Let the Games begin!

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I am a huge fan of the Olympics. I have no doubt that I am a bit of an idealist when it comes to the Games. I see them for all they are meant to represent and overlook the problems (judging scandals, doping scandals, insensitive comments from athletes and/or officials, etc.) that naturally arise as part of them.

At the heart of it, the Games represent the idea that for 16 days the world comes together to play. There is innocence and excellence in that idea. There is, I believe, a glimpse of Heaven in that idea.

For some athletes, a dream will be achieved. One that has been held dear, sweated over, concentrated upon through the haze of pain, and is finally within reach. For others, the dream will end in disaster. It happens every Games: there is some athlete who holds such expectation and promise, but something goes wrong and their hopes are dashed. For others still, a level of excellence will be achieved that they had not yet dreamt possible. There are alway surprises (of the good kind and the bad kind) at the Games.

And that is another thing I love about them: you just cannot predict what will happen next. There will be great, unpredictable stories being written in every moment of competition in London over the next 2+ weeks.

I cannot wait to see how these stories unfold. I pray for a safe and wonderful games. I pray that people will be inspired. I pray that the world has a blast playing together.

Let the Games begin!

Dark Knight of the soul…

Like so many movie fans, I have been waiting for The Dark Knight Rises for months and months. And like so many of us, I was shocked and horrified by the shootings at the midnight screening in Aurora, Colorado. I first caught wind of the incident from the posting of friends on Facebook, and then read of it on the Toronto Star App on my phone.

Suddenly a movie that had caused excitement and anticipation was now tinged with much darker emotions. My stomach clenched as I read details of what happened in that movie theatre. I wondered if I should go see the movie at all.

But then I thought about how many terrible things happen all the time in this world, and I realized that one of the worst things any of us can do in the face of tragedy is allow it to keep us from living. So today I went to the theatre alone (my Dad not being a fan of Nolan’s interpretation of Batman and my Mom being ambivalent towards action movies in general) to watch as the dark knight rose.

The movie isn’t perfect – criticisms are that it is too long, a little clunky in the telling of this final chapter of Nolan’s trilogy – but it was good. Good enough that I expect I will see it again. The theme of wearing a mask throbs at the centre of this film…every character wears a mask here, whether literal or emotional. The theme of fear – how we experience it and how we allow it to drive us – is also central.

The sad coincidence of how well these ideas fit into discussions of the Aurora, CO shootings was not lost on me as I watched the movie. The shootings were never far from my mind even as the movie drew me in. And I will readily admit that I was nervously aware of every single person who reentered the theatre after a bathroom break (at a running time of 2hrs40min, you can bet there were quite a few who took time for a bathroom break).

In the second installment of Nolan’s trilogy, Alfred explain’s the Joker’s unquenchable thirst for violence with these words “some men just want to watch the world burn.” I do not claim to understand such men – in fact, I hope to stand for all that is opposite to their worldview – but I do believe they exist. I do believe that the perpetrator of these shootings is such a one.

And my heart breaks for all who have lost a loved one, been injured, been terrified or been displaced by this tragedy. My heart breaks.

But despite all this, I stand on hope. I hope for a world that gets better, not worse. I hope for future generations to find a peace we have not yet achieved. I hope for a day when a night at the movies may just be a night at the movies. I hope for a world redeemed.

Jesus said, “Behold! I am making all things new!” and it is to this promise that my hope clings.

…and the livin’ is easy…

Today has been a truly great day. It started with a long (ridiculously hot but ultimately satisfying) walk with Koski. Then my Mom and I took off together to explore “the county” (Prince Edward County, south of Belleville). We visited my favorite store in Bloomfield where I bought earrings and a ring (a vacation tradition), we shared a great lunch, wandered through pretty shops and drove through gorgeous countryside. We got home right at dinner time and had another fabulous farmhouse meal with my Dad and brother (grilled eggplant and zucchini, fresh green salad with choose-your-own-toppings, grilled chicken breast and a nice rosé).

As if all that wasn’t reason enough to be giving thanks to the Giver of All Good Gifts, I received word this evening that all went well at the Presbytery of Brampton this evening as they processed the call to the Rev. Geoff Ross for Lead Minister at St. A’s. This has been a long (though ultimately Spirit-filled and therefore beautiful) process. And I have to admit I have felt like I had my mouth taped shut (or my fingers glued together) when it comes to discussing it on my blog. I have wanted to log about so many different aspects and moments of the process. But to respect confidentiality, I have said nothing. Now as we move into the real “home stretch” of the process (all that is left is for Geoff’s Presbytery to approve the call and St. A’s to induct him), I am finally feeling free to write about it.

I guess what I most want to express is my sense of excitement when I think about this next phase in the ministry to which God has called all of us at St. A’s. I feel like God is up to something big, and I feel blessed to be part of it. I cannot wait to work with Geoff and to see what God will do as we work together in team ministry.

On that long hot walk this morning I listened to Matt Chandler’s book “The Explicit Gospel.” I was listening to a portion of the book in which Chandler does an impressive job of describing God’s greatness and why God deserves our worship. Chandler writes that it all belongs to God, every good thing is a gift straight from the Father’s hands. He writes that we don’t really do a good enough job in thanking God for all the good things in our every day. He states that we are quick to exclaim about the tragedy of a bridge collapsing (and there is nothing wrong with being moved by a tragedy), but we should be walking around amazed and thankful for all the bridges that have not collapsed.

As I listened and kept one foot moving in front of the other, I was reminded about how much I need to give thanks. After a great day like this, I am feeling the need to simply say: thank you, God, thank you.

Roots…

Today I had the rare opportunity to sit in worship and listen to my Father preach. It struck me as I listened, that there was a time when I did that every Sunday. And it struck me how long ago those childhood times are.

Listening to my Dad preach is a return to my roots. It was in those childhood days of watching and listening to my Dad that I learned most of what I know about leading worship. My Dad likes to tell me I am a good preacher, but as I listened to him today, I knew that any ability I have as a preacher has its roots in listening to him.

We are each our own person when we preach, but we also share phrases and language and theology. And that is kind of a beautiful thing. I love the thought that I am myself, but I am also my father. I love the thought that his fingerprints can be seen in me.

I am blessed to have been given great roots. I grew up knowing that I was loved more than I could ever imagine by One who died for me. And that out of that love, God had granted my folks the ability to love others. And God granted me the same ability.

I am convinced that it is because of such strong roots that my life flourishes now. And today, I have been reminded of my roots and I am thankful for them.

Home…

Yesterday I drove out to what is affectionately known in our family as “the farmhouse,” to spend the majority of my vacation there. The Farmhouse is my parents’ summer place, and a place where our family gathers to spend time together for holidays.

As my brother and I drove out there, I was thinking about the idea of ‘home.’ I was thinking how I was leaving my home in Brampton to drive to a place that I consider home in Madoc. Then I thought of my parents’ house in Belleville and how that is also home. Maybe home is where ever I am surrounded by people that I love, by family. Maybe home isn’t so much a physical place or a certain address. Maybe home is more a state of being. I like that idea.

There is a lyric in a Larry Norman song that goes “this world is not my home, I’m just passin’ through…” The point Norman is making is that we were made for eternity, not for this finite world. His home, then, is Heaven – a place of eternal relationship with a loving God. I believe that Heaven is our real home. Our ultimate home.

But I also believe that Heaven is as much a state of being as any other home, rather than a destination or a specific address. Heaven begins here and now, as we seek to live in relationship with the Living God through Jesus.

Still, I am glad to be blessed with more than one home in this world, while I am passing through.

Vacation blog!

I’m on vacation. I am so glad to have a whole month of time off. Time to rest, relax, connect with friends and family. The first few days have been great.

I shared good food with good friends at lunch and at dinner on Sunday. Last night I went to the movies with a couple of girlfriends. We saw Snow White and the Huntsman. Good movie…not perfect, but good. Today, I spent the day with my three favorite children at the zoo in Peterborough. Watching them get excited by the small things in life (like a really good playground, a big slide, a small train, and a splash pad) reminded me that life is at its best when we live simply and joyfully.

I’ve been taking a bit of a break from blogging, recently. A number of people have asked why, and the reason is pretty simple. Ministry is a tough gig (a beautiful one, but very emotionally taxing). A coupe of times a year I hit a wall…I just can’t focus the way I’d like to, my energy level takes a nose dive, and I find myself going through the motions. Fortunately, this tends to happen just before I am about to take a break. And in the past couple of weeks, I’ve definitely been living in the ‘hit a wall’ zone.

When that happens, I’ve learned that the best thing I can do is continue to put one foot in front of the other and power-through until the break comes. In order to do that, I often take ‘unnecessary’ things off my plate – if it doesn’t HAVE to happen, it’s not going to happen. For the past couple of weeks, blogging fell into that category.

At the same time, I love my little blog. I love the discipline of writing regularly. I like the way it makes me reflect on what has happened in my day or week. I like the conversations I have with folks who take the time to read the blog. I like the chance to connect life events with my faith.

So I knew I would return to blogging after a bit of a break, and I decided that my next blog-project would be a travelogue or vacation-logue. Often vacation times pass too quickly, and there is little to remember them by. So this summer, I plan on taking the time to write about and reflect upon my vacation experiences as they are happening.

Today, I find I am simply thankful for time with friends. Life can get busy, but the last couple of days have been a great reminder to never be too busy for time with the precious people God has brought into my life.

Just to start things off right, here a few pics from our day at the zoo!

Nate coming off the “Big Slide” at the zoo. For a few moments there, I thought we might never see the rest of the zoo, with the way the boys were enamored with this slide!

 

Aly and Michelle on the see-saws. Aly was laughing the entire time!

 

Cam on the see-saw that he was sharing with Mommy and Aly. He was laughing at Aly’s laughter. 🙂

 

Nate at the splash pad. It took him no time at all to get full-on SOAKED. Cam danced around the edges for a long time before going in and getting wet.

 

Even Aly got in on the splash pad fun. I had this picture up on Twitter and FB from Instragram earlier and I was trying to not repeat photos on the blog – but this one was just too good to pass up. Love her smile!