Happy All Hallow's Eve

You may be surprised to learn that I'm not a big Halloween person--just not into the whole celebration of evil that often accompanies Halloween. Quick history lesson (abridged): When Christianity came to the Celtic lands, the druids were celebrating a festival called Samhain which they tried to ward off evil spirits and such. Christians for a long time had honored those who had been martyred (eventually persecution became so widespread that people could no longer celebrate individual days, so they did it all in one lump sum). Celtic Christians had a way of redeeming things in the culture around them, so they decided that Jesus had already defeated evil so they moved their day of honoring the dead (All Saint's Day--then called All Hallow's day) to the same time. The day before was All Hallow's Eve(ning)--which got shortened to Halloween. This Sunday at church we're observing All Saint's Day--but that will probably be an upcoming blog.
Of course, we still had to let the boys have their fun. Anders was Luke Skywalker (it's actually a different costume from his Obi Wan costumer from last year); Nils was Yoda (Beth knit a hat and feet). Some houses got really decked out. But a lot of houses didn't do much. But Halloween seems to be a pretty big deal in some ways. The stream of trick-or-treaters was fairly steady (I guess people like the town house scene, because it's fairly safe and you can do a lot in a short time). Most were teenagers, but unlike in Pomeroy, Iowa, they all wore costumes and were in groups with parents with them. We've also heard more fireworks than we did in all of July (except for the big, civic-sponsored events of course). Our British-born, next-door-neighbour tells us that it's because of Guy Fawkes night on November 5 (but that's about all I know with that). My favourite part of the holiday is roasting pumpkin seeds.
Here's some of the next door neighbour kids with the boys. Trick-or-treat?


Serpentine Fen, Dog Poop & Forgiveness

Yesterday afternoon (in the morning Beth and the boys went to a pumpkin patch--see her blog link on the right) we took advantage of more nice fall weather and went for a "nature walk" at Serpentine Fen. I'm not sure if it counts as a nature walk when it borders a major double-lane highway on one side and another major road on another--we couldn't escape the sound of cars, or airplanes flying overhead for that matter. But we were surrounded by the wetlands (fens) along the Serpentine River--and views of the mountains around us. We're at the tail end of migration--there had been a fair amount of ducks and geese stopping over a few weeks ago--but there were still a fair amount of birds around: ducks, geese (Canadian, of course), grebes, cormorants, eagles, herons and other waterfowl and song birds. We've actually seen more Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons (GBHs as we fondly call them) since we've been here than in our whole life before.

It was a 4km loop with 3 observation towers along the way. Anders was pretty careful to avoid stepping in dog excrement (irresponsible dog walkers is a whole other rant). But somewhere along the way his foot managed to find a pile of poop, I discovered as I was carrying him on my shoulders at the end of the walk. We tried to wipe it off on the grass--with little luck. Dog poop sticks with you, it seems--and it seems to smell worse the longer it's around.

Today was Friends Sunday at church (it's a more casual service with a meal afterward that people are supposed to invite friends to--personally, don't think we should change the way we worship for the sake of making church more "inviting." I think we should be inviting people to experience Jesus through our life (explore the faith through talks or a friendly Bible study) and let worship be a place where believers come to glorify God and visitors can experience true worship. But that's just my opinion, and I'm glad to work within the system as need be). Anyway, the point I'm working toward is that the Worship Committee asked Beth to share some of her life story today (no sermon--just a testimony on these Sundays). She talked about forgiveness: the incidents in her life that have required it, how hard it is to face still, the amazingness of God's example in forgiving us.

Not forgiving (and all sin, for that matter) is a little like dog poop on a shoe. You can ignore it and leave it there all you want, but it's just going to get worse. And no good comes of keeping it there. I'm always saddened when I hear people on the news (Christians, especially) who have gone through a tragedy in their lives, but refuse to offer forgiveness. Anger, bitterness and grudges (besides leading to the dark side) eat away at us. They do no good. We think that in not forgiving, we maintain strength and power--but instead, we've let unforgiveness take control of us. True strength comes in forgiving (plus, Jesus says God won't forgive us if we don't forgive others). So wash that poop off your shoe!


Family Life

Nils, testing out his new rain boots with Mamma.
Nils, going for a walk with Pappa (he's got some thing he pushes and walks behind--we're not pushing him to walk on his own too much yet)
A demonstration of "how big" Nils is (he only uses one hand--Beth is often holding him when she teaches him to do it).
Anders showing off a pretzel he made, and then proceeded to eat (he's got my curse of always closing his eyes during pictures--picture retakes will be the norm in school)
Nils has been eating a lot more real food. Though a lot ends up elsewhere (see the amount on his face--and the chunks in the hair, too; we're doing a lot more bath times)
Beth loves Timbits (the packaging is cute, and they taste delicious). The boys and I saved her a few that we picked up on an outing to the library and park.
Nils loves bath time. Anders--not so much (actually, it's just the picture-taking he dislikes)

The Stair Master

So, just a few days ago, I discovered Nils halfway up the stairs (he'd only ventured as far as one step before that). I let him go. He made it to the top. The gate at the bottom is now in place.


Anders' Lyrics

Beth has probably shared more of Anders' version of the songs he sings--I know I've shared a few along the way. He's getting better as he gets older. But there's been one song that he keeps insisting on singing with his own lyrics (not that I'm forcing him to change, but I usually sing the real lyrics and then he gets upset). The song is "Do Lord" (not from his regular worship CDs--I think it's on a CD of songs that go with Bible stories. Instead of "Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me" Anders sings "Up to the Lord." I'm not sure what the meaning of that is for him, but he likes to sing it. And maybe, with his child-like faith, Anders knows that everything is up to the Lord--we all depend on Him. So, I guess the next time you find yourself "way beyond the blue" remember that it's all "up to he Lord."

From the Brain to the Heart

I think I shared in one of my installments after the Revisioning Retreat at Kings' Fold that I have been haunted by Brother Lawrence--that I long to experience God's presence with me all the time. Spiritual disciplines/practices (fasting, meditation, centering prayer, solitude, lectio divina, silence, studying the Scriptures, etc.) are tools that have been used since the church began (most have their roots before then) in making space to encounter God. I know all of these; I've shared them and taught them to others. But truth be told, I'm terrible at doing them. It usually ends up that I do them just to do them. Another check off the checklist. But I don't make the space to encounter God through them. They have to move from my brain to my heart to my soul to my spirit. It's not about doing them for the sake of doing them, and it's not about doing them because they make God show up. No, in doing them, we say to God that we desire to meet Him in that time. We say that He's more important than the time that could have been used for other pursuits. And God may honor that--He often does. After all, He longs to be with us. He does have things to say to us.

So that's my quest right now. And I'm getting better. My tendency is to give up when I'm not successful. But again, the success comes in the discipline and practice of making space to encounter God. We may not meet Him intimately every time (though He's still there), but we're more likely to encounter Him in doing so than in not.

I've been having several discussions lately that this is what the church is called to do in worship more so than performing for Him or showing up in a building to sit and listen to someone talking about God (not that either is bad). But I have a feeling that this is what the church needs--what people are longing for, what God is longing for. We're not there yet. But my one small step will at least open me up to the practice of the presence of God. Anyone is welcome to join me in making space for God. It's a wonderful journey to be on.


The Skater

Last week Anders finished his "Boots to Blades" skating class. It wasn't so much lessons as just time to be on the ice and be on skates and see what it feels like. There was a lot of game-playing as well as coloring on the ice with markers (something I would have never thought of doing). Doesn't he look like quite the little hockey player (complete with Canucks jersey!). Yesterday he said when he grows up he wants to play hockey, soccer, football, baseball, basketball, rugby and lacrosse. Ambitious, to say the least.
He can do a little bit on his own, but right now he prefers having a chair. And with it . . . he'll take off! He was seldom with his class; more often than not he was skating as far and as fast as he could. The other instructors said that he was well ready for the next level (which we'll probably look into starting soon).
He also enjoys getting pushed around as fast as his Pappa can go. We've taken Nils out in the stroller, too. He's not too fond of the helmet he has to wear. It won't be long before both boys surpass me on the ice (hey, we never had ice rinks with instructors around--we had to wait until the water outside froze!).

Ahhh, Autumn

Our first Fall in BC, and we've learned that Fall means rain. Lots and lots of rainy days. But we were blessed during the last part of last week with several days of sun and beautiful weather in a row. The nearby playground was fuller on Friday that I saw it all sumer.

Yesterday afternoon we went for a Sunday afternoon exploring drive. We went to Bear Creek Park (about 72 blocks north of our house). It was a fabulous day--and we thoroughly enjoyed the park. There aren't a lot of trees with spectacular Fall foliage in BC (mostly because so many are conifers, but most of the deciduous trees just fade to yellow then brown), but every once in a while we'll come across a very striking red maple or some other tree.

In the midst of the garden in the park ( there was also an athletic field with a football game going on, a water park and a wonderful playground that Anders spent most of his time on), there was a little "Chapel in the Woods." It was just a metal frame--no windows, walls or roof. There were just two little benches in it. And of course no religious symbols (though I can't think of many religions who call their place of worship a "chapel"). It was a fun little place. And maybe it does its job better than a lot of churches. After all, it's just you and the Creator there. And His creation is the sermon, and sitting and taking delight in the beauty of His creation, marveling in His awesomeness, is the act of worship (the first picture shows the chapel--notice the pulpit is turned away from the chapel; the second picture is a view from sitting inside).


Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving's actually tomorrow, but I thought I'd share my sentiments now as tomorrow may be slightly busy (Anders' skating lessons in the morning & Thanksgiving dinner with friends in the afternoon). It's our first October Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving is the same day as Columbus Day). It does feel a bit early to us (it didn't help that summer is only two months here, so everything seems sooner than usual). It is kind of nice to have it early so it doesn't bump in to Advent (along with the busiest shopping day of the year).

St. Paul (the apostle, not the city), reminds us that thanksgiving isn't a special holiday--it's a way of life. We're called to be thankful to God all the time for everything He gives us and does for us. For the big things like life, salvation, hope of eternity, good friends and loving families; but also for the little things that we tend to take for granted like sunsets, cleansing rains, roasted Almonds, playing Star Wars with Anders, Nils' smile, a good book,
garden-fresh tomatoes (which I've missed sorely this year), the beauty of the mountains, cuddling with my wife, Nanaimo bars, ice cream, walks in the woods, gathering sea-shells with the boys, campfires, and so much more. And we thank God for you, our friends and family with whom we're still able to share our lives with through our blogs.

Take time to reflect on on that God has done for you and given you--and may you find yourselves blessed beyond measure. God is good--all the time. Give Him thanks--all the time, and in doing so may you discover the joy of finding a God you can trust as Lord of your life as all good things come through Him. Amen.



Last night I had my fist venture into the world of curling. It's been a long dream of mine to try it. I've watched it on TV. I've read up on the rules (so I could understand what was going on when I was watching it on TV). I've even seen the one curling movie that's out there. And curling runs in my genes (a bad pun on an inside joke about my father's first--and only--attempt at curling).
A retired pastor from our church had reserved an open rink and was teaching a few of us how to play the sport. It's much harder than it looks. It requires a good amount of finesse along with control and strength. Needless to say, my first attempt was far from spectacular. But it was fun. I think I'm going to be available to fill in on a league team as needed. Stay tuned . . .