Off to Chicago

I leave in the morning for Chicago to attend the Midwinter Conference that our denomination puts on for its pastors every year. This is the first time since seminary that I'm going for the entire actual Midwinter events (otherwise it had been mainly the camping association gatherings). It's also the first time I'm flying there. It's a great time of fellowship and worship (as well as good workshops and networking). I'm looking forward to it--I always come away refreshed. I'm looking forward to the people I'll see (even though I don't know entirely who all that will be).

It's weird being so close to family (well, within 7 hours of seeing everyone pretty much) but not being able to see them. And I'm not looking forward to time away from my family. But it's only for three nights.



I just got back inside from taking the boys for a quick walk before it gets dark and before it snows. Just out in the park behind the house. I forgot to take the camera with. Sorry. There was ice on the duck ponds. It didn't look very thick, but there was a good sized rock (like football sized) on top of it in one place. We went over to the playground (if you can call a slide and a swing a playground) so the boys could get some outdoor time--it's been a while. Anders made "sand castles." Nils did the slide all by himself. It's about 4ft. high, so I stood behind him as he went up the ladder. And his tendency is to just walk on the platform until the slide takes him down, so I kind of had to help make sure he sat before he got to the slide. But he pretty much did it by himself. He even enjoyed the going down part. They grow up quickly, don't they?


How's the Weather?

The most common question we get when people call us is: What's the weather like there?

Yes, we are north of the 49th parallel in the Great White North. But we're coastal, so the currents make a difference. We have had a bit of snow--it was at least 5 snowfalls in December and we've had a few more snowfalls this month. I haven't gotten the snow shovel out yet because the snow is fairly consistently gone within 24 hours. I haven't put the fleece liner into my winter coat. The coldest I've seen the car thermometer read is -3. Mind you it's Celsius, so that's like 26 Fahrenheit. The Celsius/Centigrade scale still doesn't register a whole lot in my mind (until I convert it into Fahrenheit), but I do like the fact that freezing is 0 and not a random number like 32. Anyways, most days hover around freezing. It's been as much from 4 to 8 degrees some days (40 to 48). We see people doing their daily jogging in shorts. I haven't wanted to one of those people who complains about how cold it gets, when this is very moderate compared to the Midwest (heck, it's almost tropical in comparison). But there are days I can't get warmed up (we rely on space heaters in our offices at church instead of turning the heat up during the week and I probably should dress warmer when I'm outside); but I think the coastal factor makes a difference in how the temperature feels.

That's enough of weather talk--but I wanted to give a picture of what it's like here, since that's what we get asked. Melted snow does freeze overnight, so there's ice on the roads in places, and sometimes there's a thin layer on it on ponds and other standing water. But we're still forced to ice skate indoors (as demonstrated by Anders in his third week in this round of skating lessons).


International Relations

I just have to share this quote that I heard on the news: "Canada is tied to the US like maple syrup to pancakes." It was in reference to an economic report, but it made me laugh. Canada as maple syrup is an easy word picture, but I guess I've never thought of America as a pancake before.


Annual Meeting

We just got home from our congregation's annual meeting. Now, I know that no one looks forward to church business meetings. I wasn't entirely. Just because it's been a year of struggles with getting ministries going--which I know not everyone is happy about (which is understandable--after all, they do pay me to do things; but there have also been a lot of positive things about ministry this past year--I know I can't just get bogged down in failures). So I admit I was a little apprehensive about giving my report . . . well, more so the questions afterwards. Of which there were none. So worries were unfounded, of course. The meeting was actually fairly good. Now, the budget's hurting, we didn't fill all the positions on the ballot and we don't have a very big membership base (so, you're wondering how it could be positive, at all, right?). But it was good because we were forced to be reminded of our mandate to grow. We're called to grow in our relationship with God, in our likeness of Him, and in numbers as we share God's love with others as an result of growing in our relationship with God, as we reach out to those around us who need love, care, basic needs. And if church business isn't about doing God's business--well, then Satan's doing far better than we give him credit for.


Brotherly Love

Beth got a loft bed for Anders recently (craigslist has helped her discover all sorts of new things we need--oops, was my tongue in my cheek as I said that?). Nils loves it as much as Anders--maybe more. He loves to go up and down the ladder (the down part took some work, but he eventually got so he at least understands the principles of what needs to happen). Then he walks around joyously on Anders' bed. And when Anders is in the right mood, he loves to play with Nils. It's really fun to see them playing together more and more--and enjoying each other's company.

This is Nate with Nils. Nate is from Wisconsin (I think we've mentioned him before). He's living in Washington working at the Covenant Bible Camp there. On April weekend he's marrying Johanna. She's from Saskatchewan. She's living in the Greater Vancouver area right now. Her dad's a pastor & her grandfather will be doing the wedding, but we're doing their premarital counselling. They were over after church last Sunday. The boys have fun with them (and they have a good time with the boys, too). But it's always a privilege to be a part of the union of two lives. We're still connected to many of the people I've counselled/officiated the weddings of.

Meanwhile, Anders and Nils are growing. Anders is onto the first real round of skating lessons. I get phone calls after lessons and hear how he jumped or didn't use a chair anytime. The growth is much more noticeable in Nils. He's trying more things and verbalizing a lot more. And he's just as pleased with himself as can be--can't you tell?


Happy Ephiphany

Well, Christmas is over (again, depending on how count the days). Last night was Twelfth Night (any big Shakespeare buffs out there?). Today we celebrate Epiphany. Well, maybe we don't do much celebrating of it, but Epiphany it is, nonetheless. Epiphany was actually celebrated in the early Christian church long before Christmas came into play. In some traditions, it is still the day of emphasis during this time of year. For some, it is when the presents are given.

Epiphany, meaning manifestation, marks the revelation of God in human form (especially in coming to the Gentiles as well as the Jews) through His Son, Jesus. Epiphany notes the visitation of the Magi (however many actually came--the Bible doesn't say, only that they brought gifts of gold, frankincense (an expensive incense, as the name implies) and myrrh (an arboreal perfume used in embalming), so the tradition came that three men brought three gifts). It was "pagan" astronomers from the East who had the epiphany that a King was born. Epiphany also commemorates Jesus' baptism by John the Baptism at which God the Father noted His pleasure in His Son and God the Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove (the Trinity, all present).

However you celebrate Epiphany, know that God has revealed to us the Light of the World, the Salvation for humankind. God is with us (Emmanuel). God has walked among us in human form, and shown us the way He intends for us to live (by loving Him and loving others).

Before our service began at church this morning, Beth noticed a couple familiar faces walking through the door to the sanctuary. It was Bob and Pam Hubbard from Chicago (Bob was one of my Old Testament professors in seminary and Pam spent a lot of time with the spouses of seminarians). They're spending 7 months while Bob is on sabbatical living in Vancouver where Bob will be doing research on the book of Joshua at Regent College. We were privileged to be able to have them over for lunch after church and enjoyed some time catching up with them (Anders had to show them his room and everything else he has). I guess they've been our first American visitors since we've been here (except for Nate--the fiance of a pastor's daughter who's living in New Westminster--he's from Wisconsin; but they're the first from our past--the honour of being first overnight guests is still up for grabs). It was good to just sit around the table and talk.

And that's the neat part of Epiphany--that God has come to invite us all into His family. No matter how far away we are from our biological family, we can be a part of a family where ever we're at. That's been a blessing to us this past year. (Sorry for another pictureless blog entry.)


Happy Caucusing, Iowa

Today is the day of the Iowa Caucuses (Beth actually got a semi-handwritten letter today from Pennsylvania forwarded from our old Iowa address asking her to vote for a particular candidate). And I mention it because it is quite national news when it comes about. For the couple of Canadians who read this and may not be familiar with it, click the title to go to the wikipedia link. Iowa is the first place in the country where candidates see if they've got a chance for the presidency. And honestly, I don't miss it.

I don't miss it because of the inundation of advertising that goes on for several months before the caucuses--and then for several more months before the election takes place. I don't miss the mudslinging that goes on. I don't miss the fakery that goes on. And I don't miss the millions of dollars that politicians put into campaigning to convince people that said candidate is going to help people, when those millions of dollars could go directly to helping the people who need it the most (when in reality, the millions of dollars comes from places that will most likely be "paid back" in some way through tax benefits or whatever).

With that said, I probably come off quite anti-American right now. I'm not. But I admit that I have a bad view of politics. I do think there is much reform that needs to be done--just as we need continual reformation in the church. And what politics needs most is prayer. After all, the Bible calls us to pray for all leaders (I Timothy 2:1-4). So may God's mighty hand be at work in raising up strong leadership to meet the needs of the American public (especially those who don't have a voice that can be heard).

Ninth Day of Christmas

Depending on which school of thought you're from, the 9th Day of Christmas began this morning or starts at sundown. Unless your loved one came home today with nine ladies dancing, you probably don't even remember that Christmas is still going on. We tend to move on as soon as the calendar turns to December 26. Trees are taken down, nativity scenes are put away--I even saw St. Valentine's Day junk in a store on Dec. 27. But Christmas last for twelve days, ending at Epiphany on January 6.

It's hard to know what to do--especially in a culture that shoves Christmas into Advent and skips into it right from Thanksgiving. I wrote an email to our local Christian radio station for taking Christmas music off the air as soon as the first day of Christmas was over. I wait all year for it and want to hear it when I can (though I admit that I've been lacking in turning on the CD player--maybe I'll go do that right now--I'll be right back. A little OC Supertones swinging "Joy to the World" off the Happy Christmas album. I also like Plankeye's version of "Away in a Manger." It'll be followed up with selections from the Jazz to the World album).

There are a slough of festivals during those 12 days of Christmas--including the Feast of Stephen, on which Good King Wenceslas went out and the somber Feast of the Innocents which remembers the children that King Herod killed in Bethlehem in trying to do off the new born King of the Jews. Now I know us Protestants don't even know about Feast Days, let alone observe them. But just knowing they exist may help us relish in the 12 days of Christmas a little better.

So don't rush on. There are a few days of Christmas left. Linger in them with me. Jesus is born--and He will return again. God has walked among us. He knows what we go through in this life we live. And He loves us more than we can imagine (and nothing we do can change that fact).

Side note: There was a legend running around a few years ago--maybe it still is--that The Twelve Days of Christmas song was written as a chatechetical memorization tool for Catholic children in a time they were put under wraps in England. I think this has been pretty much debunked--the song was written simply as a memorization game apparently. But the supposed meaning behind each of the days is worth thinking about to make some sense out of what gets to be a quite tedious song:
1 Partridge in a pear tree = The One true God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ
2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentatuch", the Law of Moses
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments of the Catholic faith
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments

11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed


In with the New

For New Year's Eve we were invited over to some friends' from church along with several others. We ate some Chinese food, played some games, ate more snacks and had a good time with each other. We left a little before 11pm--it was already more than 3 hours past the boys' bedtimes. Anders fought against leaving--which we knew he would--so we tried to distract him by looking at lights on houses on our way home. Nils was out when we got home, but Anders still wasn't ready to settle down. So we cuddled on the couch as he ate a granola bar (or granoola bar as he calls them) and had some milk. In the States you can turn on just about any station and watch the New Year being rung in at parties across the country. We couldn't find anything like that here. Our best bets were a local news show and a national political farce comedy show (where we spent most of our time--they counted down the last couple minutes). Anders was up to ring in the new year (though it meant as much to him as political boundaries do). The boys were up at 8am--which wasn't too bad, though they both need a lot more sleep. And we had a fairly quiet day at home together. None of the stations we get with antenna were broadcasting parades, bowl games or any of the traditional fare--instead a hockey game was on (though it was a couple of American teams). In one way, it was kind of anti-climactic not spending New Year's Day with family or friends, eating more food and watching football. In another way, it was kind of nice to have a relaxed, quiet day at home. There are probably New Year's Day traditions here (Polar Bear swims--apparently some are clothing optional--are fairly common, I guess, but I think we'll skip that tradition) to partake in (or new ones to be made), but I think we'll wait a year to look into it.