By this age, Jesus had . . .

Yesterday we celebrated my birthday. We had a nice breakfast together. When I got home from church one of the ladies from church was at our house--she had offered to watch the boys so Beth and I could go for a walk. We perused the neighbourhood, enjoying the blooms and blossoms. It was the first time we had held hands while walking in quite a while. We borrowed our neighbour's picnic table and had a picnic out behind our house.

I've been realizing that at this point in Jesus' life, he had one year left to accomplish all He had to do while He was on earth. It does make one reflective of what you've accomplished in life thus far. But that's the trap we're lured into, isn't it? We try to judge the value of our life based on our accomplishments (Homer's trap was to compare himself to Thomas Edison). But our self-worth isn't based on doing. Even Jesus' life wasn't about what He accomplished (though, of course, His work and teachings were important), but it was all about His relationship with the Father. That's all we really have for assessing our place in life as well. Evaluate whether we're becoming more like Christ or not, if we're growing closer to God. Jesus always had more lepers to heal, more demons to cast out, more people to raise from the dead. There was plenty more He could have taught the disciples. And what crowd wouldn't want to hear more parables? Yes, we're called to do all we do to the glory of God (and therefore, to be about it in the most excellent manner), but we're not called to do everything we could possibly do. We are called to be all that we can be (pardon me, armed forces)--and all that we're to be is found in our relationship with God. That's where we find our individuality, while also discovering that we're uniquely created in God's image.


Differences, Part III

Canadian Post: Mail isn't delivered on Saturdays. I keep looking for something in our slot on Saturdays. And apparently there's no difference in price between post cards and letters. Not that we send a lot of post cards. But still.
Newspapers: Apparently some are free--not the daily ones, but we get a couple local ones that show up on our doorstep about three times a week.
Washrooms: right up to the border they're called restrooms on the American side, but washrooms on the Canadian side.


Vancouver or Bust

Since my regular day off was on Victoria Day, we took today as a comp holiday and celebrated the Queen by visiting some of her old dominion. It was really our first trip into Vancouver (sure, we'd flown into the airport before and we once took a wrong turn trying to find Ikea and crossed the bridge, but this was our first intentional trip really into Vancouver). Beth's oldest nephew was in town with a friend from college and had been staying at some hostels downtown (yes, we invited them to stay with us, but we're not as close to all the excitement of the city apparently). Their current hostel was in Jericho Park near UBC (University of British Columbia), so Anders found it amusing that cousin Josh was staying at Jericho (one of his favorite Veggie Tales videos and Bible stories of late is Joshua and the walls of Jericho falling down). On the car ride their we were crooned with several rounds of "Joshua put the battle of Jericho" (he substitutes "put" for "fought" in that verse).

We met up and drove over to Vanier Park which is home to the Maritime Museum, the Planetarium (the picture of the crab water fountain above is in front of the building) and the Vancouver Museum. We didn't go to any because they were too expensive for any of the people in our group at that point (except probably for Nils who would have been free). But we walked along the waterfront and continued on until we found ourselves at Granville Island (not really an island). The small island is home to a lot of little shops--artsy, touristy, unique--and the big Public Market. I'm sure it's nowhere near the size of Seattle's famed market, but it houses a variety of places selling fresh seafood, meats, cheeses, delectable produce and flowers. We also found a few eating options, which was what we needed at that time.

We enjoyed at least an hour sitting along the water, eating, listening to some pleasant live music, watching the seagulls and starlings try to pilfer food and mostly watching Anders (the second youngest Fisher cousin--just ahead of Nils) adore playing with Josh (the oldest cousin). Anders hasn't gotten to be around Josh too much, but he really enjoys being with him--which is fun to watch.

Of course, we were all well worn out by the end of the day, as you can see from this picture taken a few minutes into the car ride home.

(PS. One of the wonderful oddities of this area is reflected in the fact that driving between Surrey (the biggest and fastest grown suburb) and Vancouver we witnessed many John Deere tractors out in the fields along the way, along with the horse stables and other ruralnesses (I just coined that word) that have stuck amidst the urbanness.)


The Next Step

That's the view at the front of our car as of this afternoon. We finished the process of importing, registering and insuring our car. It was quite the process, which including a couple hours sitting through a provincial inspection. The insurance was the worst part. Six months of the required liability costs as much as a full year of full coverage (liability, comprehensive, collision) cost in rural Iowa. BC may be beautiful, but it is definitely not cheap.

Next step: switching our drivers' licenses.


Happy Victoria Day

Today is Victoria Day. Obviously, it's in honor of Queen Victoria (May 24 was her birthday)--and they also celebrate the reigning monarch. In theory. We didn't really hear of any celebrations (other than the Cloverdale Rodeo)--though I think they do more of the celebrating out on the island--you know, around Victoria--that would make sense, wouldn't it? The funny thing is that no one even calls it Victoria Day. It's usually referred to as Long Weekend. Or Two-Four weekend is also acceptable (since it falls on the Monday that fall closest to May 24; though it's also a double-entendre since two-four is the Canadian slang for a 24-pack of beer, which is what is typically consumed during the

On Saturday, we went to a youth hockey game tournament that one of our youth group kids was in--we had a great time with his family, and Anders really did well. He paid attention through two whole periods. Yesterday we stayed in because it rained almost all day (which apparently is common on Long Weekend) and went for supper at the home of a family from church. Today we just spent some time gardening and went to a park before supper (Anders is getting quite adventurous--he hung from the top of the jungle gym, about 6ft up--and dropped to the ground). That was it. It's actually been pretty nice not doing much--everyone is out of town or doing other things. The roads have been fairly empty.

So there you are. Happy Victoria Day. God save the Queen.


Thorns in Flesh, Humilty and How I View You

Tonight at a church council meeting we Paul's passage about having a thorn in his flesh, boasting in his weaknesses and letting God's strength show through our weaknesses was read. I had recently read something that involved Paul's passage in Philippians about how we are to consider others better than ourselves. Those two passages came together for me. I think on some level that God gives us our weaknesses and some of those thorns to keep us humble. I'm not sure what Paul's thorn was. In today's culture he would have had the options of plastic surgery, therapy or a number of other self-improvement options.

We need to cling to our thorns (if God doesn't take them away from us) and boast in our weaknesses. It is only when we are humble that we are able to consider others better than ourselves. I know I don't boast in my weaknesses--my tendency is to try to cover them up or highlight my strengths. And I know I can fall into the trap of viewing others superciliously. I forget that each person is created in the image of God. Without remembering that, I don't elevate others above myself. I don't give honor to the God in each of them (not in a New Age way, of course, but acknowledging the eternal value that God esteems each person with). Don't give up on me--God keeps working, jabbing me with another thorn here and there, reminding me of my weaknesses.


Family & Friends

Yesterday we were planning on doing a picnic at the beach for Mother's Day. It had been a wonderfully sunny and warm week, but when we got out of church it was still cloudy and cool. We stopped at a park before getting to the beach to eat because we were all very hungry and knew we'd have a better chance of finding a picnic table than we would at the beach (since there aren't any there). It was a nice park--we'll be back to explore it more sometime. It's right next to the beach, but it's very forested. Well, we didn't last through eating before we got too cold and skipped going elsewhere (we figured if we were cold from the breeze in the wooded park, it's going to be worse at the beach). A couple from church invited us over for supper that night--we had some great Greek food and a good time getting to know them better.
Today went down to Bellingham to run some errands, but mostly to get together with the Wells family. Dave was my pastor going through confirmation and high school and we enjoyed their family while they were in Iowa. Pastor Dave probably indirectly influenced me for going into ministry just through his presence and how he ministered to us. I hadn't seen them in years (except for seeing Pastor Dave at a Midwinter Conference while I was in seminary) and the family hadn't met Beth and the boys before. We met up for lunch and then found our way down to the harbor (Michelle was in school, but Laurel had just gotten home from college). It was great to catch up and hang out together; the boys warmed up to them very quickly (Anders was sitting on Sue's lap right away, showing her his new book). That's part of the beauty of being a part of true fellowship: you can get together with people after years and it feels like no time has passed. Being united in the Spirit can do that.

And thank you, Dave and Sue, for your quiet, prayerful influence in my life. You encouraged me through those formative years in many ways. (That's a reminder to all of us--myself included--to keep plugging away at mentoring and discipling the next generation.)


Happy Mother's Day

Okay, I'm a few hours early (but only 2 1/2 if you're in the Midwest), but we probably won't be around the house much tomorrow to post then. So Happy Mother's Day. I don't have any easy pictures of Mom to post, so instead I'll post some of the boys, because that's what Mom would prefer anyway.

We spent a bit of the day at a park where Beth had a church league double-header today. The park is about an hour east of us, near the mountains. It doesn't have any bathrooms or water (which no one is happy about--especially after driving an hour and being there for 3 more hours). But that's not the point.

Beth's the one who gets to play since she's home with the boys all the time. So, I watch the boys while she plays (except for Nils emergency feeding times when Beth's not in the field or up to bat). We usually play in the playground for a while and then Anders is usually up for watching some of the game (or hanging out with the other kids who are there). So that's Beth up to bat, Anders doing his favorite thing--climbing, Nils looking not-so-thrilled to be on the slide and Anders playing with his friend Keenan. So, there's the grandkids, Mom. We miss you and love you very much. Happy Mother's Day!


Object Lessons

Tonight at youth group we were in Genesis 4 (Cain & Abel). We've gone through why were created [to be in relationship with God and others] and how sin entered the world through disobedience to God and how it separated us from God. So tonight we looked at what sin does (in Genesis 4 God talks about how sin is trying to attack and destroy us, and how God tells us to subdue and rule over sin).

We did the lesson on the balcony outside the youth room (there's a public confession to anyone from EECC). Right as we finished the lesson, a few kids from the Air Cadets (I'm not entirely sure--it's kind of like ROTC for high school) who rent the church building a few nights each week came into the youth room and took some of our suckers/lollipops. We're right outside the room and see all this happening. I happen to say something in a deep menacing voice like "Hey, stop stealing our candy." And the kids run out of the room and then come back a little later and put it back.

One of the youth group kids says, "I can't believe they did that." So I say, "Really? After what we've been discussing it's hard to believe that someone would sin?" So we quick talked about how sin is evident in kids since birth and our tendency is to give into sin. That's why we need to control sin; it's not enough to just try and avoid it. We have to actively try and master it because it's trying to destroy us. God's timing was perfect. As it always is.


Two Months: The View from Here

The sun sets on today, which is our two month anniversary since crossing the border (that's the view from our upstairs balcony). Quick tangent: one of the things I love is that we're in the 2nd largest city (and fastest growing) in the province, but we can still see the stars at night on our balcony. And the sky is so clear (take that, Los Angeles).
Well, the last two months have been a whirlwind adventure as you probably are aware if you're reading this. Right now we're tying to figure out if we can all get back to Iowa for an early Christmas in August. I'm going to be back to perform a wedding (yay, Petey & Pepper) anyway, and we found out that Beth's Mom's 70th birthday party is going to be the weekend after, so we figured it would be the best time for us to go and try to see everyone (since we probably won't get to go right on actual Christmas anymore--it tends to be an important day in the church). It would be a great time to go and see everyone. But we're trying to figure out if our funds can cover it. Six months of unemployment ate up our savings fairly quickly (some of which we had been keeping around to use for a trip for our 10 year anniversary this summer, but that's not going to happen either--not that it could happen with two young ones). And of course all the moving costs, and the extra costs of living north of the border (plus we need to import our car this month and registration and insurance is crazy here). Canadians get monthly child tax credit cheques for children under 18 years old, which we were hoping to get in on, but we have to wait until we've been here 18 months. Ce la vie. Anyway, that's not said to go on some sob story here, but because that's where we're at right now. Just because God takes you some place after going through some challenges, doesn't mean He's going to bless you with twice as much (as He did with Job). And we're not expecting Him to - He's still been providing for us in every way.

And I'm still adjusting to pastoral ministry in some ways. It's a welcome adjustment. We're enjoying it - and love our church family.

And even though we don't notice it in our day-to-day lives, the boys are growing. Nils is sitting up--that's him pretty much supporting himself on my shoulders. Our little boy is old enough for shoulder rides! And Anders is, well, he's Anders. He's learning to be a big brother and to play with other kids and to become "a big boy (/big brother)" as he has proclaimed himself.

To our friends and family back in the States--it's been two months that we've missed you greatly. And if you're reading this in Canada, we've really been blessed getting to know you during the last two months. And we're excited about the months ahead. Don't forget, we've got a guest room - just a mile from the beach.


Hockey Life Lessons

Well, Vancouver is out of the play-offs (loosing in the second overtime last night). They had a good run into the second round. Even though we've only been here two months, we had Canucks fever (well, as much as we could in that short of a time). Luongo is an amazing goalie. There seemed to be a quiet lull over the area today. Canucks flags have been everywhere--cars, homes, schools. A few weeks ago when Anders and I walked down to the library for pajama story time we saw a couple cars with those inflatable killer whale pool toys all decked out Canucks-style.

A week ago after Bible study we got home late (well, late for the boys' bed time) and Anders still needed a little food & milk before bed. He and I watched part of the Canucks game. We learned that even hockey players get time-outs (well, we had to put it in his language) if they disobey (the rules). So Anders learned that even the rules that Mamma & Pappa impose on him get lived out in real life (at least on the ice)--and that's a good lesson to learn, right?

As Red Green would advise, "Keep your stick on the ice."

Differences, Part II

  • Bilingual everything. With French as a national language (even though hardly anyone west of Quebec speaks it), almost everything is printed with both languages. It's noticeable on food packaging--especially cereal and such where in the U.S. they'd put games or something else on it. Typically one side of the box is English and the other French.
  • Car registration & insurance. We're still trying to figure out this whole process. We have to get a provincial exam yet before we can do it (we just found that out today). Then we register at an insurance place. Everyone has to have mandatory provincial liability insurance. You register you vehicle through the same place. So there isn't much in the way of big insurance companies like you get in the US. It tends to be more small places that offer the extra insurance (comprehensive & collision). It's just a weird process to us. And licensing is a whole other matter that I'm not sure I'm clear enough on to be able to explain.
  • .ca - since our internet address shows up being from Canada, most of our websites end in .ca instead of .com (hotmail.ca, yahoo.ca, etc.). Not that there's really much difference. The news blurbs on the side tend to be more Canada-focused, but that's about all (oh, except for the option to view in French).
  • Looser censorship. A few more words slip by the TV censors than they do in the US. And it's not unusual to see an occasional bum (mostly men - like the in the locker room on the old Major League movie that was on the other night).
  • British spelling (with a little French thrown in): don't forget to add the extra "u" to words like colour, honour, Saviour, etc. And you use your cheque card for shopping.


We're West Coasters

This is a few days old, but it's worth sharing (maybe not, but I'm going to anyway). Last Saturday Beth had a friend over from Australia (he happened to be in Surrey doing some conferences). He got dropped off for lunch as after he got picked up from the ferry. Anyway, we didn't have a lot of meat in the house (beef and poultry especially are quite expensive here), but we happened to have some white fish and a salmon fillet and some salmon steaks. Now, neither of us are fish eaters. Really, not at all. But we thought we'd give it a try. So I fired up the grill and had my first attempt at grilling fish. And we actually didn't mind them too much. There's a big difference between ocean and lake/river fish (at least that's my theorem, which I've heard out there). It must be the salt-water instead of fresh-water (which, I think "fresh" should be used loosely in many cases). I'm sure the desperate could make some parallel with being the salt of the earth or "I will make you fishers of men." But I'm not going to do that. This news can stand on its own. Don't worry, we're not going to go out and buy any fish (unless you're coming to visit us and really want some Pacific seafood--which we'll do it, just for you), but we enjoyed it. Somewhat. So, we're West Coasters. Now to just try skim-boarding (we're sheltered on the bay, so there's not much surfboarding here).