Birds and the Beach

After lunch today we headed over to Blackie Spit on the north side of the Peninsula. After seeing the ducks at our ponds lately, Anders had gotten interested in my bird book. So we took it with, along with a pair of binoculars to see what we could find. Mostly sea gulls, crows, ducks of various species, herons, and cormorants (they're sitting on the poles in the bay). It was a fairly warm day (the forecast was for being near 11 degrees; our car only read as much as 8, but with the sun out, it did feel quite warmer--we saw a number of people in shorts); the morning was foggy, but it lifted before lunch, then rolled back in as we drove to the bay--thankfully it lifted again, giving us a good view of the mountains north of Vancouver.

Then we headed to the south side of the peninsula to spend a little time at Crescent Beach. On the walk down to the beach, as I was running back to get Anders' boots, Beth and the boys were looking at a firetruck parked on the street. The firefighters walked by and let Anders sit inside the truck--he thought it was cool. Anders had fun looking for shells and sea glass. Nils had fun trying to get as far into the water as he could. Needless to say, the boys rode home pantsless and Anders had a coat pocket full of shells and rocks. That's a good day off in my book.


More Ducks

These are from Saturday when the boys and I went for a walk to see the ducks again.

Hockey Night in Canada

This afternoon we went with some friends to see the Surrey Eagles play hockey. It's our local team that plays in the arena where Anders has had skating lessons. It's the BCHL. We found out when Anders went to get some players' autographs after the game that most are grade 12 or just beyond. They looked really young. Which, they were.

There were two other families, all with kids close in age--so that was fun for them. We were the only ones from our group on time for the singing of O Canada and the 1st Period puck drop. Nils was actually pretty into the first part of the first period. He was standing on Beth's lap making all sorts of excited noises. They did fairly well, considering it was 2 1/2 hours, start to finish. The other hockey game they've been at was for one of the kids from youth group. So Anders was expecting to see him on the ice. But instead, Winger the Eagle helped make it fun. He thought it was pretty cool to give him a high five. And during the 1st intermission between periods, they had some young (like really young--not much older than Anders) kids doing a hockey game. During prayer time tonight Anders said that one of the things he was thankful for today was the "cute hockey kids."

But the Surrey Eagles lost. Blast those Pentincton Vees.


I Don't Know What the Groundhog Saw, but Spring is Here

I saw a robin today--confirmed (I think I've seen some earlier this week, but it was just quick glimpses). Buds are forming on some of the trees. I've got some bulbs poking up outside. I guess it's mid-February in the Lower Mainland (as our neck of the woods is called) and spring must come early.


St. Valentine's Day

Happy St. Valentine's Day. It's not a big deal here. We got some Greek take-out and are going to watch a romantic comedy after the boys are in bed. That's about it. We've tried not to let one day of the year dictate our love for each other. And I'll take a quick moment to say that my wife is wonderful and I love her more and more all the time.

Rather, it can become a good reminder (if I let myself be reminded) of what the Saints Valentine (apparently there were several by that name) stood for: following Christ (including taking up His cross), wholly loving God and sacrificially loving others. And as the saints of old also remind us, our self-worth comes from the fact that God loves us unconditionally (no matter how good we are, or how bad we are, God loves us to the fullest extent).


For the Birds

This morning I drove with Andy (the pastor at the other Covenant Church in Surrey down to Washington for our monthly area Covenant pastors' gathering. The fellowship is always uplifting and encouraging. On the way we passed some fields full of swans. The sun was out today (getting to be a rare occurrence again) and the temperature when I left church this afternoon was 10 degrees/50 F (the funny thing is, the picture on the front of the newspaper on our porch when I got home was of kids on a toboggan at Winterfest this past weekend). The boys and I went for a quick walk to the duck ponds behind our house before it got dark (I had walked past them this morning and saw ducks and even a heron). We saw a few different ducks and a pair of Canada geese. I believe I even heard a red wing blackbird. Nils was fascinated by the ducks (as you may be able to tell in the picture below). He could have just stood and watched them for hours--he wasn't even interested in the playground.
(if you don't want my attempt at some spiritual connection, stop here; otherwise, read on)

We're starting the second week of Lent. It's not an easy time to be in. We just finished Epiphany, focusing on the manifestation and revelation of Christ as the Light of the world. Signs of spring are close at hand (at least in our neck of the woods). Bulbs are beginning to poke up through the soil. And in the midst of it, we're on a journey toward Good Friday, focusing on the Passion of Christ along the way. It's not an easy time of year to be focusing on His 40 days of temptation in the wilderness, His suffering and our self-denial--especially when there's so much life going on around us. Maybe that's part of the temptation we face (or at least, I do): getting distracted too much and missing out on journeying with Christ, in spending more time in prayerful meditation, and in reflecting on God's great, unconditional love for each of us.


Born to Be a Mad Scientist

The post-bathtime hair. Move over Albert Einstein.

Nils decided he wanted his bathrobe off; however, he didn't know how to untie it. I guess it's the fraction of Scot in him, ever the kilt-wearer.


Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

We didn't really do much with Ash Wednesday growing up. I knew it was there, and I knew when we started Lent, but that's about the depth of my experience. Tonight I'm helping lead an Ash Wednesday service that I helped put together. I appreciate the rhythms and reminders of the church calendar. They maybe haven't sunk in fully yet where I'm living in those moments, but I'm getting there.

As we enter into Lent, many people resolve to give something up (often chocolate or caffeine). The purpose of giving something up (which stems from the ancient tradition of fasting during Lent) is to focus more time on Christ. I haven't really thought about giving anything up. Really I just need to use the time I do have more wisely and put a little more focus into spending time in God's presence and less time on things that don't matter.

Tonight I will be marking people's foreheads with ash in the sign of the cross. It is a reminder that we came from dust and to dust we will return. Only the things we do in our lives for the sake of eternity will last. It is an opportunity to ask ourselves if we're heavenly-focused or if we're materially focused. It is an invitation to enter into fasting, prayer (listening and responding to God in His presence) and solemn introspection during Lent. And so we enter into a journey with Jesus on the road to Jerusalem, to His final act of love on the hillside called The Skull.


Artistic Miracles

The proud artist actually posing for a picture (he likes to put his hands in the "pockets" of the smock).
Testing out the finger paints
Our pirate ship with a green mast sailing the high seas.

After skating lessons today we went to a shop and got Anders some finger paints (Beth had found a free easel recently). So, this afternoon, he and I played with the paints. We cooperated on a pirate ship. He was a little hesitant at first (he's usually up for getting messy, so I'm not sure why he balked), but then he got into it. He had fun seeing how the colours mix to form new ones (reinforced by his Mouse Paint book).

This evening after a battle in the bathtub, he was letting the water out and as it was down to a thin layer of water and bubbles told me, "Hmmm. It's a miracle. I'm walking on water." Creativity is not lacking (though when he's playing and tells us to guess who he is, 9 times out of 10 we're correct if we answer Luke Skywalker). Now to just get him off this Messiah complex. Unless he was pretending to be Peter. I guess I didn't clarify. I guess miracles are in the eye of the beholder in a lot of ways. A lot of people see them, or even experience them, but don't even know they happened. If you believe God has acted in your life, that's what's important--whether it's in the beauty of a sunset, an unexplainable healing or the draining of a bathtub.


Super Bowl

The National Anthem is being sung as I type this (it's odd having kickoff be at 3:30 while it's still light out). It actually has a touch of nostalgia right now--I think it's the first time we've heard The Star-Spangled Banner since we've been here. And I don't know who the singer is, but she's doing a nice job (not a show-off type).

I honestly didn't know that the Super Bowl was going on until I was in the Sea-Tac airport last Monday (of course, it's always this time of year, so I knew it was coming). I knew the Packers were in the final four of course. But it's still hockey season up here, so I haven't seen much NFL coverage--not that I go looking for much of it--especially when it is still hockey season :) You know me well enough to know that I'm not fanatical about sports--but I have my moments where I enjoy them (I'm more about playing than watching).

The Super Bowl was always more about community for us than the game. We'd often be at someone's house. We had a few people over for lunch after church, but they didn't stay all the way through. Nate and Johanna might stop by later after getting some wedding preparations done. We're hoping they do; we enjoy their company, but they might also bring bratwurst to grill out (we've got ulterior motives, I guess). But hey, the Super Bowl isn't just about the game, now is it?


And Back Again

I arrived in Bellingham, Washington, yesterday around 4:30pm. We only had a 20 minute delay at Seattle. I guess we made it out of Chicago just in time before they had a big snow storm.

The flight was late arriving on Monday when I left. It was an odd day. Towns 20 miles south of Bellingham had schools cancelled that day, but Bellingham didn't have any snow on the ground. So we got to SeaTac just fine. And there wasn't any snow on the ground at the airport, but towns around Seattle had school cancellations. When I got there, the board said the flight to Chicago was delayed 2 hours because of wind in Chicago. Thankfully, I ran into other Covenant pastors, so we had lunch together (it was nice to have others to hang out with). After 12:30, they said we'd be boarding around 1:15 with a 1:30 take off. It was probably around 1:30 when we got on the plane. Then we sat for another hour, waiting for clearance from air traffic control--and it started snowing some and had to wait to have the wings de-iced. But at 2:30 we finally took off and arrived in Chicago (with the bumpiest decent I've ever experienced--but I can imagine trying to land a plane in 20-30mph wind with gusts up to 50) around 8:30 local time. There was a line up for the shuttle to the airport. We finally got on the third one and arrived at the hotel around 10pm. Needless to say, we missed the 7pm worship with Gordon MacDonald. It was a long day.

The conference was great. When I say this, I'm not putting down other denominations at all--I just don't have experience with them--but I love the Covenant. They do a wonderful job of taking care of their people. On Wednesday night, during the worship service, one pastor gave testimony of having his ordination revoked a few years ago. After the death of his son, he got into gambling. Eventually others found out about it, people from the denomination confronted him and eventually he lost his ministerial standing. But the story doesn't end there. He was disciplined, cared for and prayed for along the way as he got the help he needed. And after a long struggle into recovery and healing, he was re-ordained. That night the North Park University Gospel Choir sang (they're always uplifting) and Pastor Griffin from Oakdale Covenant in Chicago preached on the story of the 12 spies sent into the promised land. 10 of them came back telling Moses that they needed to turn around because the promised land was inhabited by unbeatable giants. Caleb and Joshua told Moses that the land was indeed flowing with milk and honey and that God had promised it to them, so they should get ready to enter. Pastor Griffin preached about how we can't let the facts (there were giants in the land) stand in the way of the truths (God had promised the land to the Israelites) in our ministries and lives. It was what I needed to hear then.

The whole conference was what I needed. The workshops I attended gave me some good lessons. The worship was uplifting. And the people were encouraging. It's wonderful just to have time to talk and pray with others there. So, thank you for your prayers.

And it's good to be home.