Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A near miss

Yesterday was a close call for my wife and daughters.

R and the girls were on their way to Edmonton to visit R’s parents when the car started shaking violently. They made to the Deerfoot in Calgary when R decided they’d better pull over. So they got as far as the IKEA parking lot. Then R called AMA.

It turns out that the only thing holding the right front tire on were two small bolts. The service guy at the Honda dealership said that had they gone any farther down the highway the tire would have come off – while they were driving.

I was almost sick when he told me that. I can't imagine a worse fate for my two little girls than a terrible traffic accident.

Everyone's okay. But fixing the car will take a large chunk out of the savings we've built up since I paid off my student loans.

But there are worse ways for this story to end.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sermon: Pentecost 11 - Year A

“What do you do?” he asked.

“What do you mean?” I said, still bleary-eyed from the trip.

“For a living, what do you do?”

You have to realize that when you’re a pastor and someone asks you this question, you’re tempted to lie. My intern supervisor used to answer by saying “I’m in insurance.” I know other clergy who say, “I’m in sales.” Most pastors have an answer that deflects the conversation.

(For the record I almost always tell the truth. It’s not that I’m more virtuous than other clergy, I’m just not that great a liar and I’m afraid I’ll forget my cover story)

It’s not that we’re ashamed of what we do. We just know what’ll happen as soon as people find out we spend most of our time in a church. The reason why most clergy don’t like telling people what they do for a living, especially when on a plane or on vacation, is because the tenor of the conversation changes as soon people find out we have the word “reverend” in front of our names.

People often get quiet and nervous, afraid that we’ll whip out a bible and start preaching. Or they want to share their problems, or they ask hard questions about God and suffering (questions which we’re supposed to have answers for at the tip of our tongues), or they tell awful stories about how badly they’d been treated by church people and we end up apologizing for things we’ve never said and for things we’d never dream of doing.

I was tired. I had just arrived in Mexico and just wanted to rest. But the inevitable question that’s the centrepiece of western small talk reared its ugly snout.

“What do you do for a living?”

I wasn’t thinking. It wasn’t intentional. I wasn’t really sure what I saying but the words just spilled out,

I help people grow into the fullness of who God wants them to be.


“Wow. That’s a good answer,” I told myself, mentally patting myself on the back.

My conversation partner quickly glanced around the room searching for the nearest exit, his eyes seizing on the “G” word; a word banished from polite conversation. He looked at his worried wife. Then asked, “So, have you heard who won the Blue Jays’ game this afternoon?”

But that...(whole thing here)

Thursday, July 24, 2008


This is the sort of thing that makes the rest of us Christians look bad. This screams, “look, we’re cool, we’re in with the times, yo!”

I know what others say, “We need to effectively use the culture’s language to get our message across.”

Maybe. But we don’t have to look silly doing so.

Also, I don’t think non-believers will be taken in by this stuff. Billboard evangelism. Bumper sticker theology. Sound bite sermons. These do no make for an effective proclamation.

So what does?

I think these guys might give us a good place to start.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Time off. Don't use the "v" word around me.

Next week I’m taking the second stage of my yearly vacation. Unlike last month’s RestFest™, this break will be all about painting fences, trimming unsightly growth around the edges of the house, and installing a garage door. Household chores. Odd domestic jobs.

Oh, and I have a funeral (probably two).

Does that sound like a vacation to you?

Me neither.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sermon: Pentecost 10 - Year A

My wife is the gardener in our house. I actually hate gardening. I don’t enjoy getting my knees and elbows dirty digging around in the luxuriant soil of our backyard. My thumb has more black ink from a good book on it than green chlorophyll from picking beans.

The worst part is pulling weeds. My right hand blistered from yanking out dandelions and my back stiffened from too many hours with a shovel, digging out the unrestrained thistles that threatened to conquer our side yard.

But my wife LIVES for growing plants. We have a whole shelf devoted to gardening books. Books on proper prairie planting, when to plant, how to plant, what to plant. Which plants need lots of water and which need lots of sun. What plants should grow next to which others and which one can’t be in the same city block. Books on how to compost, what mulch is used for, how to maximize efficiency in garden use.

It’s a lot of work just thinking about it. But every October when our freezer is packed with vegetables and fruit from the backyard, I’m glad Rebekah has thought it through so thoroughly. And put me to work despite my griping about weeding.

I’m thinking that, for you gardeners, today’s gospel must make you want to tear up your Tilley Endurables in protest. After all, weeding is as vital to a fruitful harvest as 35 grams of fibre is to a healthy diet.

But the farmer in Jesus’ story tells his workers to leave the weeds alone in case wheat gets pulled out in an over-zealous plantain purge.

And I guessing that people shifted in their seats the first time they heard Jesus tell this story. He may be a fine preacher; he could hold a crowd with the best of them. But maybe it’s best if we keep him out of the garden.

But then again, they probably knew that Jesus was trying to get a reaction from them. But they probably still had a nagging question about this crazy story:

What is this parable REALLY about?

Maybe it’s a story about...(whole thing here)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I'm all ears

If anyone has some good sermon ideas, my binaural apparatus are open to all comers. After spending this week telling stories to small children, diminishing my creativity to the size of roach droppings, I have NO IDEA what I’m gonna say on Sunday.

I’ve looked here, here, and even here. And still, nothing.

This internet thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Light Blogging and Beethoven

Light blogging as of late. Work load. Lack of inspiration. Having fun doing other things. Here's Beethoven 7 by, whom I consider to be the best Beethoven interpreter on record. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Sermon: Pentecost 8 - Year A

Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.

This passage is some peoples’ favourite part of the bible. I don’t blame them. who couldn’t like this passage? Especially in our age of anxiety. Especially when Depression and mental illness is spreading plague-like around the Western world. Especially when there’ so much we need to be doing, grabbing dinner at the Drive-thru as we shuffle the kids between soccer practice and piano lessons. Especially when we’re working longer hours for less pay.

Especially when gas prices are blasting into space and we wonder how we’re going to fill our tanks each week to get to work. Especially when food prices creep towards the stratosphere and we’re starting to seriously think about buying a cow for the backyard. Especially when the roads become rivers and we flush water from our basements.

Especially when we hear that Iran is tiptoeing closer toward a nuclear weapon. Especially when a yet another Canadian soldier is killed in Afghanistan. Especially when the earth is overheating, pine beetles endanger our forests, and salmonella threatens us with death-by-tomato.

Especially when…(the whole thing here)

Friday, July 04, 2008

Vacation Reflections - Part Two: Traveling Alone. Sort of.

“You mean you’re NOT bringing your family? Not even your wife?”

Nope. In fact this trip was her idea.

“You’re going to Mexico by yourself!?”


“Aren’t you going to be lonely?”

Hi, my name is Kevin. Clearly we haven’t met before.


I wasn’t the only person traveling alone. I was surprised by how many people chose to voyage unencumbered.

N was tired and needed a break. Young, blonde, and alone, folks speculated as to why she chose to travel to a Mexican getaway without a partner – or a friend.

“Some people think I’m looking for a fling,” she said.

“Let me guess” (I’m not immune to speculation) “You just came out of a difficult relationship and needed to clear your head, get a new perspective, do some personal reflecting.”

“No, I’m not mending a broken heart,” she said. “I was tired. So I went to Air Canada Vacations, clicked on ‘Last Minute Deals’ and chose the cheapest package.”

What a great idea!

If she was looking for a fling, she wouldn’t have had to look far in finding a willing accomplice. A 53-year-old married Canadian man (traveling alone) brazenly offered to share her room with her. Young Mexican men followed her around the hotel. The waiters at the hotel Lobby Bar doted on her making it impossible for her to have a moment’s peace with the book she wanted to read while sipping her drink.

“Sex is the last thing on my mind,” she said. “I’m here to rest.”

I felt badly for her. Between the unwanted sexual attention and her food poisoning (she must be the only person in history who LOST weight while on an all-inclusive vacation), I worried that the week would be a write-off for her.

But no. She dealt with it. And got on with her week.

I ate a few meals with her and sat next to her on a side trip. But for me, chatting on the way home (Executive Class, no less.) was a highlight of my week. We talked almost the entire 5 hour plane ride.

What I experienced in her while we talked was a strong sense of life, of creativity, gentle joy, and deep reflection. That’s why I can say I see God in her and in her life. Whenever we create, whether it’s a painting, a book, a garden, a friendship, or a child, we partner with God’s creative impulse. And I saw that partnership in her.

I’ve said I before, but in my job, I get to have a front row seat when God starts to work. I was glad, this time, to be in the next seat over.

So, maybe I wasn't traveling alone after all.