Thursday, December 4, 2008
Remember the assignment that some of you did on discovering if we have become overly dependant on the Internet and computers? This morning I discovered one of the things I have become dependant on the Internet for; my Bible. I have become so acustomed to reading my Bible online that I never take my Bible anywhere but to church. My problem this morning is that I cannot connect to that site and I am not at home where I could choose for a dozen different Bibles. It is strange the Internet will allow me to connect to any site but that one.
I am getting a small taste of the restrictions that many parts of the world live under, where what they watch and read is censored by their government or society. There are places in the world where it is illegal to own a Bible and possession of one can lead to imprisonment or death. I am certain that most of you would not even give your Bible a second thought. You have probably always had access to one. In fact, there are probably at least three Bibles in your home. Take a minute and count the number of Bibles that you know for certain your family possesses.
Most of us have read the missionary stories that tell tales of towns or villages that do not have one Bible to share among the believers. There are stories of how, when a Bible does manage to make it there, the pastor will tear the pages out and give one to each person to memorize and then circulate. They are desperate to memorize the Bible because they know it can be taken from them at any moment. Can you imagine living with such a fear? Can you imagine it being that important to you?
The fact is that the Word of God is the revelation he has chosen to give to us, to reveal his heart to us, that we would know him enough to make the right decision to trust him. It guides us, teaches us, corrects us. It gives us a moral center in our lives. It gives us an absolute that does not change. There is nothing that the Spirit will instruct us in that goes against the Word so it is our method of knowing if the voice we hear is the Spirit or the enemy. It also gives us a tool to know the true servants compared to those that would seed confusion. It is a great source of encouragement and wisdom. It is one of the most precious treasures that we have been given
We know according to the prophecies that a time is coming when we will have to hide away the Word of God like a precious treasure, that the enemy will try to wipe it from the face of the history of man. He may be able to threaten the physical form of the Bible but he will not be away to wipe it from our hearts. This is the importance of memorizing it now while we can. Perhaps it does not seem urgent to you now but how will you instruct your children when it becomes illegal to possess a Bible?
I am frustrated this morning and annoyed. Yet I will be able to go home and pick up one of my many Bibles. My lack of access is simply for a short period. My frustration will pass. But what about those who live in the darkest areas of our world? What will our frustration be like in the future?
Thursday, November 27, 2008
We refer to it as "preventative medicine". Insurance companies are getting good at this in order to save money. They come in and inspect your property to see if there are any dangers. They then give you a list of things like broken tiles, piled boxes, torn carpet that need to be fixed or they will cancel your insurance. It makes sense doesn't it? Why pay out money after the fact for something that can be prevented with a simple repair.
I once saw an episode of "Malcom In The Middle" where their dad had discovered he had forgotten to send in the cheque to the medical insurance. This meant they had no medical coverage. Suddenly everywhere he looked he saw potential hazards. Of course he spent the rest of the episode comically accident proofing his house.
There are many things in our lives that we should look at in order to prevent hardship and heartache in the future. Our reading this morning is another example of this in our relationship with Jesus.
Joshua had just won a great victory and was ready to move on. He had no idea that a hazard had shown up in the form of hidden sin. You may think "How could he know about something that was hidden?" Because he had access to our God who sees everything. Joshua's mistake came in not asking the Lord for direction. He made some assumptions and lost in a big way. This could have been prevented if only he had taken the time to ask. God would have told him and Joshua would have taken care of it. Instead they went into battle without the strength of the Lord and lives were lost. They put on a big effort to petition the Lord but it would have been an easy matter if they had asked first.
This lesson can be carried into every aspect of our life. It is always best to take care of the little details, put everything in order, don't be lazy about it, don't assume and you will save yourself a lot of work later. on.
A good example for my students is their school work. So many of them have milk sitting on the edge of the counter. They can take care of it by putting a little effort into completing the task to move it from the edge. It would be better to do that than to try to clean up the mess later. Afterall, who enjoys cleaning up a mess (or attending summer school). If there are things preventing victory in this area of your life ask God and he will reveal the problem to you.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Obviously this is an illusion because our God established the length of a day from the beginning of time. It was only on a couple of occassions this changed and it was for a very specific reason. I do not believe God is going to accomodate my busyness in this manner. What we do with the time God has allotted us is an important matter that should be considered carefully. Yet, I must do something more than just long for those quiet moments when we hear God's voice pulling at us, "Be still and know that I AM God." (The emphasis on the great I AM is mine.) We must do something to accomodate our need.
It is amazing how two items on my To Do can take my entire day. I tried to figure out why and really it s only today that I realize what does it. They are all those little time stealers, the things that are too small to include on a To Do list. They are things like the spilled soup that needs to be cleaned up, the unexpected phone call, the late bus. In time management they tell you to expect such things by building in empty spaces in our day. These empty spaces are meant to absorb these time thieves. The problem comes when we crowd our To Do's without considering the unexpected. We can't do anything about a late bus. With time buffers we will avoid frustrations but with a crowded To Do we will feel like we are about to have a heart attack.
At least I have a To Do list, I only need to remember to spread out my tasks over more days. I feel bad for those people who try to live without a list. I guess non-busy people would not need lists but others certainly need them. If you are feeling overwhelmed, lost, confused, stressed then I strongly recommend learning how to use a To Do. But on that To Do list book in those quiet moments so you will not crowd out the Father who longs for one of the things we consider most precious to us; time.
Friday, October 31, 2008
There are things that our bodies, hearts, and minds crave that require us to use a great deal of self discipline to deny ourselves. Sometimes it can be as simple as friendship. Not all friendship is good for us. We realize that certain people could lead us to our destruction, so even if we find ourselves attracted to them we deny our need for friendship in order to preserve our life. This takes maturity and sometimes bad experiences to learn.
There are other examples that are clearer for us, such as cheating or stealing to get what we want. There is a whole list of things that the Apostle Paul gives when he says that we were once like that but now we have been changed and we live with a different purpose. Understanding and remembering that purpose helps us to avoid being attracted back to what we once were. It is not awlays easy, especially if we have allowed ourselves to become spiritually weak. This happens when we neglect spiritual things such as Bible Study, like-minded friends, worhsip and prayer. Then we find the pull of these things becoming stronger and we spend more time thinking about them.
In today's reading we find a new nation in this circumstance. In Numbers 11 we find people thinking back to their days in Egypt, when they had more to eat than just Manna. Look carefully at their words:
The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, "If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost--also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!"
Due to their stomachs they lost sight of where they were going, could only consider the immediate moment, and started desiring what once they had. It is at this moment that the former things begin to look better than they were. Old times seem so much better than the reality of what they were. Things we experienced seem to become even better. Look at this: "... we ate in Egypt at no cost ..." Are they kidding? They ate those things at the cost of slavery. They ate those things at the cost of back breaking work as they laboured under the whip of their task master. This is how sin is with us as well.
Sin is always attractive. Even if we have learned not to through tantrums to get what we want, we still experience attraction to sin, especially when we are weak. We do not consider the cost of having what we crave. The reason we set aside the cost is because we do not consider that we will seriously possess it. We allow ourselves to think about it with no real hope of having it. It becomes a fantasy that we never hope to have. But that begins to shape us, the way we see things, how we act. Before long opportunities start presenting themselves. The full desire is there without thought to the cost.
The fact is, if we really want to go back to Egypt God will not stop us. If we really want to go back to slavery God will not stop us. If we really want to be possessed by sin again God will not prevent it. He has provided the way out. He is providing for us today. He completely loves us. However, just like the father of the prodical son, he will not stop us if we are determined. He has given us freedom of choice.
Beware! You can possess what you desire but what you desire can also possess you. Make the desire of your heart Jesus Christ every single day of your life and you will never find yourself desiring to go back to Egypt. Remember the cost.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
I spoke to you yesterday about decisions we make as leaders and followers. I told you that our God never forces us into anything but has given us the great Councellor, the Holy Spirit,to guide us through the choices we have. Yet, he leaves the decision for those choices in our hands with the understanding we will be held accountable for those decisions.
More and more, every day the world is souring toward Christianity. It is the powerful media and the elite of our world who want us to hear their opinions. There is nothing wrong with this because we have been having them listen to us for a long time. However, my fear is that you would take their opinion as truth, because that is how they present it. My fear is that you would fail to understand that you have a choice here; to listen or walk away; to listen and accept or to listen and question.
We have been trying to teach you to investigate not just the information but the source of everything presented to you. In investigating the source we are asking you to consider what interest they have in producing what they have and recognizing any bias they have. The Apostle Paul invited people to investigate, to ask questions, to seek the truth themselves. I want you to listen to this interview on a new movie that is out. I want you to tell me if the producer and director have based their movie on fact or opinion:
I want you to tell me how you react to this interview. Is it opinion or fact? How do you respond to it? Whatchoice do you hace with this?
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I do not even want to talk about where I am this morning. Let's just leave it alone while I try to get past it.
We live in an impossible situation; we may even call it Mission Impossible. Our God has told us that we are to remain separated from sin, pure and holy in his sight. Have you taken a look around lately? Talk about a mess and we find ourselves in the midst of it.
The vast majority of Christians have not kept themselves separate from the world because that was never the Father's intention. He did not tell us to go buy an island somewhere and set up our own little world. Jesus asked that we would not be taken out of the world because we had a mission to complete. How can we minsiter to a world when we are aloaf from the problems of this world? But herein lies the struggle. How do we live here without becoming like here?
Face it, most of us have allowed ourselves to be sucked into the entertainment of this world. We watch the movies and the television shows; we listen to the music and read the books. When it comes to how we allow ourselves to be entertained we do not find much difference in the Christian heart and the non-Christian. And do not tell me it has no effect on you because it does; it does on me too. Watching the very things God told us to avoid as entertainment dulls our spiritual senses and we do not care. I am telling you we stop noticing how many people we watch get murdered in an evening. We are horrified by scenes of rape but we still watch. We do not even take note the number of times we watch non-married couples having sex; that's just the norm. With these being normal we rarely pick up on the more subtle things like the message that there are occasions when it is okay to lie.
It is because our senses have become dull to these things that we do not even notice the infectious disease in the midst of the Church because the disease is on us. In a collection of books called The Circle Series the author rights an allegory of what sin should look like to a Christian. It is a disease that hides our true form as God intended it. The ones with the disease cannot see that they are diseased because it is their normal. In today's reading you can see how careful God was about infectious disease in the camp of the Israelites. It was the same attitude toward sin. Drastic steps were taken to prevent any spread of the disease. Can we even see it?
I am fearful for you young people because you have come into a messed up world and a messed up Church. How can you possibly understand what is holy and pure with so much disease around? We often tell you to be careful what you watch, listen to and read because this is an echoing message from generations before but it is only an echo. We tell you but we do not listen to it ourselves. Thankfully we still have Jesus, even though the world has tried to cover him with disease. They have tried to deny the Biblical Jesus because for them he is impossible. Parts of the Church are now denying the Biblical Jesus because of the same disease that is in the world. So now you have two things you must decide on; to believe that the Biblical Jesus is real and to accept him as both Lord and Saviour.
In my opening I said that we have an impossible mission. It is a half truth. It is impossible if we continue on our present course because it means that we are leaving Jesus behind. Without Jesus it is impossible for us to live in the world and not be invected by the disease. However, when Jesus is our heart song, when he is our reason for existence, then the impossible becomes the possible. We will again have eyes to see and ears to hear. The solution does not begin by turning off the TV; it begins by seeking Jesus which will then give us the courage to turn off the TV.
In a world where being entertained is our greatest goal I have to wonder if this is just falling on deaf ears or should I say "rocky soil"?
Sunday, October 26, 2008
It looks like I am not there again this morning. It is amazing what effect a 4 year old can have on a family and a school. I pray that most of you will be able to avoid this illness. It is not worth a day off.
So we are heading into the book of Numbers. Most of you probably cannot stand the thought of reading through this thing again. It appears to be dull as we read through the long lists of various things. However, like most things, it depends on your perspective.
As I read through this I think of family. Some of you may have mixed emotions when it comes to family and that would be most likely caused by your age of development. Some of you have excellent relations with your family members, including mom and dad. Some of you have strained relations, meaning that you have a number of arguments with your parents. These arguments are not that much out of the ordinary as you move from childhood to adulthood. Some adolescents and parents handle this change very well. Others hit some troubled waters. Yet, after the adjustment comes an appreciation for your family. Some of you may find it hard to believe but it is true. Right now you are learning independence, slowly. You want to have it quickly and your parents are making their adjustments slowly. Just keep in mind it is their responsibility to ease you into adulthood and there may be some hard lessons there for you to learn.
The family is a creation of God. He designed it and put it into place for a reason. It is a thing that we will be part of you for the rest of our lives. It is a place where people know us and love us. A place were mistakes and forgiveness happens every day. It is a place of protection and growth. It is like a cacoon that protects while children grow and transform into the next step. It is a place of challenges and formation. It is the one place in the world where we know we will be loved, no matter what kind of failure we become. It is a messy place because it doesn't always work as it should. Sometimes it breaks down. Sometimes it gets overwhelmed. Sometimes it needs help. But family never gives up on each other because God has knit the members together for the rest of their lives.
You will always need your mom and dad. The relationship will change. You will not always be so dependant on them but you will always need them. There will be times in your lives as a adults when you will only want to hear the comforting voice of your mom or the reassuring voice of your dad. The thing is that you will end up being like them. It can't be helped. When you spend so much time with someone for so long they rub off on you. You may not think so right now but in a number of years you will start hearing your parents in your own voice. Or you will catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and see your parents in your own reflection. We all start off determined that we will be different but we end up appreciating the likeness.
There was a pride in belonging to one of the twelve tribes. Each belonged to one nation yet each was so distinct from the other, with their own characteristics. You will take pride in your family name and you will want to know more of where the family came from and what some of your history is. It will give you a better understanding of who you are. It is good to know where you came from and how you got to where you are. That is what the Bible does for us.
As much as it is great belonging to our family here we belong to something even greater. The Father has brought us into his family as his adopted children. We get our identity from him and I hope our character as well. We should be able to see our brother Jesus in all our actions and hear him in our words. Jesus warned us that we should never be ashamed of him because if we are then he will be ashamed of us as well. There are some great consequences to being ashamed of our earthly family as well as our spiritual.
Take stock today what God has provided you with through your physical and spiritual family. Rejoice in it and celebrate. You will come to appreciate both. Have a great day.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
As we continue our journey through Leviticus we come upon chapter 22 which deals with respecting the things that are holy, belonging to Yahweh. Nothing imperfect can be in the presence of the Lord. We see this demonstrated time and again. Every priest and every tool used for worship could not be defiled and if they were then there was a method that had to be followed to purify them once more.
The lesson we should take from this is that Jesus Christ did an incredible thing when he redeemed us. Admit it, we tend toward the bad things, the wicked things, the vile things. It is our nature to put ourselves first and to do the things that bring us the most pleasure. We cannot be in the presence of the Holy One, Yahweh. It is only because of Jesus' sacrifice that we can be made pure. We ourselves are not holy. We are holy only because Yahweh has declared that over us. What was broken is now fixed. What was garbage has been renewed. We will be able to stand in the presence of the Holy One only because of what the Father has done to make it possible. We should never forget it.
Not forgetting brings us to the next chapter which deals with the many festivales Yahweh established for hispeople. Festivales are a time of celebration. Living in Montreal we should understand festivales. It seems like we have a festivale for every day of the summer. These festivales celebrate different aspects of our culture going from laughter to jazz. Some fesitivales celebrate various cultures, such as the Caribean Festivale.
Yahweh established feasts and festivales as a means of helping his children remember where they came from, who they were, who he is and where they were going. It is unfortunate that many of us look upon these things as religious. Festivales still have a great purpose in our relationship with Jesus. Christmas is a festivale; a time of remember the greatest gift we have ever been given. Easter is a festivale; remembering and celebrating the the salvation Jesus earned for us on the cross. This is how we pass on to our children an understanding of these two very important dates. There are many similar festivales that we should celebrate simply for the act of remembering.
We are a people who enjoy celebrating. We have parties and celebrations for birthdays, for engagements, for marriages, for the birth of babies, for wedding anniversaries, for death and so on. We do not consider these celebrations religious or rigid. We recognize them for what they are, an event to mark something of significance. So too should we consider the important celebrations of the significant things of Jesus in our lives. What is wrong with having a celebration to mark the day of our salvation? Why not celebrate the birth of the Church at Pentecost? There are an incredible number of things we could and should celebrate when it comes to the wonder and might of our incredible God.
Have a great day and remember to give God the glory for all the incredible things he is doing in your lives.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
So let us go on with our lesson. We’re looking at Leviticus 7-9. This is not a very easy part of the Bible. If you do not have much interest in the Bible than it can seem quite boring. Thankfully I have a lot of interest in the Bible. Yet the Bible is like anything else in life, if you do not have any interest in it then it will not have any influence in your life. For some of you the Bible is no different than any other book.
If the bible held any interest for you then you would find these readings fascinating. The law was given to God’s people to help them become his people. It was the giving of it that caused these people to become a nation. However if they had no interest in becoming a nation then these laws would have had no value for them.
Allow me to use our present situation as an example. Some of you have very little interest in school. My opinion does not matter very much to you. Your parent’s opinion does not matter very much to you. Many of you are influenced more by your friends then by your family. So when we have a day like yesterday when I am not around then you find it easy to do what you want instead of doing what is expected of you. This is because you do not see value in your schooling. Those of you who see value in your schooling had no problem with doing what was expected of you.
According to the reports I received about yesterday there was a lot of talking in the offices, and playing on the computers, talking, and other assorted problems. This was because I was not there. I am the authority at the school. So it comes down to your heart. If you’re here for your education then your heart tells you to do what is right. But if you are here because your parents say you have to be here than the rules do not matter to you.
But I am not God and god is not me. Where I do not see he sees. Where I am absent he is present. Thankfully where I am vengeful he is forgiving. If God matters to you than his instructions matter to you. If Jesus matters to you then how you live matters to you. If Jesus matters to you then you are more interested in obedience then control. This reading in the Bible is very important as it reveals the Father’s heart to us. It shows us how much he loved these people which also encourages us in that we would understand how much he loves us.
So my students you may think that you got away with yesterday but it does show me your heart. I hope, I pray, that you will allow the Father to touch your heart and reveal this to you. He really is supper. I pray that you will have a wonderful day. God bless.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Just because part of the ship is not functioning properly does not mean we cast it away. We need to pull the anchor onto the ship so that the entire ship can carry it along on the great adventure of life. Instead of being cast away students should be drawn in so that the class may carry them along. If we keep them at a distance through the process of learning they will cause difficulty on the fringe of the classroom. However, if we are able to draw them in and excite the rest of the class then everything will move forward. The real challenge is how to draw them in at the same time as exciting the rest of the class to race ahead. I believe there is value and worth in every student, it simply is not found in equal portions in each student. We love them for who they are and believe they can go beyond their own limitations.
This is an example of a 200 word, five minute opinion piece.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Yes, life is imperfect. It is never a matter of "if" something will go wrong but "when" it will go wrong. So what do we do when it does? The easiest answer is "go with the flow" and sometimes it is all we can do. Sometimes we just have to accept that our computer broke and now we have to "make do" with what we have. Sometimes we need to accept that we have to start at the beginning because we failed our test even though we put in all those hours of study. Yet, it is also healthy to consider a "cooling down" period as we adjust to the new reality.
I have the nature where I want to rush right into "getting on with it", trying not to give much thought to the situation. If I have to start over then I will do just that. Yet, where is the learning process in that? What is the sense in starting over if I am not going to learn anything in the process of it all. If my computer broke perhaps I should take time and consider how I used or abused it to avoid doing the same to any new computer in my future. Or what about the example of the failed test? Would it be wise to rush right into re-doing the work without considering where my mistakes were made?
I believe it is a prudent move to take the time to reflect on all these matters to save ourselves time, money and heartache in the future. Reflection is important in every area of our lives. We should try it more often.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
During my training years we were encouraged to consider "time management" books that taught how to squeeze the life out of every minute of my day. I resisted. I faught against such a notion. I saught after free moments when I could just sit and allow random thoughts run through my head. Yet, at the same time, I would walk past a store selling agendas and begin to drool.
My 4 year old daughter gave me some insight into how I am doing in this war. Here is the jist of the conversation:
Jenny: I am going to be smarter then you when I grow up.
Daddy: You are?
Jenny: Yes. I am going to spend time with my children. You don't do that. You don't do what you're suppose to do. When you have nothing to do you are suppose to spend time with us. When I grow up I am going to be smarter than you. I am going to spend time with my children.
Daddy: But Jenny, when do you ever see daddy have nothing to do?
Jenny: Never. You are always working. When I grow up I am going to be smarter than you.
I am losing the war.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
What a very interesting day. From sitting in a doctor's office in the morning, to teaching a noon hour class on bullying, to schasing down run away students at the end of school. There is never a dull moment in this place.
We have some issues with an elementary student having serious problems with his sight. Imagine how frightened his parents must be. But we can be thankful that they have an incredible relationship of trust with the Lord. We need to remember to pray for them and for healing.
We have some interesting issues of maturity in the Secondary. I am sure they will get it. They just need a bit of time. Shining laser lights in other students' eyes is more the behaviour of elementary but, I am sure they will make some changes in their thinking soon.
It will be an interesting assignment for them; to investigate the extreme consequences of bullying. I hope that it opens a few eyes before it is too late. I really can't stand bullies. I can understand ther insecurities but I do not like the fact that others have to pay the price for their short comings. Respect is not a hard thing to give.
It would appear the activity kits are working in the elementary. The students have started working very hard to earn the privilege to use the kits. Today Chad and Jonathan worked together to make a large ferris wheel. Way cool.
Monday, September 22, 2008
It was a fair day. I was disappointed with the behaviour of a few individuals that threatened the freedom of their classmates. However, in reflection, these students have had the parameters of their life expanded. They need time to learn, to adjust and to discover their new limits. They must learn quickly but that is what school is about.
I am rather pleased and surprised by the amount of work so many people have managed to complete. Could this signify the beginning of a great year for so many individual students?
One thing I learned today, is that no matter how much preparation you put into something you need to be able to execute the event. ERC was great to prepare over the weekend (hours of preparation) but my notes did not help me sitting on my desk at home.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Monday, September 8, 2008
This video is scary. First attempt this year. I had no idea that it was recording from one cam while using the mic of another. It is rather funny. I hope you do not lose the message in the midst of the laughter. Be kind, and listen. :-)
Sunday, September 7, 2008
So did the neighbourhood that he was rushing through.
How did I get here? It was the only thought that filled his mind, like a recurring questions caught in some sort of loop, his personal version of a nightmare. The question had nothing to do with this neighbourhood filled with its unique stone homes and the expensive cars parked neatly on the side of the street. It had nothing to do with this impersonal city. These things were merely a backdrop for the drama that was playing out in his life.
The sensation of running was buried under his thoughts somewhere; the warmth of the evening air rushing over his face and pushing his hair back, away from his eyes. It was a familiar sensation but too familiar to pierce his reality tonight. The yards flowed by like a river, only he was going against its current. It actually felt like he was fighting a current as each stride took such incredible grit and determination.
He was running. But where? Where could he hide?
Nothing registered with him because his mind was too occupied to hold onto the information; it was full, too full. There was too much of everything pressing in on him, weighing him down, threatening who he was. The mounting bills that could not be paid were a part of it.
Why do finances have such an effect on me?
But they were only a part of it. If only they were all of it. If only this problem could be everything.
We honestly tried, he thought to himself. We worked so hard to save a little bit here and there. All our plans, our dreams, our hopes; torn to shreds. They were nothing more than pieces of fabric flapping in the great winds of circumstances and bad luck. But what are finances at a time like this?
Without acknowledging where he was he slipped into the metro station. It was familiarity now that directed his actions.
In the fluid motion of routine he ran his pass through the machine and descended into his escape. It was if there was not a single, living soul in this city. He was alone.
As he moved into the belly of the station he welcomed the comfort of the familiar. He welcomed the anonymity of this place. He welcomed the thought of escape. He welcomed the thought of being buried alive under tons of dirt, stone and concrete.
It was only last month he and his wife were celebrating the incredible high of their triumph. Sophie was pregnant. Pregnant! He remembered the now distant sense of elation as if it were mocking him. What a high it was! After so many years, the thought of becoming a dad ... incredible! No wonder the phone bill was so high. A slight hint of a smile jabbed at the corners of his mouth. He honestly thought nothing could crush that joy.
He had been wrong, so very, very wrong.
As he descended onto the platform he did not get the chance to sit as the train came roaring in. The noise and blurring streak barely registered with him.
The doors opened.
He stepped inside.
Now he could go anywhere and no one would know. Now he could disappear and no one would find him.
He had escaped.
He collapsed into a seat in the corner, at the back of the car. He did not take note if he was alone or in a crowded car. He didn’t care. He had escaped. But from what?
Cancer? How could it be cancer? This was not supposed to happen. Not to them.
He leaned forward, elbows on knees, burying his face in his hands. Here, in this place of escape, he allowed the pressing despair, loneliness and helplessness to wash over him, consuming him. He could do this in no other place. His body began to heave with the uncontrolled emotion that rolled over him like great waves, pounding him again and again and again. He lost himself, allowing the waves to carry him along. The tears began.
He felt it before he heard it; a deep rumbling at first, rising up, uncontrolled. It burst from him with such violence; a cry of anguish torn from his soul, filling the car, then overflowing. He was on public display, him and his broken heart. He didn’t care. He couldn’t care.
What was he to do? His wife? The baby? The bills? His dreams? His hopes? His future? Was it all gone?
Panic threatened his sanity. He felt as if he would burn up right there in that metro car. His face was on fire. The pressure that pressed down on him felt as if the city itself was falling on him, crushing him, burying him. The panic increased.
He could not let this happen.
There was no escape for him. Nowhere.
He had to get out.
His surroundings suddenly thrust itself upon his pain shrouded reality. The realization of where he was cut off his sobbing like a knife cutting out his heart. He raised his head in one quick jerk that brought with it a searing pain that pierced his head as if he had just been shot.
The car held some twenty passengers. Every eye was on him. Their expressions ranged from fear, to hatred, to concern. Embarrassment now took over. The only thing going through his mind was, GET OUT!
Even as the thought entered his consciousness the train came to a screeching stop, throwing its doors open as if demanding this rude passenger to leave, no questions asked. He responded to the invitation, trying to hide his face from the relieved passengers. He darted out the doors like an animal suddenly released from its cage.
He had to get out. He had to escape this grave. He had to breathe. There was no comfort here; only more despair.
He ran for the escalator. Too many people. What were they doing out this late. He felt annoyed at them, angry. He wanted to shout at them. He changed course and aimed for the stairs, taking two at a time. That’s when the question hit him.
Where is God?
How could he be allowing this to happen? That’s what he believed wasn’t it; that God was in control of everything? Did he have to strike some kind of bargain with God to change this? Make some kind of sacrifice? Would that make a difference? Why hadn’t this God of love and compassion respond to his pleas?
Am I doing something wrong?
As he cleared the first set of stairs there was no lessening of the oppressive feeling that pushed upon him. The panic still threatened to tear him apart just as the air seemed to be torn from his chest as be laboured for breath. But the pain in his lungs barely registered as he attacked the second set of stairs with the same urgency as the first.
People stared. He didn’t care. In fact, he didn’t notice. He was lost again in his anguish.
God! The name left his mouth as an accusation.
Where are you now? Where are your promises? The questions came back empty as they bounced off the station’s walls.
You claim to be loving. Prove it! No words, just thoughts. He was daring God to become real.
Answer my please! Show your mercy! The screams ripped through his mind. Where was God?
He cleared the last set of stairs and pushed through the metro station door, escaping the stale air of despair, gasping for the fresh air of hope. All he found was thick, repressive air. He took two steps then bent over in pain.
What was hurting more, his lungs or his heart?
He gasped as his lungs sucked in the life enabling warm, moist summer evening air. He gasped as his heart desperately tried to suck in anything that would be life enabling, anything that would sustain it as the last of life seemed to seep away.
As he stood he suddenly seemed to turn to stone on the spot. His eyes were fixed straight ahead. His heart stopped beating. Tears began to well up in his eyes as he read over and over again what he had desperately needed someone, anyone to say to him. There, across the street, stretch out on a banner that was fixed to two great pillars of a large church was the one word he had been longing to hear.
Everything seemed to slow down. Everything became silent around him. Everything became hushed.
There, in the middle of the sidewalk, he closed his eyes and allowed that word to wash over him. There, in the middle of the sidewalk, he received from his God that one thing that no one else was willing to risk giving him. He took it, grasped it and made the decision never to let go of it. There, in the middle of the sidewalk he began to dare to believe there was hope.
And it made a difference.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Do you think maybe this is what Paul was referring to when he wrote to the Corinthians: "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." 2 Corinthians 4:17
The context of the verse is found here:
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Do you notice the sentence that says "So we fix our eyes". A good builder knows what his finished product will look like. He has a plan that he is working toward. He may be working in the basement today laying sewage pipes but he already knows what kind of palace he is building and what it is going to look like when it is finished. This is the attitude Paul is writing about.
Our lives are part of an unfinished work of Art. What we see now is not the finished product so we should not pay too much attention to it. Perhaps we are not very patient with ourselves; perhaps we want better of ourselves; perhap there are many things we are not happy with in ourself. Maybe we do not like our current situation or our job or whatever. Yet, even though these details are part of a finished work of art, they are only part; they are not the finished work.
A good builder already knows what his finished buidling is going to look like and he builds to that end. An artist already knows what that painting is going to look like and works to that end. The Holy Spirit already knows what we are going to look like and he is working to that end.Why should we fix our eyes, not on what is seen, but on what is unseen? Because what we see is an unfinished work of art. What we fix our eyes on is what we will be when it's all over. It is the reaon we fix our eyes on Jesus.
Be patient, Father is not finished with us yet.
Back to work ...
Monday, September 1, 2008
You are in this place to learn in the hope that in the process you will discover those things that seem to ignite the passion in you. This means that most people come through the front doors without a clue as to what ignites their passion. This means you are not alone. In fact, this means you are in the majority. Yet, this still does not respond to the question “What do you want from this year?” How about if we see if we can find a clue in the Word of God? In fact, let me give you some big hints:
“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” (Proverbs 16:2-4)
Let’s hold on to the phrase shall we, “whatever you do”. You do not need to know yet. You are here to discover that beautiful thing but not knowing it yet does not keep you back from success today. Let us be honest, you are not sure about a lot of things and that is okay. But at the same time hear what the words are saying; you can have success in whatever you do this year if you commit it to the LORD. Keep him first, always.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Not everything you do this year will involve there being only one path. There will be some things you face this year which will depend on your own heart as either direction will please the LORD. In this case it is to your own heart that you will need to prove yourself true. All God asks is that whatever you decide make it a decision that is based on giving him the glory. This year decide to live your life to his glory.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father though him.” (Colossians 3:17)
Whatever you decide about this year make sure that Jesus is the center of it. The best way to insure that this will be so is to maintain a thankful heart. Be thankful for everything in your day because everything has its purpose. Do not lose your laughter because you let go of being thankful. As soon as you allow bitterness and complaining to creep in ... POW ... there goes your joy. Keep Jesus the center by maintaining your thankful heart.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
I would say this is the more important of these passages for you to hide away in your heart. Allow the Spirit to bring it out and refresh your spirit as often as it is needed. You will have times when you will find your supervisor to be unfair. There will be days that you wish God would just open up the ground and swallow your parents whole. There will be days when your emotions will get the better of you. Yet, on these days, if you could only recall this verse and remember that you are not serving anyone but Jesus Christ, this may give you that balance that you need to keep the joy and thanksgiving right where they belong.
Make this year a “whatever I do” year and make it for the glory of God.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
The station is large, noisy and very busy. There is a track on either side of the platform. One in the direction of Cote-Vertu and the other toward Montmorency. Underneath them is another platform with tracks heading in the direction of Agrignon and Honre-Beaugrand. For such a busy place it is very clean. There must be a lot of cleaners on staff. For a place so far underground it is bright. Most people do not have time to notice. They are always in a hurry, even when they are not. I wonder in the station does it to them. Do they feel too exposed here, sensing an urge to scurry away before they are seen.
Too late. I grin.
It is a great place to watch, looking over the railing to the open platform below. Four sets of stairs rise up to where I am standing, leading the way to the surface; or descending to the platform below, depending on a person’s perspective. The trains go on, rushing in and out, unaware of the fly. The noise is incredible, exhilarating. So too is the silence that fills the station in the absence of the trains.
Just then another train pulls in from the Cote-Vertu direction. It is fascinating to watch as the people exit. The doors open and they seem to pour out onto the platform as water poured from a pitcher. It is hard to see the faces in the crowd, just a big blur of motion. But I want to see the faces. I want to see the various styles of fashion. I want to see creases of worry and the smiles of friends. I want to take note of the seriousness of the business suites and the haggard look of the mom. I want to share in the wonder of the children as they see it for the first time, and sense their thrill of adventure. I force myself to see them.
The whole thing reminds me of a heart. The tunnels are like the veins bringing in the city’s essence and the arteries taking them out again. The station acts as a chamber where the essence mingles, separates and gets circulated to the extremities. If one stands long enough to notice one can sense the rhythm of the place. In, mingle, separate and out. In, mingle, separate and out. Most of the essence is not even aware of the dance they are part of or of the greatness of its role in the life of the city. I can see it and it makes me want to dance along. It is a wonder to behold and greater still to realize it’s beauty.
I am amazed at the speed of it all. Within seconds of the train’s arrival people dissipate in every direction. The doors open, hundreds of faceless bodies pour out while others push in. Some of the bodies rush across the platform to another waiting train. Others disappear to the platform below. Still others head up, rushing past me as if they are drowning and need to get to the surface for air. Then the trains roar away with the essence of the city safely tucked away. Silence follows and it all starts over again.
As I watch I also see that this place is a great equalizer. It does not matter who you are, where you were born or what errand you are on, everyone is treated the same. Maybe that’s why some people don’t like it and do everything to avoid it. Business suites are mixed with mini-skirts, granny dresses, and polo shirts; lots and lots of polo shirts. It is summer. Tall, short, wide and thin. Black, white, yellow, green, turquoise (the hair). French, Spanish, Arabic, Cantonese, even some English.
What is amazing to me are the millions of people living on the surface totally oblivious to the activities below. Some have never even been curious enough to descend to these hidden places. Perhaps it is more fear than absence of curiosity. People can be funny about these things. It’s their loss. They are missing the dance. But then again, most of the participants miss it as well, not being aware, not seeing, not understanding.
I am startled from my deep thoughts and reflection of the dance. From a faraway place the station comes screaming back into my view. There seems to be a voice much nearer than the din of the passing crowd of essence. It has the same effect on me that a teacher’s voice has a on a student; sucking the student away from his daydream to the cruel reality of the classroom.
I realize the voice is being directed at me. At me!!
It belongs to a middle aged woman who stands three feet behind my right shoulder. I feel caught, embarrassed, exposed as I turn to her, trying to make out what she is saying. She is a foot shorter than me, with back wavy hair. Her face is not quite right. It looks a bit distorted, perhaps from confusion. Yes, from confusion. I see it in her eyes. My mind is slow to focus on her words. Ah, she is speaking French, with a very thick Spanish accent. No wonder. I adjust without realizing I am adjusting. The words become familiar.
She is looking for directions. Vendome? Not far from where I live. Not this platform. The one below. Orange line. Direction of Cote-Vertu. Second stop. You are welcome.
A heavy blanket of realization descends upon me as she hurries away; I was seen.
The spell is broken. I put away my pen and notepad with mixed regret and anticipation. I consider the direction I will take. To where do I want to be circulated? Which of the extremities may benefit from my purpose?
The fly crawls away and joins the essence.
I’m not very good at this.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
The faces are all different and all the same. They are different in character but the same in essence; sharing the same withdrawn, unrelated, dispassionate look. Why is that? is the question that pushes into my note-taking mind. Why is that? I ask myself in my heart, testing the question to see if there was any validity in asking it out loud. I do not speak it of course because I have no one to speak it to. I am alone, surrounded by a hundred people.
I look again.
The faces have not changed even with the unspoken question; why is that?
Okay, so now the question is just irritating. Yes, it is true that the look is worn like a mask and I am pretty sure it is to protect whatever is hidden beneath it. But honestly, I am not that clever to figure out the answer. Forget about everyone else; why do I wear it? Oh, well, maybe that one is easier to answer.
I am an observer. A watcher if you prefer. I wear the mask to look like every other nobody I travel with. My clothes are bland. My hair is bland. My walk is bland. I do not look when I am being looked at. I do not speak to be spoken to. I barely exist. I am unwatched so that I may watch. Why? Arg! Again with the interrupting questions.
I do not know why. I just do it. Maybe because I can. Maybe because I want to see if I am any different. Maybe so I can ask myself these annoying questions.
What I do is really no different than what everyone else does. Have you noticed how they all work so hard at not entering into anyone else’s existence? They press against people they do not acknowledge. Their nostrils fill with the perfume of that attractive lady they pretend does not exist. They hide away behind daily papers, or drown themselves in unheard music, or lose themselves in fanciful stories they read. My book remains safe, at my side, in my satchel, in case of an emergency. I pat it to make sure it is still there. The fact is that we all try to escape in the crowd, mainly out of fear. Fear of what? Intimacy perhaps. Who can tell?
We are good at the whole hiding thing.
I saw a lady yesterday, an oriental looking woman. She was dressed nicely, had an overtly round face that looked familiar to laughter. She sat facing my direction. She looked to be watching something intently so I followed her gaze to see what had caught her attention in this manner. She was watching two young ladies in conversation directly across from her. I saw nothing of any particular interest. I looked back to her. Her gaze was still intense. I looked back to the conversation. To the woman. To the girls. The girls moved. The woman continued looking straight ahead, intensity creasing her face. It was then I saw the wires leading from her ears, disappearing into her jacket pocket. Ahhh ... she was not part of our world. She was off into the world of her heart, her mind or her soul. She had escaped. Escape is an easy thing.
Not everyone chooses to escape. I am not the only watcher you know. It is true that I watch in order to write but others watch just because it is in them to do so. They are the ones who choose to stand, seemingly doing nothing. They have no book, no music, no daily journal. They may travel with a friend or alone. They are the ones who always seem to avert their eyes as you look up feeling you were being watched. You suspect but you are not certain. Sometimes you catch them as they lose themselves in trying to figure out who you are. This is done by examining the clothes you are wearing, the book you are reading, the friends you travel with. When caught they give you a sheepish grin and then get off at the next stop to wait for the next train. It’s embarrassing to be caught.
The good watchers rely on the window reflections. A person can look right at you and never realize you are watching them. I use this method quite often with great success. Allow me to demonstrate it to you in the context of my journey.
I look around the crowded car. A little boy sits next to his mom, distracted by his toy. Short dark hair, dark eyes, well dressed. He sneezes five times. Odd. His mother smiles at him.
Behind him sits a young woman; twenty, perhaps twenty-one. Her hair has been cut short in some new style I have not seen on anyone else. It does not suit her face but I don’t think she cares. Her hair has been dyed but not in a bold manner. She is a student, probably a new one in town. She travels with her male friends but is quiet. She looks to want to disappear into another world.
A man stands pressed up to one of the doors. His hair is short, well cut with just the right amount of gel. His suit fits him well. He is out of place. Did his car break down? He keeps looking at his watch. He looks my way. Quickly I look to the floor.
I have learned a lot about shoes.
There is a short lady directly in front of me. Well, that is unfair. Most people appear short to me. She is sharing the same pole but her back is turned to me. She is wearing a nice green dress with just a slight hint of sweet perfume. If I am not mistaken I believe I had seen a cross around her neck when she got on at the last stop. I look to the window to see if my memory was correct.
My heart stops for an eternity.
She is a watcher. She is watching me. She is watching me in the window reflection.
I am shocked. Devastated. Violated. I am being watched. This is not right. I am the watcher. The shock sends a shiver through my body.
In the surprise of this revelation I have forgotten the rules; I have forgotten to turn away. My eyes are locked with hers. I am embarrassed. I feel my face turning red. It’s on fire. I feel like I have broken some unwritten rule shared by a brotherhood of strangers.
Wait a second here; she’s still looking at me. She hasn’t turned away either. She has locked her eyes with mine. She’s broken the same rule. I feel like I need to report her to someone. For a fleeting moment I think that this fact will help me. It doesn’t. I am still feeling shocked and ... well ... awkward.
I realize then that she is looking at me with a sly smile on her face, as if we shared some deep and important secret. She knows me. At least she knows what I am. And I know the same about her. Who is she? What do I do now? Do I speak to her? Would that be breaking another unwritten rule of the brotherhood of strangers? Obviously it is a sisterhood as well. Am I brave enough to even acknowledge the existence of such a thing to this woman who does not seem so much a stranger as she does family? Odd.
Before I can even figure out all the questions, let alone the answers, the doors open. Our gaze is broken. She steps through. The doors close. The train moves. She does not look back.
What just happened here?
Is this loss? Is that what this feeling is? Why?
All I know for certain is that, well, I’ve been seen. Life will never be the same again.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
This is such a great city to live in.
That was the thought that went through my mind as I sat overlooking the little street below. There was nothing particular about the street that put that thought there. I think it was just a sense of belonging.
It was not a main street but a common side street like so many others that one can find throughout the city. It was narrow with cars parked on both sides, all facing the same direction, giving it a crowded feeling. The buildings that formed a solid wall on either side of the street were no more than two stories in height. Looking at it with these buildings as walls of stone it put me in mind of that time I canoed down a narrow gorge. Not necessarily the best of times.
I enjoyed my vantage point, overlooking the scene below from the second floor restaurant. There is something renewing in the observation of simple city life; a Coke cup on a basement window sill; the coming and going of delivery trucks; a pedestrian off to some appointment; people waiting for the bus; a cyclist stopping at the store for water; a mother pushing a stroller; a stray cat.
Out of all the buildings on that little street there was a grey one opposite me and down a bit that had caught my eye. It was grey because that is what colour the owner had chosen to paint the brick. I surmised it was an attempt to hide the true condition of the bricks beneath but some of them possessed a rebellious nature, losing their facing, exposing their true colour to the critical eye of the world. It looked not unlike wounds on a body, revealing the flow of the red blood within.
The building was not in great condition. The windows needed work. The stairs to the raised front door desperately needed replacing. The balconies above had a sagging look to them. Overall the building had a tired, warn-out feel to it, as if it had existed one decade longer than it should have. It was different from all the other buildings, having a third floor in the form of an attic apartment. Every other building on this street had only two floors. I noticed the attic to the condition of the slanted roof. The shingles were in awful condition and I wondered how much water seeped into the apartment during the rain. We were expecting rain later in the day. I wondered if the tenant beneath those shingles would appreciate the rain.
I do need to say that it was neither the bleeding walls nor the seeping tiles that had first brought the building to my attention; these observations only came with a second examination. Instead it was a simple object sitting on the basement apartment window sill that had caught my eye; a common Coca-Cola cup. Perhaps it was the contrasting colours that grabbed my attention; or perhaps the thought again of the tenant, looking out to see other people’s garbage sitting on his window sill. I wondered if he would appreciate that more than his neighbour, a few couple floors above, appreciated the rain?
The only reason I bring this up is because of what happened next as I sat sipping my coffee. In about the time I have taken to describe this building to you I became aware of an older lady who had come into my view at some point in time. I had not noticed when she entered the street. I realize now that I only became aware of her as I had become aware of the building. Had she always been there, unnoticed? As soon as she registered in my conscience I had this sense of liking her.
She wore a flower-patterned cloth hat that fit snug on her head, hiding her grey thinning hair. I could tell what it was hiding because of the wisps that had won their freedom from the confines of the masking hat. She wore a white jacket, like a lady’s waist jacket with a belt around her middle. Her dress was of the plain sort. To add some contrast to this she had placed a scarf around her neck to hang loosely in front of her. I knew it was for contrast because a scarf has no other purpose on a hot summer morning. Even now I enjoy the thought that the scarf was just for effect. I took a sip of my coffee.
As she continued her slow walk down the street I could see she had a pronounced limp. I wondered if she had an operation but refused to acknowledge it by refusing a cane. She seemed to me to have that kind of character. She had a satchel on her right side and an umbrella hooked on her left arm. I could not help myself from smiling as I noticed the white running shoes with the knee-high socks. This was a very determined lady, I thought to myself.
As I continued to watch she suddenly stopped her walk from unknown places to unknown destinations to consider a bag of garbage that had been tossed to the side of the walkway. It was not a large garbage bag but an ordinary Couche-Tard bag that had been used for garbage. It must have been overlooked by every other person who passed it by that morning; by everybody but this lady. While shaking her head with disapproval she picked up the bag with two fingers and in a single fluid motion stepped to my Coca-Cola cup.
Understand when I say my Coca-Cola cup I am not taking responsibility for it only that it was the cup I had noticed earlier. I guess in this sense this wonderful lady and I shared in its possession. She was not even aware that she shared any connection to a strange man who sat in a widow a floor above her watching while sipping his coffee.
Without missing a step she picked up the cup, walked to the edge of the curb, dumped its contents into the street drain and then set the cup and the bag back on the basement window sill for the next person to take care of it. I had this feeling from her actions that she believed she had done her part, now someone else could finish it. From my viewpoint she had cleverly taken something unseen and made it visible. Perhaps this was meant to provoke a reaction in someone else. I liked the simplicity of it. Having done her duty she was free to go on her way, which she did.
Now, it is the actions that followed that provoked me into believing that this lady was worthy of immortalizing with paper and pen. As she limped her way up the street, heading off into oblivion she suddenly stopped. The thought that quickly formed was that she had just spied another garbage bag out of place on her tidy street. But this thought was too fast in forming. She quickly turned around and stared hard at the garbage which was still sitting on the window sill. To no one in particular she shook her head as if she were scolding herself. She limped back to that cup and bag, picked them up and, with some effort, limped across to my side of the street, promptly throwing the unwanted items into the public garbage can. I might add a garbage can that was in plain sight of that little bag the entire morning. Then she was gone from my sight and so was the garbage.
Without even realizing it this dear lady had brought a smile to my day and perhaps to the tenant’s as well. I realized she shared many similarities to that grey building to which she had paid such a good service that morning. Yet she was of much firmer stock and bore her age far more gracefully than the poor building had been permitted. Where the building had been forced to give up this dear old lady was still going strong.
There is a lesson here to learn I believe. I have no doubt that this lady belonged to that street, cared for it and even bore the disgrace of its members with a mighty fortitude that had seen her still cleaning other people’s messes. It is as if she were trying to lend a bit of her grace to it without it every acknowledging that fact; like a relation that everyone is ashamed of but for whom everyone tries to cover with their own grace. Yes, that’s how it felt on that street, like family. So, even when she could have passed on the care of this family into younger hands she did not let go of the grace that was needed.
As I left my place of observation that day, feeling pleased for what I had seen, I was careful of one thing; to place my coffee cup in its proper place. Such grace leaves a lasting impression upon the soul.