sin. Or, as Jesus said, maybe it was what God intended. If your challenge is something God desires, not to pay you back, but to make you more like Him, how would that make you feel?

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Goodness of Gossip

Gossiping is natural. Just as a baby learns to talk by babbling, the building blocks of thoughtful and trustworthy discussions between adults are installed when we are children. At this pliable age, we have an unquenchable search for knowledge so we can tell others about our own, and others’ discoveries.
According to Dr Annie Crookes, head of Psychology at Heriot-Watt University’s Dubai Campus, there is a lot of goodness in gossip. For instance, “the act of gossiping may be similar to that of ‘grooming’ seen in primate species in that it consolidates group cohesion, facilitates networking and manages reputations.”
We all know that conversations which start with, ‘I don’t like to spread rumours but…’ or ‘you didn’t get this from me but…’ can create something that grows and could become hurtful. However, if we stopped gossiping to each other, even to ourselves because it creates anxiety, and started gossiping to and about God, the good that could result is simply awesome.
In Matthew 6:3, Jesus says: “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” Though He was talking about giving to the needy; this piece of advice could easily be applied to gossiping. When I tell my right hand something my left hand doesn’t know, this knowledge needs to travel through my heart first before it gets to the other hand. When I was a child, I believed that God lived in my heart. Therefore, one hand can know and the One who lives in the heart can know, but no one else. If both hands know, then action can be taken that could be damaging.
Over the years, we learn that gossip can and does hurt more often than it heals. However, I have learned that the best type of gossip is Gossiping God. Weather we talk about the negative or the positive acts that God is or has done in our lives, gossiping about Him is the best type of tattle tailing we can do. To learn more about gossiping God, feel free to contact me.
I promise, I won’t tell anybody.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Giving our Taxes

If you click here, you will be taken to a YouTube video I received the other day from a choir colleague. I imagine his intent was to convert me, and I would become angry about the high taxes we are all forced to pay. Maybe I would join a riot against the government which would open news casts across Canada. However, this is already happening in Greece, Montreal and elsewhere. According to inventor and activist Ben Franklin, “nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.” But I wonder, rather than playing the role of the helpless victim, if we ‘gave’ our taxes as we give gifts, paying our taxes might not feel so deadly.
After watching this video, a blog post entitled WWJD? arrived in my mailbox. The blog can be found at Reading this post changed my perspective. Jesus created a whip and overturned tables in Matthew 21. But if he wasn’t going to lead a riot, He would do something creative and miraculous like catch a fish with a coin in its mouth to pay the tax (Matt. 17:27). In this video, this young Canadian uses Matthew 21 as an example of how Jesus was angry about over taxation, greed and gluttony by a select few.
This blog is certainly not letting the Canadian government off the hook, what they are doing is certainly more than a little bit over the top. But after watching the video, my question was: ‘if all the government wants is our money, let them take it. It’s just money after all. There is a lot more to Canada than that.’ In the following chapter, Jesus continues: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s …” (Matthew 22:21). Though this is a difficult task, Jesus’ (and our) focus must be on the second half of this verse “… and give to God what is God’s.”

In the classic story Les Miserables, Victor-hugo writes about convicted criminal Jean Valjean, who is taken in by the Bishop of Digne just after he is released from prison. He spends one night there, using the Bishop’s compassion to satisfy his immediate needs. Believing that he is, and always will be, a criminal, Valjean robs the Bishop, leaving the cleric wounded, while he flees into the night. When he is caught by local police, the pathetic Valjean is dragged before the Bishop. The police are certain that the Bishop will identify him as the accused, and he would immediately be sent back to prison. But the bishop refuses to grant their request. Instead, he replies that all of the things Valjean stole were gifts he intended on giving him. He ends by saying “You forgot to take the silver candlesticks.”

If we have the same willingness to give as we do to receive, and view payments as a chance to give rather than pay a debt which we may or may not agree with. In other words, if we are generous, we will not worry about people taking money from us, let alone our government who has made Canada the envy of the world. Then our anxiety levels might just lessen and our perspective of politics and the wellbeing of our country, not just our small circle of friends, might just increase. Instead of viewing taxes as someone taking money from us, Jesus asks us to surprise them with our generosity. If we did, it might just make the nightly news!
Giving our Taxes

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Who is leading?

How do you feel about being led? I imagine this has a lot to do with who the leader is. We would likely prefer to be the leader, the responsible one, the one who is in charge of our own destiny. Jesus once told us, “when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” (John 21:18).
If we are used to being in charge, no matter our age, the feeling of being led may be an uncomfortable one. But if we have lived a life of stress, this idea may look refreshing.
I invite you to spend a few quiet moments with this painting by the Chinese artist He Qi. It is a depiction of Jesus walking with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24). What would it be like if Jesus was the One doing the leading? Would you be willing to walk at His pace?
On May 27th (40 days after Easter) Christians will celebrate Pentecost, the day when Christ’s Spirit arrived on this earth and indwelt those who desire Him. Since then His Spirit has lead us in amazing ways. I am one of those people, and would be delighted to meet with you so we may learn “the unforced rhythms of grace.” Where might He lead you next?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

"Lord Jesus Crucified"

Today is the beginning of Holy Week. Soon we will celebrate the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, looking forward with anticipation to Resurrection Sunday morning.

As I think about Christ’s last week before the cross, Fr. Richard Roar’s prayer, found in his lecture series “On Transformation”, has become quite poignant and revealing to me.

I would encourage you to pour yourself a cup of tea, sit down and read this slowly and thoughtfully. May it draw you, just a little bit closer, into the wonder of Christ and His Passion, which we celebrate this week.

The crucified Jesus speaking:

My people, I am yourself,

I am your beauty,

I am your goodness,

which you are destroying.

I am what you do to what you should love.

I am what you are afraid of;

your deepest, and your best and most naked self, your soul.

Your badness largely consists in what you do to goodness,

your own and others. And that is bad.

You are afraid of the Good, you are afraid of Me.

You kill what you should love; you hate what could transform you.

I am Jesus crucified. I am yourself, and I am all of human history.

Speaking to the crucified Christ:

Lord Jesus crucified,

You are my life, and you are also my death.

You are my beauty, you are my possibility.

You are my full self.

You are everything I want and you are everything I am afraid of.

You are everything I desire and you are everything I deny.

You are my outrageously ignored and neglected soul.

Lord Jesus, Your love is what I most fear.

I can’t let anybody love me for nothing.

Intimacy with You or anyone terrifies me.

I am beginning to see,

that I in my own body am an image of what is happening everywhere,

and I want it to stop here today.

I want to stop the violence toward myself,

toward the world,

toward You, crucified Lord.

I don’t need, ever again, to create any victims.

You alone, Lord Jesus, You refuse to be crucifier,

even at the cost of being crucified.

And You never ask for sympathy.

You never play the victim.

You never ask for vengeance.

But you only breathe forgiveness.

We, we in this fearful earth,

The rest of us, we murder, we mistrust, we attack.

Now I see that it is not You that humanity hates.

We hate ourselves, but mistakenly kill you.

I must stop crucifying your blessed flesh

on this earth and in my brothers and sisters.

Now I see that You live in me and I live in You.

You are inviting me out of this endless cycle of allusion

and violence.

You are Jesus crucified.

You are saving me.

In your perfect Godly love,

you have chosen to enter into union with me.

I thank You Lord Jesus for becoming a human being.

so I don’t have to pretend or try to be a god.

I thank You Lord Jesus for becoming finite and limited,

so I don’t have to pretend that I am infinite and limitless.

I thank You crucified God for becoming mortal,

so I don’t have to make myself immortal.

I thank You Lord Jesus for becoming inferior,

so I do not have to pretend that I am superior to anyone.

I thank You for being crucified outside the walls,

for being expelled and excluded like the sinners,

so I don’t have to be a saint.

I thank You for becoming week,

so I don’t have to be strong.

I thank You for being willing, to being considered imperfect and strange,

so I do not have to be perfect and normal.

I thank You Lord Jesus for being willing to be disapproved,

so I do not have to try so hard to be approved and liked.

I thank You for being considered a failure,

so I don’t have to give my life trying to pretend I am a success.

I thank You for being wrong by the standards of religion and state,

so I don’t have to be right anywhere.

I thank You for being poor in every way,

so I don’t have to be rich in any way.

I thank You Lord Jesus for being all of the things that humanity despises and fears,

so I can love myself and others in You.

So I can love in You, who by Your humanity have identified Yourself with me,

at that very point where I most hate myself.

Crucified Jesus, I thank you for becoming a human being.

I want to love You. I need to love You.

Lord Jesus crucified,

You and I,

We are the same!

Friday, March 16, 2012


At first I saw God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there sort of like a president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I really didn't know Him. But later on, when I met God, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike ride, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that God was in the back, helping me pedal.

I don't know when it was that He suggested that we change places, but life has not been the same since. When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable... It was the shortest distance between two points. But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places at breakneck speeds. It was all I could do to hang on! Even though it looked like madness, He said, "Pedal."

I worried and was anxious and asked, "Where are you taking me?" He laughed and didn't answer, and I started to learn to trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure. And when I'd say, "I'm scared," He'd lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people who gave me gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. I wanted to stay where I was for at least a little while, but as soon as we arrived, we were off again. He said, "Give the gifts away; they're extra baggage, too much weight." So I did, to the people we met, and I found that in giving I received, and still our burden was light.

I did not trust Him, at first, in control of my life. I thought He'd wreck it; but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, knows how to jump, to clear high rocks, knows how to fly to shorten scary passages. I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places. I'm beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face, with God as my delightful constant companion. And when I'm sure I just can't do anymore, He just smiles and says,


Thursday, March 8, 2012

How do you steal from a giant?

In the classic fairy tale “Jack and the Beanstalk”, Jack is a young lad living with his widowed mother. Their only means of income is a cow. When this cow stops giving milk Jack is sent to the market to sell it. On the way, he meets an old man who offers to give him "magic" beans in exchange for the cow. Jack takes the beans but when he arrives home with no money and no cow, his mother gets angry and throws the beans out the window, sending him to bed without supper.

As Jack sleeps, the beans grow into a gigantic beanstalk. The next day, Jack climbs it and arrives in a land high up in the sky. There he follows a road to the home of an ogre. He enters the house and asks the ogre's wife for food. She complies, but the ogre appears and senses that a human is nearby:

“Fee-fi-fo-fum,” chants the ogre, “I smell the blood of an Englishman. Be he alive, or be he dead I'll have his bones to grind my bread!”

Jack is hidden by the ogre's wife, overhears him counting his money, and bravely steals a bag of gold coins as he makes his escape down the beanstalk. Jack repeats his journey two more times, each time he is helped by the increasingly suspicious ogress and narrowly escapes with one of her husband’s treasures.

During Jack’s third venture, he wakes the ogre up from his afternoon nap and the chase is on. Jack is almost caught, but chops the beanstalk down before his pursuer reaches the ground, killing the ogre. Jack and his mother then live happily ever after with their new riches.

Jack and his mother were probably not people of faith. But his mother’s questions: “What do we need to do to get money?” and “Why doesn’t God answer my prayer?” are answered by Jesus anyway. In John 9:3, Jesus answers the question of why prayers may or may not be answered. In Luke 18, He reminds us ‘how’ the simple intricacies of prayer work and in Luke 11, He tells us ‘what’ we need to do so God might work on our behalf. If Jack and his mother were asking any questions of God, it was this third one. All three of these questions have been addressed elsewhere (see “Why do Bad things happen to Good People?”, “Miracle on Fox Street” and “We’ve Got to Pray Just to Make it Today!”). Here we will focus on the question which Jack and his mother were asking. “How do I steal from a giant?”

In short, the answer is persistence. We may conclude: “if I see the giant once, I don’t want to see him again. He freaks me out!” and persistence is the last thing on our minds. I am sure that when Jack first saw the enormous house in front of him, he wondered why he climbed the bean stock in the first place. But his need for food was so great that he was determined to press on, rather than make his way, slowly and sheepishly back to his angry mother.

But in Luke 11, Jesus tells the story of a man who goes to his friend at midnight and, like Jack, asks for bread. Here the stories change, but the lesson is the same. In Jesus’ story, the man continues to knock on the door which remains shut. The only response he hears is a voice saying “Go away!” In Jack’s situation, though I am sure he was shaking in his shoes, the words of the ogress are kind. In Luke 11, we don’t know what the persistent knocker said to those on the inside, But Jesus says: “though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, it is because of your shameless audacity that he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.” (Luke 11:8) In the same way, the only way that Jack got what he got was by pleading, persisting and stealing.

Therefore, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door (however big it is) will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cleaning the Crap from your Conscience – What I am adding for Lent

Two weeks ago, I awoke early in the morning, anxious over several problems which I had little to no control over. I tossed and turned, untucking the covers as I went, hoping to find a position comfortable enough to sleep in. I may have turned a light on to clean the cobwebs in my mind, or open my laptop to distract me from my concerns. However, after I turned the light off and closed my laptop, I realized that the answer to my problem was right under my nose.

Windows users like me know that tossing documents, music or entire programs in the recycle bin and emptying it is a good way to clean their computers of un-needed junk. But about a year ago, Dad introduced me to a great little program called CCleaner, otherwise known as Crap Cleaner. The cycle may last a little while, but after the program does its work, the crap on your computer should be gone. But how do you do that in your life?

While I lay there, still wide awake, I decided to forget about sleeping and instead start thinking about God. But because I couldn’t forget about my frustrations, I began to wonder, “God, what can you do with them?” I slowly started to label my anxieties that were keeping me awake and giving them to God. One after another:

1) Work



2) Roommate



3) Relationships I hoped to begin



4) Relationships I hoped to change



I labelled people, places, conversations and confessions by name until I felt the list was long enough for one night. Then, the words to an old Sunday school song “Cast your burdens unto Jesus for He cares for you,” which is also found in 1 Peter 5:7, floated into my mind. Instead of staying awake, dwelling on those issues, which were now neatly listed, I decided to do just that. Slowly, I opened my clenched fists and said “God, you may give these concerns back to me in the morning, but would you please take them right now so I can sleep.” I then closed my eyes and the rest is history.

The impact of that prayer was immediate and lasting. Not only was my night’s sleep better than any sleeping pill, with no dreams and no concerns, the next day was even better because the concerns I had listed did not come back. As the day, the week, and the month progressed, other concerns took their place and it soon became time to do it all over again.

At around this time of year, Christians wonder what they should ‘give’ up for lent? Instead of doing this, I want to ‘pick’ up something that might make my walk with God even better. By picking up a practice like this, I hope to learn that I am letting go of my worries and regularly emptying the recycle bin of my mind.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


On the morning of my seventh birthday, I crept up stairs and was delighted when I saw a bright yellow bike in the middle of the living room floor. For days afterwards, dad and I would take the bike over to the schoolyard next door, and he would run along beside me as I learned to ride my four wheeled bike. There was no chance I would fall, but I wanted him to share in my excitement.

Not all of my future rides were at the school, nor was dad always running along beside me. However, when it came time for him to take my training wheels off, there he was, back at the school, holding on to me and my bike as I tottered back and forth, working on gaining my balance. As I gained speed and confidence, dad would let go of my handle bars and all would be well until I had to slow down at the end of the gravel field, totter again and either crash or get caught by my dad’s waiting arms.

Years later at camp, I decided to learn archery and, like the other campers with me, try to hit the bulls-eye and be rewarded with a can of Coke. As I was learning, my councillor stood behind me, holding the bow and string along with me so that I would know the right technique. As we pulled the string back, I was concerned that I would elbow him in the face, but when we both let go of the arrow, I was amazed how fast that arrow flew. Though it never hit the bulls-eye, at least it hit the large Styrofoam target!

Nobody needed to remind me how to ride a bike because I loved it so much. However, after a year without shooting arrows, I went back to camp and needed to learn the basics of archery all over again.

As Jesus said in Mark 10 “No one is good—except God alone.” If we repeat this fact to ourselves enough, and see examples of his goodness, like bike riding, soon enough we will understand this to be true and not need anyone to remind us. However, if we look for something else to believe in rather than God, we will also find something else that is not Good. And if we only love God in the summer time, forgetting about Him when school starts up again, like my experience with archery, we will never become good at this art.

Is loving God an art you want to perfect? Or are you satisfied with bumping into Him annually at summer camp, at a Christmas and Easter service, or at weddings and funerals? Because if God is not what makes you Good, you are left with nothing.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Song 1-23-12

King David is famous for writing down his prayers. If he didn’t, we would not know how to pray. But did you know that fifty-six other authors wrote their own personal prayers which ended up in the Bible? Just as each psalm is different, each author provides a different slant to how they see and experience the work of God in their lives.

The following prayer is how I saw God work in my life this past week. And I learned again that writing down my prayers rather than just saying and then forgetting them is a practice well worth repeating.

Just as the psalms show us a plethora of emotions, none of our feelings make us unfit to approach God. Like keeping a diary, writing down your prayers is an act I encourage heartily. But if you can’t do that yet, start by reading Psalms and let them be your prayer. That’s what they are there for!

God, why is it that You raise my hopes,

Only to dash them against the rocks?

Why is it that You get me excited about life,

And then it slips through my fingers?

You made me this way.

You knew exactly what You were doing.

But like a child with a dog, You play ‘keep away’

You are playing this game with my heart,

with the things I desire most.

You say, “Here is your opportunity!”

only to change Your mind a millisecond later!

God, You are the reason why I live.

You were healing me before and after I left my mother’s womb

And I will never stop praising You because my gratitude to You is immense!

But why are You making things so hard?

You say “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle

Than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

But is it also easier for a camel to take this same passage

Than for a man who tries to do right to be satisfied?

I am making mistakes left, right and centre

and You do not notice.

If You do, You sit in Heaven and laugh.

You say, ”Oh, he fell. He messed up!”

Why is it that You do this?

God, I don’t know what to do!

I don’t know how to live!

Teach me how!

Lord Jesus, be magnified in the opportunities I miss.

May Your power be magnified in the balls I drop.

They are not mistakes I make

more than they are mistakes You make.

You created me and knew exactly what You were doing.

And You were pleased.

The mistakes I make, are You pleased with them?

Do You want me to continue in my fumbling ways?

They drive me nuts, but if they praise You than by all means!

I desire to praise You because that is true life.

You have made my hands frail

so that what I drop, You can catch.

Catch me! Catch the ones I care about!

And may You be honoured by my fumbling ways.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Daring God

Two times in the gospel of Matthew (Matt 3:17, 17:5) and twice in the Gospel of Mark (Mk 1:11, 9:7) we hear about God’s pleasure with His Son Jesus Christ. “It’s easy to love Jesus,” we might think, “he was perfect after all!” We may conclude: “God loved Jesus that much because He was with Him since the beginning of time, therefore they have a very strong relationship.” Or “God loves Jesus so much because God knew that Jesus was 100% obedient to his every beckon call. How could you not love a son like that?”

The next time you ask these questions, I challenge you to dare God. Ask Him something like this: “God, I’m harder to love. I dare you to love me like that. I’m not that Holy you know!” Talk to Him about the things that make you both lovable and loathable, a Superman and a sissy and listen to his response.

Next, take those verses and make a slight change to each one. Each of them says something like this: ”This is my son, whom I love very much. I couldn’t be happier with Him.” For this exercise, I encourage you to paraphrase the Bible slightly so it says something like this: “I am your son / daughter; whom you love very much, you couldn’t be happier with me.” Then put these words on repeat in your mind as you go through your day and see how you feel at the end.

I can hear you objecting: “I thought Christ’s purity and Godliness was what set Him apart from the rest of mankind. God could love Him because Jesus could hold His side of the bargain. But I can’t. So therefore, I can’t talk to God like that.”

And you’re right, he is the only one who can do this. But He is willing to hold up your side of the bargain as well.

The question is: do you want Him too? He will accept your dare!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why do Bad things happen to Good People?

Would somebody please tell me why bad things happen to good people? Over the past twenty-two years I have read the answer to this question many times. But it wasn’t until this morning when I realized how simple it really is. If you are willing to open your Bible, you will discover the answer.

John 9 is known for a miracle Jesus performed when He healed a man born blind. It proved again that He truly is God incarnate as “Nobody [had] ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind” before (John 9:32).

This passage is also an ideal example of faith formation. Though it is easier to believe that Jesus Christ is the formator, I believe the disciples are the formatees and the blind man is not Jesus’ focus. He is simply the object Christ uses to teach his disciples a lesson.

The place where Christ forms his disciples’ faith is in verses 1-5.

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”

John 9:1-5 (NLT)

When they saw the man on the roadside, the disciples quickly decided that they knew what the blind man’s problem was. It was either because of his sins or his parents’ sins that had caused him to be born this way. Many people who come for faith formation believe they know what the problem is. If they only help the formator diagnose it, the problem should be solved faster.

The disciples are like this. They are certain they know what the problem is and want it to be dealt with ASAP. However, instead of ridiculing the blind man or his parents for their sins, which is probably what the disciples thought Christ would do, He turns the tables on them and says, “Stop pointing fingers! Nobody did anything wrong! This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” (Verse 3)

So why do bad things happen to good people? Jesus didn’t give his disciples the answer they were expecting, concluding “they don’t happen to good people!” or “they always have and always will happen, so deal with it!” No, according to Jesus, these things happen “so the power of God can be seen in them.”

If there was a passage in the Bible worth memorizing, it would be this one. Because, if there is one question everybody asks at least once in their lives, it is this one.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Quiet! I Need Time!

Over the past months, I have wondered what it means to start and to keep a “quiet time.” I used to see people at camp or at the Christian university I attended describe lengthy and complicated ways to spending time with God. Though my desire was still there, this type of a quiet time was a turn off. Later, my dad told me that he didn’t have “quiet times” very often. Yet he is a Godly man. Maybe I don’t need to jump through this hoop after all. But I still wondered, “if I want to meet with God, and I do, and if God wants to meet with me, and He does, why is it so hard for me to do it?”

“Quiet time” does not have a definition except that, if you want to have one, you need to spend time in quiet. Having your quiet time at a rowdy football game might be difficult, because it is neither “quiet” nor do we have undisrupted “time” to spend with God.

However, as Gary Thomas asks in his book Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God, “was my friend’s method of walking by the bay any less holy than my method of praying through a list of family members, fellow Christians, foreign countries, and friends who didn’t know the Lord?”

I would say ‘no’ because doing any or all of these things requires ‘time’ and uninterrupted ‘quiet.’ Though I have thought for many months about what a true quiet time might look like, I am realizing that the answer to this question has such an easy answer – whatever works for you.