Picture Metaphors from Kings Fold

Most of these pictures I'll let speak for themselves.

The forest through the trees
The sign is a fitting reminder that prayer is a journey, not just an event.

Banff National Park

On Thursday we took an outing up into the mountains of Banff National Park on the BC border (we were only a couple kilometers from BC at one point). We spent time at Lake Louise and had supper in the city of Banff. It's really a most remarkable area (and only 10 hours from our house)--I hope to get back.

Lake Louise has the bluest water I've ever seen.

The family of bears we saw at the other end of the lake.

More scenes from around Lake Louise. When we got to the end of the lake, the temperature dropped a bit as the wind blew down off the glaciers.

Daddy's Artwork

The next morning (Wednesday), after the playground experience (see blog below), I woke up early to see the sunrise. Actually, I first watched the full moon setting behind the mountains (it had been out all night and you could see the snow on the mountains very clearly). I was told that the morning before, the sunrise had been a beautiful pink that highlighted the mountains in the same colour. This morning didn't have the same brilliance to it, but it was amazing, nonetheless. While watching it, I had the thought come to me, "My Daddy made this." It was a great sense of pride and delight. Again, this is not how I would normally think or express myself. But I felt that that experience along with my afternoon hike the day before (and others I would have over the week), was God's way of telling me that it was more important for me to learn to just be His child rather than trying to do His work. It's God's place to work; it's my place to live in His love. Right after being given that phrase, I was able to enter into the chapel (the little one in the pictures below where I had spiritual direction each day) and continue in communion with my Father by partaking of the bread and the cup.


The Playground

Last Tuesday of the retreat I took my afternoon free time after I was done with spiritual direction to take a walk. It was raining. The funny thing is that I had hoped for one day of rain to force me to go indoors (to one of the sacred spaces below) to spend time journaling, praying, reading, reflecting. But when the rain came, I didn't feel like being indoors--I felt called to explore the river. I've always felt at peace along the water. Someone else has felt the same way--they built stone chairs (I didn't sit in one, but I heard that at least one was quite comfortable).
Along the hike up river, someone had been stacking stones, making cairns. The funny thing is that on the airplane ride out, I had grabbed our local paper to read. The cover article was about a guy from a nearby town who had been stacking rocks at the beach last weekend. He talked about how it was an act that brought him to a peaceful place (it said he was a graduate of a local Bible college, so I think that his peace comes out of his faith). So I started doing that as I walked upstream. And it was relaxing, peaceful. I knew those markers wouldn't be there long, but I felt compelled to make them--not to leave my mark, but to let God and His creation leave its mark on me.

Walking upstream, I went along rocky plains. Occasionally I would have to hop across a small channel of the river to get to the next rocky pathway, or make a bridge with stones. Eventually I got to the end of where I could go on my side of the river--and the river was wide and deep enough that the other side was out of reach. I felt led to carry large stones and build a large cross. I'm still not sure why, but again it felt good--there was something about the effort in carrying those heavy boulders. After building an altar at the point of that "island" I hopped across a small arm of the river to the embankment which rose up, quite steeply out of the water.

I had seen up ahead in the river a large, stone wall that jutted out (its in the middle of the picture). I wanted to get there (there wasn't much of a view of the mountains that day, because it was a little cloudier, but I just wanted to explore). So I made my way up the bluff (which wasn't easy in the rain) and found at the top a small, brown ribbon of a pathway that cut through the verdant, moss-covered forest floor. I got to the rock wall--a narrow protrusion into the river.

And then it was time to hike back for supper. As I retraced my steps, at some point it came into my head that I had just played in God's playground. I sensed that God was delighted in the joy and peace I experienced while exploring the river and forest. (This was a very odd image for me to have in my head, so I knew that God was giving me something special. And this vision would connect with things God revealed to me in the days ahead--stay tune for future posts.) I came to the retreat hoping to receive a specific vision for doing ministry where I'm at. I wanted details and logistics for programs. God began to work in me, reminding me that it's about our relationship with God first. I know this. But it's harder to practise it. I had decided the day before that I am haunted by Brother Lawrence (who wrote the book Practicing the Presence of God). Since I came across that book over a decade ago, I have been desiring to go through life living in the knowledge that God is by my side at all times. But I haven't been able to get to that place. I think through this experience God was beginning to show me that I can experience Him more.

I just need to get beyond having all sorts of spiritual growth things (disciplines) in my head, to getting them to my heart. I often do them just to say that I do them. But I don't let myself get to the point where I'm anticipating meeting God through those times--and I stop doing them before I get to the point where my heart is open to things happening. But that is my goal now--to keep on with the spiritual disciplines we pracised during the week (and others I know), anticipating meeting God in those times and trying to stay focused on my relationship with God rather than trying to "do" ministry and just be about the programs. If I'm not growing deeper into my relationship with God, nothing else I do is going to be successful.

Sacred Spaces

There were many wonderful sacred spaces at King's Fold. Most of my preferred ones were out of doors. But there were several good places to go to if you needed a roof over your head or a reprieve from the wind. The lodge had a "tower" that was a two-level prayer loft above the main floor. I enjoyed time there. And of course, the library was a favoured place for me. There was also a greenhouse (at one time functioning as their produce supplier) which now consisted of several chairs in front of the windows which faced the mountains and river valley.

These are scenes from the inside of the main chapel where we had worship and communion together each night. The table the Bible is on is a huge stone slab, reminiscent of Narnia's Stone Table.

This was the little chapel (a 4-seater) at the end of the "Road to Emmaus" prayer walk. I met with my spiritual director there each day.

Scenes from King's Fold

I'm back from the retreat at King's Fold Retreat Center an hour and half west of Calgary. It was wonderful. It was a Revisioning Retreat that is part of the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Program that our denomination has been putting on through a grant they received from the Lilly Foundation. The entire retreat, including travel, was funded through that grant. I'll share more about the retreat in an upcoming post. But first, to share some scenes from the retreat center: This was the basic view outside my window. Rough, eh?
The Ghost River which cuts through the valley below

Plenty of quiet places to sit in God's presence

At the end of the Stations of the Cross prayer walk

If you ever have an opportunity to get a plane ticket to Calgary--do it. Go to King's Fold, whether for a personal retreat or one of the ones that they put on. You won't be disappointed.


A New Province for my Checklist

I'm off to Alberta in a few hours for a revisioning retreat that is part of our denomination's grant for Sustaining Pastoral Excellence. While I'm excited about it, I'm a little apprehensive about spending a whole week with just me, my Bible, a handful of other pastors and God. You never know what He'll say. I'm also hesitant to leave my family behind for a week. It won't be easy to be away--from my wife, obviously, but also from the boys--especially when they're in a stage with a lot of fun development going on. (And pray for them here while I'm gone--that Beth will have good support and help from our church family and friends.)

Talk to you when I'm back!

(Moonrise over the mountains before leaving the airport in Abbottsford, BC)



Beth and I were watching a show on CBC tonight that was quite like when Jay Leno does Street Walking. A guy who is quite prominent on television here--Rick Mercer--toured the US asking Americans questions about Canada. At one point he was in Des Moines, Iowa, facetiously asking people if Canadians should adopt a 24-hour day instead of a 20-hour day. He actually got former Governor and one time presidential hopeful (he was still in office when the show was taped) Tom Vilsack to say on tape, "Congratulations, Canada, on adopting a 24-hour day." (Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee also congratulated Canada on preserving the national igloo--a made-up seat of government.)

Now I can understand how some people would not know some of the things Rick Mercer was talking about (like understanding that Peter Mansbridge is an anchorman here, not an actual bridge), but he got people to protest a rhinoceros hunt in Saskatchewan. Professors at places like Harvard and Columbia would even go along with some of his statements.

In high school I was at a national FFA conference in Kansas City once and we were asked by a group of students from Oklahoma if we had running water and electricity. I guess it's just a good reminder that there's a larger world out there to be aware of. Now we don't all need to be world travelers, but let's never stop learning. At the risk of turning everything into a spiritual application, we sometimes do the same thing to the Bible. We read the stories while being ignorant of the culture, customs, geography and history of the time when it was written. Sometimes it turns out okay, but sometimes we get into trouble doing that as well. Ignorance may be bliss (I doubt that's true--though I know a few people who claimed to be exuberant), but God urges us to grown in wisdom (especially that which is found in Him).

"Congratulations, Canada, on 800 miles of paved roads!"

Lest I Neglect . . .

I know, I've been short on pictures of Nils lately. And my mother reminded me tonight when we called her (Happy Birthday FarMor!) that she needs to see him, too. He's been getting more and more into eating (mind you, nothing is momunental yet, but he's coming along). And he's obviously enjoying it at times, as well!

He's also quite a bit more vocal. "Go" is his favourite word (more like "go, go, go, go, go"). Not that he's actually talking yet. But sometimes it seems like he's using it in a context he understands. The wonders of development.

I was reading an article today that's an assignment for a retreat I'm going on next week. It was about taking a spiritual audit (much like we have financial audits and such). It said that one of the questions we should ask ourselves is if we're maintaining a sense of awe of God. It's easy to do if we really observe what's around us: the beauty of creation, the wonders of the universe, the miraculousness of the physiology of the human body, the joy of children. What kind of marvelous Creator could come up with all this stuff? God is good. All the time. And all the time, God is good.


Super Powers

Anders and I have had the weekend to ourselves. Beth went to a women's conference at the Camp of the Cascades with some other ladies from our church (and several hundred more from Washington state). I think we've had a rather good weekend together. He's actually behaved incredibly well.

Yesterday afternoon (he went into church with me in the morning) we went down the street to a kids carnival that the Salvation Army church was putting on. The highlight--after the big, bouncy Noah's Ark--was getting his face painted like Spiderman (I'm afraid I didn't have the camera with then, so the picture wasn't taken until we got home. By which time he'd had a bonk in the bouncy Ark and a couple other incidents which caused tears/rubbing of the face. So by the time the picture was taken, his face got a little smeared.

The carnival had a lot of little booths with things like the ring toss, hockey shot, fishing in a pool, golf shot, basketball shot, football pass, etc. Only at one of the fishing booths did he get a prize (a lollipop)--at the others he just got a sticker on his sheet. And judging from Anders and the other kids there, they didn't need a lot of prizes (like we often think needs to happen at kids' carnivals). They were happy just to play. And the best rewards can be the simplest (like just having fun with family).

After the carnival I had to stop at the bank and Anders talked me into stopping in the mall so he could just look at the toy isle in Zellers (we didn't buy any--just a book from the book store). It was kind of fun walking through the mall. People kept looking at Anders. And then he'd tell me, "Dad, that lady smiled at me" or "That guy winked at me because I'm Spiderman." And of course plenty of people interacted with him as Spiderman--"Hey, look, it's Spiderman." "How are you doing Spiderman?" Even, "Uh-oh, I'm scared!" And it made Anders' day--and I'm sure the day of many mall-goers as well.

The remarkable thing is not the people whose days were brightened by Anders, but the people who didn't even pay attention. I've noticed that carrying Nils places, too. Most people will swoon over him (well, he is the world's cutest baby, after all)--they'll at least smile after seeing him. But then people walk by without barely glancing. They just continue on, focused on what they're doing--often with a lack of smile on their face. And I feel for them. I'm sad that they just missed out on an opportunity to have their day brightened by the face of a 10-month or 3-year old. Sometimes the boys go with me to visit people in the care center down the road. Even if the people we're going to visit aren't in that day, the trip is always worth it. The faces of the residents in the hallways or the commons area light up when they see the boys.

I wish I had that sort of super power. As people redeemed by God's grace, our lives are supposed to be filled with God's joy. What I've got in my heart should be outpouring to those around me. Thank God for three-year old Spiderman-wannabes who remind me of that.


'Tis the Season

It's blackberry season in the lower peninsula! (I realize there may be people out there who only equate the name "blackberry" with an electronic device. If you are one of them, please do some research before reading further or you will be quite confused.)

Wednesday afternoon we all picked some from behind church. They grow wild on the hillside. I'm told there's a thornless variety of the plant. These apparently don't exist in our area. You do have to be quite careful or your clothes will get snagged and your arms will be full of scratches. (Oh, and on top of it there was another plant mixed in amongst some of the blackberry vines that stung and left a welt on your arm--the stinging lasts for the better part of a day.)

But if you're willing to brave the plants, the fruit of your labour (pun intended) is worth it. Beth made a delicious blackberry crumble that evening.

It reminds me a little of spiritual disciplines. I know all about them, but I'm really bad at it when it comes to the practice of things like praying, fasting, meditating, memorizing, etc. Discipline is the key word. I'm not always that disciplined at things. Being disciplined means going through some effort (like working to avoid the thorny vines). But I know that the fruit of my labour will be worth it as they aid me in my quest to know God more intimately.

1001 Steps

Last week we finally made it to a place at the west end of our peninsula that we'd seen on the map and had wanted to see for a while. The map simply names it 1001 steps. Of course, going down was quite easy. Going back up wasn't as bad as we expected (the steps down to the lower falls in Yellowstone were much worse). It would have been a little easier without a child on my shoulders. The sign touts the steps/stairs as going to the beach. When we got to the bottom we had to take a short trail through a hole in a chain-link fence across a railroad track and down a rocky embankment to get to the beach. Which, it was supper time and we weren't planning on staying there long anyway (we were going to grab some food and head to a different beach to try and fly kites--which it was too cold and a bit too windy to do, so we didn't, but we had fun picnicking and getting some mango-coconut gelatto and strawberry ice cream afterward).

Just up the road there's a spot on the map that's named 101 steps. I guess we'll save that for a less ambitious day.