Saturday, February 21, 2009

Be Careful Out There

Yesterday my eldest son and I were traveling home after conducting a two week technology course in Mistissini, Quebec. It is a 10 hour drive from Mistissini to Montreal through some very beautiful country. It is also unpredictable country at this time of year. It had taken us close to 12 hours to drive up. Due to some things going on at home we decided to head out at 2 pm instead of staying over to leave first thing in the morning. So we set out determined to be home by Midnight.

It wasn't long before we hit our first surprise; a waonderful mini blizzard. We ran into it on a two hour streatch of highway where there is not a single living soul. For an hour and an half I drove through some white knuckle situations while my son slept comfortably beside me. By the time we emerged it was getting dark and my son was waking up.

I am no fan of night time driving at the best of times, but here I was on a small unfamiliar roadway, 7 hours from home. I came across a couple of highway salt trucks and with some patience and help from the truck drivers was able to pass with no problem. We kept hitting snow from time to time and now the road was pretty well covered. It was really dark which gave me the opportunity to teach my son the technique of using the high beams in a polite manner. I should mention that it did take my son's suggestion to figure out how to turn the high beams on in our rented vehicle..

It was now about 7:30 pm, it was very dark, the snow was blowing and, if not for the map skills of my son, we would have been very lost. It was at this point that we came across another salt truck. I should mention, for those who are not familiar, these salt trucks are actually huge snow plows. There was no way I was getting around him and we were on a very twisty part of the highway. That's okay, I assured my son, there is no sense killing ourselves to get around the truck. I patiently drove 30 km/h waiting for my opportunity. It was in this situation that it happened.

In my rearview mirror I caught sight of an approaching vehicle. It was hard not to notice considering he had his high beams on. I pointed out to my son the effect on us and cautioned him never to do this to othr drivers. Soon buddy was on my tail and he had not flicked off his high beams. It ws obvious this driver was not as patient as me. After about five minutes the road straightened up and I took the opportunity. Signalling I pulled out but buddy behind me had pulled out half a second before me. I was already committed and did not back down so he backed off. "The nerve of this guy not waiting for his turn", I said to my son.

I quickly passed the plow and hurried down the highway with buddy still on my tail with his highbeams still blazing in the rearview mirror. I decide to lose the turkey and sped off at 120 km/h. I figured it would not take much to lose him, afterall, I was in a rented Trailblazer. If there had been a passing opportunity I would have let him go by but we were back into the twists and turns as we drove through the mountains. After a while the guy fell off for a bit and even disappeared around a corner. Five minutes later buddy was back on my tail.

I was determined I was going to get rid of him and took off into the night, creeping over the 120 km/h mark in a 90 zone. I was not sure what scared me more, the head lights blinding me, missing a turn or my son telling this story. But buddy would not back off and he would not turn off the high beams. I tried a different tactic. When we approached the truck passing lanes on the hills I pulled over and slowed down to 80 km/h but he did not pass. Once I thought he was going to pass but then we ran out of road and I had to pull back in

Finally, after feeling like I was a Nascar driver with a death wish, I slowed down to 60 km/h, forcing him to go by me. It was quite a shock to see who was following me as he passed; the provincial police. The air from the Trailblazer disappeared as my son and I gasped. This was air shucking was followed by dead silence. Dread washed over me as I realized that I was looking at a $400 to $500 ticket and perhaps the loss of my license.

To our shock the police car did not flash any lights at me; he did not slow down to pull me over. Infact, he simple drove away, leaving a father and son staring at each other it stunned disblief. But that is not where it ends.

I automaticly figured he was going ahead to lie in wait. Understand that I had been driving for a very long time and today I believe it was the hypnotic effects of the snow that caused my mind to slip into stupidity. It never crossed my mind that he had plenty of things to write me up on considering our little race over the past 75 km of highway. But still I slowed down to 80 km/h claiming God had just shown me a lot of grace, keeping an eye on any of the side roads we passed.

It was about ten minutes later that we happend upon a bar. A bar? With nothing in sight for a 100 kms we come across a bar. And who is sitting in the parking lot of the bar? None other than Mr. Police vehicle. I figured that was the end of the mystery; he had been called to the bar. Wishful thinking. Thirty seconds later there were high beams in my rearview mirror again. Was this some kind of joke the police pull when they are bored? I had no idea.

The thought entered my mind that some poor soul was going to suffer a slow driver on the highway because there was no way that I was taking the chance again. Whether this was a police car behind me or not I had just become the best, most curtious driver on the road. For the next 50 or so kms I travelled 80 km/h with the same effect; buddy always on my tail, never passing with his high beams blaring into the rearview mirror. The thought kept going through my mind, you're going to get a ticket for driving too slow, but I learned my lesson from the last time. High beams or no high beams I was not going to get caught for speeding.

Once again it took me slowing down to 60 km/h before the vehicle would pass me. And once again it was the police. I have no idea why I was so privileged that night to have a police escort for over 100 km/h or why I did not receive a ticket when I clearly deserved one but we learned some valuable lessons. I am just thankful to have lived through the experience.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Student Devotions - Friday, February 20th

Good morning students. Keep Ian and me in your prayers today as he head home later on this afteroon. We will be arriving home very late and we will be driving while we are tired. Thanks.

In Mark 5 we find Jesus being confronted by a demon-possessed man. We can see from this and many other incidents that the spiritual creatures recognize the authority of Jesus. In fact they fear him. There is never any argument; he speaks and they respond. Elsewhere the scripture tells us that demons believe in Jesus and shudder. It is unfortunate that the ones he came to rescue, the ones he died for don't recognize his authority at all.

We know the lack of respect we show Jesus. Consider the casual way we use his name as an exclamation in a sentence. Consider how we reject the thought of him. Consider how easily we set aside what he told us. He had said that if we loved him we would do what he instructed us. Instead of loving him we walk all over him and his sacrifice.

Yet, when someone prays over us in the name of Jesus, in his authority we are healed. When someone commands demons in his authority they obey. Where his name is uttered in desperation hope arrives to the heart. I was asked to come to a family home last night to pray over a family that was being hit by disaster after disaster. I don't mean just just mom and dad and the kids. I mean the whole family, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins. I entered into a family that was overwhelmed by loss but after we prayed and sang in Jesus' authority there was hope, peace, deliverance and victory. The difference was not the words of the prayer but the authority of Jesus Christ that the family submitted to.

Are you respecting the authority of the Life Giver over your life? Do you go beyond the reaction of the demons? Is your reaction a thing of shuddering or of loving awesomeness? The fear the demons feel is horror. The fear we should show is that of respect born out of love and adoration. If you truly knew Jesus you would never be able to disrespect him; your heart would never allow it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Student Devotions - Thursday, February 19th

Good morning students. Either you are very happy this morning or disappointed, depending on what you were hoping from the snowfall. In either case I am sure you will be productive today.

In Mark 4 we find a series of parables related to farming. They speak of the condition of our heart, the need for us to be honest with God and not do anything in secret, the manner in which even the smallest thing in the Kingdom can grow into something huge. But the one I want you to consider this morning is the one that deals primarily with growth. Yes, they all include growth but this one tells us who is responsible for the growth:

He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come."

Farming is a tough business. It is tough because the farmer is not in control. He can prepare the soil, clearing it, tilling it, applying fertilizer, but it still depends on things he has no control over. The soil must be good soil. There has to be rain, but not too much. There has to be plenty of sunshine but not too hot and it can't be too cold. At the end of the day all a farmer can do is plant the seed and hope.

There is also an order to that growth. Jesus describes it; first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. Since the first seed was planted things have been maturing. Whether we can see it our not there has been a spiritual progression taking place; th Kingdom has been growing and maturing through history. Our understanding has been growing and maturing. Time has been moving on, events are taking place, things are getting closer to the harvest and there is nothing that anyone can do but wait for that harvest.

It speaks of the Kingdom on a whole but it also touches on points of maturity in our own lives. We are in a process of growth; there is an order to it. Some would call it an evolution but I do not see the growth of grain as an evolution. Things are progressing and growing as God had intended. It is the same for us. We all must start as a new born. We do not come out walking and talking. We have to go through the process of childhood and adolescence before we reach adulthood. Even in obtaining adulthood there are various stages of maturity. We cannot skip ahead; we must walk through each stage.

What is true for us physically is also true for us spiritually. We are in a process of growth. We are being led through that process at just the right speed. We cannot skip ahead; we must take it one step at a time as the Spirit leads us though. Most of you are in that place of discovery and application. You are at the place where God either becomes real to you or a fairy tale. Often your next step will involve some sort of crisis of belief where you have to make that clear choice to believe. Great things follow that decision but they do not come before that decision.

It may seem like a rollercoaster ride to you sometimes, with your emotions all over the place, and no clear direction, but you are not alone. Just like that seed is not left alone. There is not a lot the farmer can do but there is someone responsible for the harvest and he is the same one responsible for you. You may not know the next step. You may not understand what is going on and how everything will be resolved, but the Father knows. He knows and he is very active in your life, sending the rain at just the right moment and the sunshine to follow. We may not like the storms in our lives but they serve a purpose.

So do not think you are unique in that no one has faced what you are facing. Do not think this momentary moment in your life will destroy you. Do not think that you have been set adrift in life. Trust the one who has given you life and who has put everything in motion. He loves you. He knows what he is doing.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Student Devotions - Wednesday, February 18th

Good morning my students. I hope you are enjoying the milder weather and are looking forward to perhaps our last winter storm of the year. After this we can hope it will be all rain. :-)

Being teenagers it can be a loaded question for me to ask you how you feel about your family. The teenage years can often (but not always) be messed up when it comes to our perception of family and friends. You are learning that there is life outside of the secure cluster of your family. You are discovering people who think like you, who share the same opinions, who have similar interests, who can relate to some of your struggles. It may seem that no one in your family understands you or that they are trying to steal away the new freedoms you are discovering. This can lead to frustration, disappointment and some hurt.

There is probably no sense in me trying to explain to you that this is only a perception; that the reality of the situation is far different. Well, let me encourage you in this, your family may be the only support you have in 10 or 15 years. In most cases many of the friends you have now will have moved on to other things and your only contact will be through things like Facebook. In rare circumstances you may have one friend who remains close for years to come. Yet, you will always have your family not matter where you live in the world. You may not see one of them for 10 years yet when you show up on their doorstep they have an obligation to you because you are family.

There is a saying, "You can choose your friends but you can't choose your family". They were chosen for you. Which makes what we hear from Jesus this morning a bit bizarre. At the end of Mark 3 we read:

Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you."

"Who are my mother and my brothers?" he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."

Some have read this and thought that Jesus was disrespecting his family. Far from it. When we look at what was recorded before this we see that people had started to follow Jesus. These were known as his disciples, well over 100. He had also selected 12 of these to become his inner circle, those who he would prepare for leadership. After this he was accused of doing things by the enemies power. What Jesus was defining here was that our understanding of our relationship with God and with each other was about to change.

Jesus was establishing a new understanding, that God was not some distant power but was our ever-present Father. Christianity would not be some religious thing but would be a thing of relationship, like a family. What defines a family? Relationship. Not everyone in a family was born into that family, sometimes they are adopted in, offocially or unofficially. It is not some paper or certificate that defines family but instead a relationship of the heart.

We who are believers have an obligation to love and care for each other, not because of a commandment, but instead because of heart relationship. Not everyone can understand this so we end up with people walking away from relationship with each other, not understanding this bond with each other. The bond does not require that the person preform to our expectations. My children seldom perform to my expectations but it does not mean I am going to walk away from them. Neither can we abandon our relationships within the context of the Church.

We have an obligation to each other and it is an obligation that is born in the context of family. Our obligation is to love, help, protect, encourage, support, be with, serve with, live with, tolerate, and stick to one another.

Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mistissini - Day 9

Today was a day of contrasts.

This morning was frustrating as we spent most of it working with two students. It is interesting when we can get a student's hotmail working on every computer but his own. Then this afternoon we were able to get six students set up quickly. I should have learned by now that whatever we think we can get accomplished in technology training will take 3 times as long as we figured. Yet we dream on.

We are continuing to learn about each of the students and the uniquness of their world. Ian is hoping to get to go skidooing again tomorrow. It is a key activity around here in the winter. The students are warming up to the technology and seemed to respond to the idea of the online class. There is a lot more we can develop in this area but we have started well.

This has been a good experience in that we have learned what limitations we have. We had an unrealistic idea of what we would be able to accomplish in such a short period of time. It will take a series of visits over a period of time which leads me to wonder about our other schools. We definitly need further development to reach the level we hope to obtain.

I am looking forward to seeing our schools working closer together, even when we are separated by 800 kms. Our greatest unity is found in the Lord. United in this manner nothing can keep us from achieving great things in the name of our Lord.

Student Devotions - Tuesday, February 17th

Good morning my students. I hear that honesty is becoming an issue for some of you. It is a shame that we find ourselves facing such situations. Perhaps we need to take some time to reflect on what kind of person we want to become in life because what we seed today will be who we are tomorrow.

There is a saying, "Politics make strange bed-fellows". Sounds a bit odd, right? What it conveys is that sometimes when we set aside character and we put a goal in its place we will go to any length to achieve it. We will become friends with enemies, we will become part of things we would normally abhore, and we will compromise ourselves by doing things we would never normally do.

Jesus went into the temple in Mark 3 and knew immediately that a trap had been set for him. But Jesus never allowed fear to prevent him from doing what was right. He could have avoided trouble by meeting up with this man later that day but instead he looked around and made sure he had everyone's attention.

Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Stand up in front of everyone."

To make sure they were all paying attention he asked them:

"Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?"

Do you think they had the guts to respond? No way. Jesus took their trap and turned it around on them. It did not matter how they responded, they would have looked bad. So they preferred to hide in the shadows, laying traps and never venturing forward to ask honest questions.

It is not often that we read about Jesus' emotions in this way but this is how Mark describes it:

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts...

Right in their faces he reached out and healed that man, on the Sabbath. He did exactly what they were hoping he would do because it was the right thing for him to do. Jesus was consistant in his character. It was easy for them to lay traps because they knew he would respond in the same manner. But Jesus was always able to turn it back on them. However, the Pharisees did not stay true to their purpose.

This is where the "strange bed-fellows" comes into it. The Pharisees left that place and went running to the Herodians. The Herodians were a priestly group that was set up by the ruling kings. They were also a political/religious group that was associated with the Sadducees and whose purpose was to promote the reign of the Herods. In other words, they were the sworn enemy of the Pharisees. So what were the Pharisees doing working with their enemy? They were willing to compromise thenselves, their beliefs, their reputations to obtain the goal of ridding themselves of Jesus.

Comprise is a terrible thing when you give up parts of your character to obtain something, even if that thing seems to be as trivial as gaining breathing space at school. It is true that sometimes compromise is essential when it comes to people working together for a good goal but that compromise will always be about our desires and not our character. Jesus never compromised who he was for the sake of obtaining his goal. The enemy offered him some short cuts but it would have changed his character. To stay true to his character Jesus had to take the difficult road.

That brings us back to you. What compromises are you making? How is it changing your character? Do you really feel good about yourself in what you have been doing or do you recognize where you have been comprising the wrong things? Thankfully our God is the great restorer of all things. Take it to him. Submit yourself to him. Recognize and confess where you have gone wrong and he will restore you back to where you should be. Breathing space is not worth the price you, my students are paying right now.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mistissini - Day 8

Reality is hard. A day of frustration. A room full of bored teenagers, old computers and technology not working. Yet, in looking back where we had started on Monday we have made progress. We learn from our mistakes, right? So tomorrow we will try it with a different approach. We will use small groups to get these computers up to the proper standard.

There seem to be a lot of conferances and groups going through here each few days. We have to move out on Wednesday due to double booking. But we do hope to head back early Friday afternoon. We will need to get all our rest before then.

It was a beautiful day, blue sky, lots of sunshine and practically a mild day. There was actually snow melting of the vehicle roof. Spring is in the air, even with snow on the way. I can only imagine how beautiful this place must be in the Spring.

Student Devotions - Monday, February 16th

Good morning my students. I hope you are all rested up and ready for an excellent week. Our annual read-a-thon starts today. We are needing to raise $3000 so we need each of you to raise at least $100. I know with a little effort you could go way beyond this. Of course I expect more out of you then I do out of the Elementary; it is only natural.

It is not dissimilar to what we find in Mark 2:13-17. Here we read about the calling of Levi, also known as Matthew. Levi was a tax collector which was about as low as you could go in Israel's society. Israelites could not handle being a conquered people and faught back whenever they could. Thousands gave up their lives in trying to free Israel from the Romans. It would have been like a flee trying to remove a leg of an elephant.

It is in this atmosphere that we find Levi, the tax collector. He, along with all Israelite tax collectors, would have been hated. They were consider traitors. It would not have been because of the money but instead because they were working for the Romans, collecting taxes from Israelites for the Romans. He would not have been forced to do this but instead would have applied for the position. Imagine what group of people would have accepted him as a friend; theifs, prostitutes, drunkards, murderers and the like. Certainly not polite society. You are beginning to imagine what Jesus did by calling Levi to be his disciple.

Now understand the reaction of the prim and proper Pharisees. To call dumb, smelly fishermen as his disciples is bad enough but now he was calling traitors. On top of that he was hanging out with his friends:

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the "sinners" and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"

The point I want to make with you is found in Jesus response. Remember they did not ask him the question directly but he is responding to them anyway. He wanted to make this clear to them:

"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

The Pharisees and teachers of the law already had the answers. They had the knowledge and understand to act on that knowledge. If anyone could have understood Jesus it was these people. Remember Jesus came to give the Good News to those who did have access to it. What Jesus was doing was not a secret but was described plainly in the scriptures. Why should Jesus spend time with those who already knew about the Good News? God's love is for everyone not just those with the knowledge so Jesus came to tell everyone who did not already know the Good News.

This shows that even though God loves all of us he has expectations for those who have the knowledge or should have the knowledge. He expects more from you. You have the Bible. You have attended Sunday School. You receive instruction on the Word practically every day of the school year. You have no excuses and God has expectations for you.

You know what the read-a-thon is. You know the school needs the money. You know with a little effort you can make a good contribution. You know the Word of God. You spend time with it almost every day. You know God's expectations for you. He is now holding you accountable. You are no longer a child. You are part of the "righteous" crowd. What are you going to do; deny him or follow?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Mistissini - Day 5


I wish we had been able to accomplish a lot more this week but when I reflect on it we did cover a lot of ground. The set-up of the administration has been hard because none of the teachers have computers yet, but that is the hope. We have made some progress with the secondary but it has not been without frustration. It will take at least a year before they begin to understand the potential of their computers. At least five of them do not have computers. I have only had two good sessions with the elementary. I hope I can get caught up with them next week.

We have had a small taste of the challenges that face Kathy and Steve but I like their attitude. They are not here to change the culture but to help develop an educational system that fits the culture. It demands a great deal of individualized plans and flexability due to the life-style of the people. There are not too many families in the city that would disappear into the bush for a week or two every now and then, but they do here. Often they disappear for a week to visit family in Montreal. Family isn't just a word, it is everything up here. So it has to be a system that is able to make allowances for these disappearances.

The incredible thing about it is if a child does not want to go to school the parents will not force them. At the same time when a child wants to go to school the parents will remove any blockage that may prevent it. Everyone of the students in this school desire to be here and attend every day because they want to. Kathy has to force them home at lunch time. She has had families move to Mistissini from communities four and five hours away just because their child wanted to attend this school. These are educated parents. One child's dad, who moved here from a community five hours away is now the chief of the fire department.

Ian has managed to win a number of the teens over but he is a lot older than all of them. He will be going ski-dooing on Saturday. We have been told many people are curious about Ian and are wanting to invite us over for some meals. Apparently the Babptist church wanted me to come and speak there on Sunday but I haven't heard from them. The school has been invited to the Pentecostal church on Sunday morning so we will go there with the school.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Student Devotions, Friday, February 13th

Good morning my students and welcome to Friday. I hope everyone is happy, healthy and warm. In Mistissini we are facing a windchill of -30 this morning so I guess we do not have to worry about umbrellas.

In Matthew 28 we read the account and a brief summary of Jesus' resurrection and the events following it. Matthew does not go into as much detail as the other gospels do, which has led to some present day abuses. I don't know if you can believe it but there is a growing number of people who call themselves Christians but who do not believe in the divinity or resurrection of Jesus. That begs the question, why bother calling yourself Christian? What could they possibly believe that would give them the desire to carry around the name of a 2000 year old dead dude? The plain fact is that Jesus was who he said he was or he and all his followers were crazy people.

Luke's gospel tells us that his account was a summary of the events; that if everything had been recorded it would have filled all the books in the world. So when people say that there was no proof they are not taking into account how many people Jesus had actually appeared to after his death. Everything about God is about faith. He has given us enough information for us to learn but not so much that we do not require faith to believe. Without faith there is nothing.

There are those who claim Jesus did not really die; that his followers rescued him from the grave because he had actually fainted. They forget that the Romans were very good at what they did. They knew the difference between a faint and a dead guy. Thus the spear in his side to make sure he was dead.

Then there are those that say Jesus never existed. It's easy to say that now, 2000 years later. Two thousand years allows for a little doubt. However, the earliest historians give testimony to the existance of Jesus the man. His name is recorded in official records. Who are we going to believe, guys who have to guess at things from two thousand years ago or the dudes who were closer to the action?

From day one people have tried to discount the ressurection of Jesus Christ. They have pushed forward opinions and lies to cover the truth. Why? Because if the gospels are true then they have been wrong and everything they have based their life on is a lie. It means they would recognize the need to acknowledge the existance of God and their need to submit to him. It would bring change and surrender. They would rather live a lie and the false sense of freedom than to receive grace, forgiveness and the realization that we need someone other than ourself.

The facts: Jesus was born of a virgin; he lived his life in service to the Father; he was arrested, tortured and killed; on the third day he left the grave behind and for days he visited people; then he ascended and now represents us before our Father. He was the first of many who will follow. He lives!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mistissini - Day 4

Today saw the temperature go from -7 this morning to -32 tonight, and that is cold. It also saw us make some great progress with the Secondary students. At last they brought in their computers for us to do some work togther. It is a different world. Down South teens would jump at the chance to have their computers at school. Up here in the North teens have other things to think about, like lunch.

It is also interesting being in a community where the community puts such value in the efforts of such a small school. They had fund raising today which saw the search and rescue people along with the fire department joining in. Apparently last year the Cree Board gave a huge donation to the school because they see what they are doing for the children and the families. This community has a beautiful looking elementary and high school and yet they see beyond the buildings and value the relationships.

They certainly need an educational system that is based upon their needs instead of the government's needs. Students often disappear into the bush with their families for a week or two or have to go to Montreal for periods of time. School needs to be based on the individual and perhaps in units to allow for absences. It is a challenge but if they are permitted to design their own system the children would be better off and their nation would progress as it should.

Ian is getting to go skidooing this Saturday with a bunch of the Secondary. They have really taken to him. They certainly are curious with lots of questions. I think it is equally as good for Ian. The staff all love him and I think would like to steal him away. His gifts certainly shine here. There may be more opportunities for us to return every now and then. Ian opens many doors for me. I think he may even decided to learn Cree.

Our adventure continues.

Student Devotions - Thursday, February 12th

Good morning my students,

I hope everything is going well in LaSalle. It is fantastic in Mistissini, A truly beautiful and inspiring place.

Speaking of inspiring, we will not find much inspiration in this morning's reading in Matthew 27. In fact we find the opposite of inspiration; despair. We read here of Judas's demise as he takes his life into his own hands. It is a sad ending. I have never really understood how a person could do this. It would require a feeling of no hope. How could a person lose all hope for their future?

Judas had high expectations for Jesus but they were incorrect expectations. He thought Jesus would become the next great king and would drive the Romans out of Jerusalem. He just didn't get what Jesus was doing. He heard everything Jesus said without really listening. Even when he betrayed Jesus and sold him out he was trying to provoke Jesus into action. He really hoped for the best for Jesus but it was a false hope. He just did not understand the mission of Jesus.

Judas was not a good character. His fellow disciples called him a thief. He believed in violence to get what you want. He had no sense of loyalty and he certainly did not understand forgiveness. Why would Jesus have called someone like this? Because he was no different than the others. He is no different than we are. It was impossible for Jesus to call perfect people but he called people who could be redeemed from their sinful nature, just like us.

The saddest thing about Judas was not his betrayal of Jesus because we all do that all the time, in word, deed and thought. The saddest thing was his lack of understanding of God's forgiveness. If he had understood forgiveness he would have held on to some form of hope. If he had hope he would never have killed himself no matter how miserable his betrayal made him feel. He had realized his mistake. He had realized that Jesus would not rise up to take power. He realized what he had done and the guilt and dispair were overwhelming. But even so, if he had saught forgiveness he would have received it. Peter did.

The one thing that makes us an inspring people is they way we hold on to hope even in the face of impossible situations. The moment we lose hope we surrender to dispair and we lose the will to live. Jesus Christ must always remain our hope. We must always cling to him, even in the darkest moments of our lives. He must remember his promises and realize his love and desire for us. We must remind each other in songs and actions that Jesus Christ is that beacon that calls us into him in the darkness of our lives. Don't ever let go of that truth.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mistissini - Day 3

A great day but weird. It is actually about 4 degress and misty.

I have had to do some adjusting to my allegories up here. Instead of talking about the dangers of going to the park by yourself I have had to talk about not being allowed to go into the woods by yourself. When I asked why parents would not allow them into the woods by themselves their reasons were because of the drugs and the bears. They say their parents don't want them to be eaten. It's a different world.

The school here needs a new building. They have a huge waiting list of parents who want to get their kids in but buildings are not easy to come by here and building is limited.They are calling on the Lord to provide. He will. But we could add our prayers to theirs because this is an incredible school. I can understand why these parents want to get in here. This school is a beacon of hope.

It is a bit hard to teach teens who want to be outside all the time. Some of them are really keen but others just aren't there. I need to learn Cree though. Because English is a second language they slip back into Cree without thinking. It is an interesting classroom. :-)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Student Devotions - Wednesday, February 11th

Good morning my students,

How do you feel when someone betrays you? It can be any kind of betrayal. Perhaps your best friend told someone one of your secrets. Maybe a person who has shown you some interest went out to see a movie with someone else. It could even be something your parents did that made you feel betrayed; perhaps your mom was telling your neighbour some of those embarressing baby stories. Or worse, maybe she was showing off those naked baby pictures again.

Betrayal causes a great deal of hurt that is hard for us to defend against because it happens unexpectantly. But how would you feel if you could see it coming; if you knew exactly what was going to happen? Would you still be able to hang with that bestfriend when you knew that he was about to betray you? Could you go to the movies or out for a meal without showing anger toward that person?

Then try to understand the place where Jesus was in this morning's reading. Consider how hard it would have been for him to calmly say those words of Matthew 26:34. Jesus knew what was about to happen and he had already forgiven Peter for it. He did not hold it against Peter as he showed him a great deal of compassion in this terrible moment. It does not mean the pain was any less for Jesus. This was Peter; it must have broken Jesus' heart. Yet, there he was with Peter, not yelling, not throwing him out but instead preparing him for what was about to take place.

Imagine the pain we cause. How many times in a day do we betray Jesus? We do not just betray with our words; we also betray in our actions and our thoughts. How many times have we betrayed Jesus by denying who he is to us by speaking words that do not honour him, by doing things that are contrary to his desire for us and by harbouring thoughts and emotions that do not belong to a follower of Jesus Christ? Have you ever felt ashamed of the name you bear, Christian? This is all betrayal and it hurts and Jesus knew it all before we did it.

The incredible thing is that he still deals with us with tenderness and compassion. He still forgives us. He still renews us. He still pursues us. But often shame keeps us from going to him. It is the reason Jesus saught out Peter on the beach to re-establish the relationship and Peter's purpose. He is doing the same for us. He does not wait for us to go to him, he comes to us. We can't allow shame to stand in the way of this relationship. We need to let it go and receive the forgiveness.

We need to do it now because later will be too late. Jesus told us that if we are ashamed of him in front of men then he will be ashamed of us in front of the Father and this will lead to eternal death. I really hope you don't want that. Take care of it today.

(Students need to taka few minutes and blog your reaction to this)

Mistissini - Day 2

The day started cloudy and cold. Later we had a bit of snow. It was another day of discovery as we met the students and learned some cultural facts. Mistissini started off as a summer gathering place as the various families returned after a winter of hunting.

Ian and I also discovered we are a very bad judge of age. There is a young man in one of the classes who we thought to be 18. He is 13. He is a very large young man who is an outstanding hockey player. There was another young lady we thought to be 17. She too turned out to be 13. Ian want's to know what they feed teh children here. Then there was another young lady who we thought was 16 who turned out to be 20 years old.

Check out the photos on my Facebook.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Student Devotions - Tuesday, February 10th

Good morning students,

Now that you have your Internet back you should be able to follow my adventures in Mistissini as well as do your devotions with me each morning. We are looking at Matthew 26 this morning.

Between the part about the leaders not having the brains to figure out how to arrest Jesus and the enemy doing the work for them, we have an incredible touching moment. Yet even here there were disturbers of the peace.

An unidentified woman entered the home of a man who was hosting Jesus. There she began to anoint Jesus with an expensive perfume. Thus was born a war that continues to this day as the voices cried out against the apparent waste of this act of love. In the Church we still have a tug of war between those who wish to pour out lavish love to God and those who want to be more practical in the use of things that could benefit humanity. How do we decide which is the better? Well, let's consider Jesus for a moment.

Do you remember the incident with Mary and Martha? Martha was very busy and for a legitimate reason. She was hosting Jesus. It was her responsibility and she took it seriously. But Mary had chosen to sit and listen to Jesus. It was a lavish use of her time. A practical use would have been to help Martha but Jesus said Mary had chosen wisely this day. Does that give us the right to do nothing? Far from it, but there is a time to be lavish in everything with God, time, money, talents. We need to be sensitive to these times.

It is the same with this incident at Bethany. This woman was moved to be lavish in her love for Jesus and no one should have criticized her for it. If we are all sensitive to the Spirit we would understand a lot more what peopel around us are doing. Jesus said, "The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me." Is Jesus telling us to disregard the poor? Hardly. You should know better especially after yesterday's devotions. Jesus spent three years serving the needs of the multitudes. He had a great deal of compassion for them. But this was a time to be lavish in love to Jesus.

Have you ever know what it is to be lavish in love? Perhaps you have danced before God on Sunday. Maybe you sang louder than ever before. Maybe you emptied your pockets into the offering plate. If you have not then it would be hard for you to understand this moment. Trust me then when I say that we must learn to be sensitive to the Spirit in these matters and keep out comments and attitudes to ourselves.

Day 1 - Mistissini

Today was the day we were going to have all the computers upgraded and the network running. Notice I used the word "was". It is never simple with technology. So today was a day of frustration as we encountered challenge after challenge. Tomorrow we start the training.

We discovered some interesting things about the community. It looks like a very beautiful community. Large modern homes with beautiful views overlooking the lake. However the truth of the matter is that they have a housing shortage. I am told there are at least two families to each home. The banks will not lend money for mortgages because the banks cannot take over the homes if the people cannot pay. Yet, the government limits the amount of funding so only a few homes can be built each year. Talk about frustrating.

As well, I am told that this community has not seen a student graduate from high school in years. There are lots of problems but no one can find the solutions. The boys are more interested in working on things outside. It is similar to the problems we face in the city only multiplied a great deal more.

As well we are told the town will become a ghost town on the weekend. Most of the families head out to their hunting cottages each weekend, coming back to town on Sunday. Each family is alloted their own area which is huge. The families in Mistissini own most of Northern Quebec it looks according to the allotment map in the lodge.

We are looking forward to meeting the students tomorrow. God bless everyone.

For photos visit my facebook.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Student Devotions - Monday, 09/02/09

Good morning my students.

I was going to prepare a video for you but I am afraid the limited connection at the Lodge would not allow it so I am going to write a short devotion which I expect you to blog on in response.

Take a minute or five and read Matthew 25. Don't bother cheating because you won't understand what I am writing and what is the sense of reading if you can't understand.

Hopefully you have read it and having read it you realize that there are three parables we are considering. The three of them are placed in this way for a reason. Jesus has just finished explaining about the end days. Now he lays down a teaching that if we adhere to will ensure that the end will go well for us.

First is the parable of the Ten Virgins. Let's make a short story shorter; be prepared for the end. We have grown lazy in our attitude of the end times yet there are more phrophecies being fulfilled today than at any other age. And here we are not paying attention to any of it. Jesus warned us that we will not get a second chance at this. If we are not ready for his return we will miss out. Believe it or disregard it. That is your choice but understand that these are not children's stories. These are the words of Jesus given to warn us that we will not grow weary:

"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."

This is then followed by the Parable of the Talents. These are all related to each other. Are we just suppose to sit around and do nothing while we wait? Let's make a short story shorter again. We will have to give an account of what we did with what Jesus gave to us. Are you listening? You are going to have to give account to Jesus for what you have done with your life and all these things he has given you in your life. Are you prepared for that? Do you even believe it? Believe it or not, it is what Jesus said and if it is what he said then it will happen. Are you going to invest your life or are you going to hide it away?

The last parable is The Sheep and the Goats. One last time, make the short story shorter. Do you see your life for yourself or for others? I know what the proper answer is but I am asking you to be honest with yourself. Do you live your life for others? Does that even sound attractive? Well, it is the heart of the Father and it matters to him. All he has ever done is give himself to us and it is what he expects his children to do for others. It is so important Jesus says it will decide the division of people who claim to follow him. Remember this:

"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Choose wisely how you are going to pursue direction for your life. It matters.

Mistissini - Travelling Day

Good evening fellow travelers,

Well it was an interesting day. We started off in Montreal in the rain at 5 degrees. We got a bit turned around at Three Rivers where we discovered we were now at -5 with black ice everywhere. We headed North where things became snowy with snow covered roads. Then the wind picked up and it was white outs at times. We were almost involved in two accidents but Ian had a good sleep.

The amazing thing is that we arrived with clear blue skies. We won't mention the -29 windchill.

The lodge is beautiful. We wish you were all here.

It took us from 5:20 am to 4:45 pm.

I am tired. Good night and God bless.

Pray for our accomodation as it looks like we will have to find another place for three days.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Adventure Begins

So here it is, the night before we leave and all my carefully laid out plans have fallen apart. I was suppose to be in bed two hours ago with everything packed nicely into our rented vehicle. Instead I am sitting here trying to figure out what we have forgotten with the vehicle only particially packed. Four AM comes early but I am positive that we will be off by 5 AM with everything we need.

Ian and I have managed to put togther 8 computers to take with us which will double the amount of computers available to us in Mistissini. This is pretty good and I am pleased with it, even though some of these computers are being held together by bubble gum and duct tape.

Today was a day of frustration as we kept encountering obstacles. This morning I was trying to finish off the lessons but the Internet kept dropping on me and a hundred other things wanted my attention. Then we went to purchase the needed supplies for the school and found out that the store was practically sold out of some items. When I went to pay for them I discovered I had a daily limit on my line of credit. Who knew. Then I went to buy groceries for those remaining behind and discovered there is a reason I go grocery shopping with a list. Without a list I just stand in the middle of the store and wonder what I should do.

The craziest thing was when we went to get the rental vehicle. Ian called to find out where it was on the street. That's when we discovered we had made a huge mistake. We had written down the reservation as 4:30 pm whereas the company closed at 4 pm. We had 8 minutes to make a 25 minute drive. The gentleman was very nice and said that he would wait until 4:10 but not a minute longer. That left us a deficit of 7 minutes.

At 4:05 pm, when we were nowhere near the rental store, I had Ian call and offer the guy $40 to wait for us. The poor guy had a family function to get to. He laughed and said he would wait. He told us to keep the money. We made it at 4:14 pm. He was a very nice gentleman.

So, anticipating a better day tomorrow I am going to say goodnight to all of you. Watch for us here and on Facebook. Goodnight and God bless.