Thursday, October 30, 2003

Janelle: She's Here!! 

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ. For he lovingly chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight. He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will - to the praise of the glory of his grace that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son. (Ephesians 1:3-6; NET)

Well, after a year of waiting, our little bundle of joy has finally arrived! We adopted Janelle ("God's grace/gift") from China and she promises to be both a blessing and a challenge to our family! Please pray for her as she has been through a lot and now has to adjust once more to a new home. We thank God for the privilege of being able to love her and care for her.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Rain, Pain and Angst Again 

I guess I could see it coming. Missing my wife (she's gone for two weeks). Raining almost every day. Heard some sad news in church. Sick these past few days (got pharyngitis: hurts like heck when I swallow or talk). Feelings of alienation with some people. A good friend's job is killing him (I know a bit about that!). Another friend is feeling depressed; he's wrestling with the loneliness and temptation that comes with being single, after having given up his girlfriend 17 years ago when God saved him from a life of drugs and gangs. Then it happened: I had a momentary angst attack.

when the rain comes it seems that everyone has gone away
when the night falls you wonder if you shouldn't find someplace
to run and hide / escape the pain
but hiding's such a lonely thing to do

I can't stop the rain
from falling down on you again
I can't stop the rain
but I will hold you 'til it goes away

Third Day, "when the rain comes"

If we lived in a world without tears
How would bruises find
The face to lie upon
How would scars find skin
To etch themselves into
How would broken find the bones

Lucinda Williams, "World Without Tears"

I swear I'm going to get very angry if someone gives me one of those trite, cutesy Christian words of "encouragement" like: When things are looking down, just look Up. Some of us are just a bit more melancholic than others; not everyone can be a "happy clappy" person all the time!

I think part of my problem is that most of my friends are single and younger than I am, which is fine, but it'd be nice to also have some friends who are in my stage of life whom I can relate to in our similiar context. However, it seems everyone is too damn busy!

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Sharing our Dysfunctional Lives Together 

My wife is one of the co-founders of the BC Stepparents Association. I rarely get to attend their monthly meeting, as I stay home with my sons. But this past week, I had the privilege of attending, and I was deeply moved by the meeting. People came and shared their triumphs and trials of trying to build a stepfamily on the rubble of a failed previous marriage. Some of the situations are very messy, involving hostile ex-spouses and lawyers. As each shared their story, punctuated with tears and laughter, others would offer their encouragement, support and advice. I wish our church meetings were more like this ...

Divorce is a terrible tragedy; it is a sin that has many repercussions, especially if children are involved. As the divorce rate continues to climb, even among Christians, I believe my wife's ministry will continue to be an important one. I definitely want to be more involved; it is an excellent opportunity to share the healing message of the Gospel with these broken people.

Friday, October 10, 2003

House Church Conference 

Wolfgang Simpson, author of Houses That Change the World will be in Vancouver Nov. 17-19 for a conference. Details are in the attached pamphlet.

If anyone is planning to attend, please let me know!

Monday, October 06, 2003

Launch Out! 

A brother whom I've been in conversation with, recently wrote this to me:

You yourself are willing to lead a more communal/evangelistic life, but you don't believe that others will. This is where your faith becomes challenged. I think you need to examine these thoughts:
  1. People who have not behaved like this before have no concept of it.
  2. It cannot be communicated by teaching but only by observation.
  3. Therefore someone needs to create it so that others can be invited into it: "I'll love you if you'll love me!"
  4. If it is already happening, and can be observed, It exists; it only remains to be multiplied.
  5. You need to decide to become an initiator of this. It is Ok to be someone who knows what is wrong but isn't sure how to fix it for a while, but in the end you need to start being an answer yourself. Ten years is too long...
  6. You can't wait for the perfect people to come along. you must start with anyone who will respond.
  7. At first some of these people will seem unsuitable and a waste of time, but as you get something going even with short term people the longer term and more suitable turn up, and there is something existing to join in with.
  8. Busyness is a choice. Don't believe other people when they give this excuse, and don't fall for it your self. This is meeting mentality; people can include others in their lives who will help get things done. Community can be a net gain for all.
  9. I think you should commit to making this happen; clear your diary and learn to be proactive; you're a priest as much as anyone. Even if you are going to have more excitement at home, actually you and Eileen will have a different sort of more ambiguous time. When working you have to do what the boss wants; child rearing can be done in overlap with others who you are relating to.

What I'm saying, is that instead of thinking of this as ending when we go, think of it as a leg up to a new era for you. I think you could be very good at this, and find a home spiritually in walking with God in the way that you have always wanted others to do for you!!!

For 10 years I've had a vision of church that my fellow believers didn't care about or couldn't understand. Two years ago, the Lord brought some people into my life who shared my vision. Problem was they were all geographically disperse. Then this summer, my friend asked me to lead a bible study, so I chose "church" as my topic. This study opened the eyes of many in the group and they were quite excited to experience a different way of "being church"! In the meantime, I began meeting informally with another brother and his friends for further discussions. Then a few weeks ago, someone stumbled upon my website and deduced that I was the author, and contacted me. So the Lord has answered my prayers in a wonderful way! I'm taking my brother's words of exhortation to heart as I contemplate and pray about the direction He is leading me.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Let Us Encourage One Another 

Thanks a lot Paul. This summer's bible study was very good timing as I and others have been discussing this subject this past year. However, you provided a lot of concrete biblical examples that supported our convictions about the state of the Church.

Just 2 years ago I was living in and struggling with sin and it was impossible to get support from the so-called church, because of its vast size and mostly because believers are scared or just don't want to get personal with other believers. This made it really hard for me to get built up and to be held accountable. But, because of God's amazing grace, He moved in a powerful way on Sept 28, 2001, and (i would call it miracle) pulled me out of the "miry clay", along with some of my family members.

As a result of this event, a few people got saved and many other believers got encouraged in their faith. As a result of this event, my life and several other's, got completely changed. The past 2 years, especially the first 6 months, we have experienced a great revival in my family, and others close to us. We also noticed, that these past 2 years, God has been revealing his Truths to us like never before. We basically experienced what you have been teaching, but in a small group of 3 or 4 of us, and never before have I been more encouraged and built up than in that little group. It was our Church. I just personally want to thank you for your great effort in teaching us. It has also encouraged us to spend more time in God's word.

One thing I learned, is that the more we met together in our group, the more we grew. I really agree with Hebrews 10:25: "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the day approaching.".

- Adam

Friday, October 03, 2003

Christ in Community: Treasures from the Deep 

This was the theme of our church's annual retreat on beautiful Anvil Island. For me personally, it was a much-needed tonic after a brutal week of on-call pager duty at work (read: sleep deprivation). I figured I would be so tired that I would spend most of the time just sleeping. Actually, I was so glad to be with other people that I was swinging off the rafters on Sat. night! One sister (Linda L.) said she'd never seen me so happy.

On Saturday night, we were all gathered in the chapel, talking about "community". John had asked us what were some of the obstacles to realizing a deeper sense of community at our church. I don't recall everything that was said, but I do remember a few of the conversations.

Lisa raised the issue of trust; obviously trust must be present in order for people to open up the recesses of their soul to another. Can't argue with that! However, two points come to mind: first, trust can only built as we spend time developing an open and honest relationship with one another. Secondly, a measure of risk will always be there; will we allow fear to leave the barriers between us and reduce our relationships to a mere polite superficiality? Are we willing to exercise "risky love"?

Since much of my theology is drawn from Star Trek, the Simpsons and Seinfeld ;-) the latter affords an excellent illustration of what I mean. In one episode, George tells Jerry he wants to say "I love you" to his new girlfriend, but Jerry cautions him: "Well that's a big move, Georgie boy .. are you confident in the I love you return?" "50/50," says George somewhat hesitatingly. "'Cause if you don't get that return, that's a pretty big mozza ball hanging out there!" says Jerry. And so it is with us, we're afraid to open up lest we "don't get that return." Hey, you can't blame people; I know what's like to have a big mozza "hanging out there" and it ain't no fun let me tell you!

On a similar note, Julee described her experience of sharing her struggles with another Christian, and having that person just lightly dismiss it with a simplistic "positive thinking" word of advice. I know exactly what she means. Most people, and that includes Christians, are uncomfortable with "negative" situations ("the bad" and "the ugly", to use John's well-chosen terms) and tend to skirt around them and brush off the concerns with some pious platitude. Ella Wheeler Wilcox once wrote: "Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep and you weep alone". On the other hand, Paul the apostle wrote, "If one member suffers, everyone suffers with it. If a member is honored, all rejoice with it." (1 Cor. 12:26; NET). Sadly, for many people, Wilcox's observation rings truer for them.

One other factor that my wife observed is that many people in our congregation have enough of a 'social circle' and don't want to open their lives to more people. Others are just passing through with their studies and don't want to invest the time/energy to commit to too many relationships. Not everyone is in search of new relationships like you are, she reminds me. (What she means is that unlike you, most people already have lots of friends.)

In the earlier part of the discussion, it was suggested that we are all little Jesus' to each other and to the world. Ben took issue with this sentiment, and one could clearly see the emotional turmoil as he spoke. Others shared or later confided that they too had problems with the phraseology. Though there was no heated debate in this particular instance, I think this points to another reason why people are afraid to open up to each other: the fear of conflict. We're afraid of getting hurt, so we clam up instead. For me, this incident reminds me that genuine community is not about warm fuzzy feelings and sentimental notions because when our lives intersect, the mix can be rather messy.

Authentic community cannot be manufactured nor disconnected from a wholistic and radical discipleship and dynamic Spirituality, and sound doctrine. With respect to this particular incident, I feel it may have been more helpful to avoid metaphorical language and stick to scriptural terminology. (Though I understand and generally agree with the intent behind the use of that phrase.) For example, we could have spent some time considering the difference between the two Pauline expressions "Christ in you" and "[we/us] in Christ" and the practical implications of these theologically loaded (and rich) phrases. I think a careful study would reveal a dynamic interplay between the individual and corporate as well as the ethical and eschatological dimensions that characterizes Pauline theology.

It seems to me that there are many barriers to overcome if we are to experience genuine community: busyness, fear, cliques, and others. We are reminded that community cannot be produced, but is a process, one that requires cost, commitment, and creativity. And that a community is only as strong and committed as each of the individuals that make up that community; hence the tension between the individual and the communal, as indicated by "Christ in you" and "[we/us] in Christ".

Lastly, sharing the Lord's Supper as a full and festive meal together would have underscored the communal dimensions of church life, as well as the Spirituality of ordinary and everyday life (cooking, eating and drinking and cleaning together). It would have made for an awesome grand finale to wrap up the retreat! Sadly, this blessed opportunity was lost.

And so the retreat ended, filled with many fond memories of happy times of worship, fellowship and fun together, but also a tinge of sadness - knowing that as we return to our separate lives, much of the talk (and practice) of community will be forgotten in the vortex of hectic activities and busy lives. If we are not careful, community can become another buzzword and fad that we spend a lot of time talking the talk without walking the walk.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Black Hole: From Bitterness to Blessing? 

I'm at an interesting crossroads in my life. Last fall, my wife had a vision of a new chapter (no, make that a new book) in our lives. Part of that vision would mean her taking an indefinite leave of absence from work. Shortly after the decision was made, my contract was not renewed, and I was unemployed for about half a year. Well, in due time, the good Lord provided a job for me. But it wasn't what I had expected ...

Read more ...

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