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Thursday, 30 August 2012

A New Beginning Again!

I'm looking forward to the long weekend, the last long weekend of the summer, for a couple of reasons. I always enjoy an extra day off and relaxing on my deck out back with family and friends. Weather wise, it looks like it's going to work out great this year! Don't get me wrong, I love my work as a pastor, but time with family and friends gives me the energy to be a good pastor, and a little extra time with them at the start of the new church year is always appreciated. It's rather ironic that on Labour Day I try to do as little labour as possible!
The second reason I look forward to this particular long weekend is that it's the start of a new church year, a new beginning again. In September everything looks exciting and fresh, all those involved in our ministries are filled with hope that God is going to do something amazing this year through them and in them. Our mistakes and failures are behind us and have hopefully given us new wisdom for how we move forward with hope.
New beginnings are definitely a gift from God: I'm thinking of times like Professions of Faith, re-affirmations of faith, weddings, the start of a new church and school year, New Year's Day, baptisms, and more are all times to stop, reflect back and look ahead with hope and joy as we step out fresh and new in heart and mind.
These are times for me when my faith gets a boost as I remember again that this is all in God's hands, I'm here for the ride and to do my part the best I can with all the experience and wisdom that comes from the past and can be applied now to the year ahead. My prayer is that this is also a time of hope, renewed faith, and trust for all of you as our churches and ministries get revved up for a new beginning again!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Young people, faith and life

This summer I had the pleasure of spending 6 long days with 9 high school young people and a co-leader who was willing to lose sleep and join in the energy and excitement of being a young person again and sleeping on air mattresses a few hours every night, but who was also willing to share her own life experiences while listening closely and with respect to the lives and stories of the youth. It's the best week of the year for me, something I look forward to every year. Spending the week serving different communities in the North-eastern part of North America with young people who are eager to make a difference in other peoples' communities and lives and who want to make the world a little better place to be, even if just a little bit. This week of serving and worship reminds me that one of the reasons we are here is to serve others because this is how we serve Jesus best. After all, faith without works is dead, as well as that deep truth that what we do for others, we also are doing for Jesus himself. 
I'm often asked by people, "What is the meaning of life," and "Why am I here?" This week with the young people every year reminds me that life is about the simple things; about caring about others and helping where we can, about friendships and connecting with others, and about sharing why we follow Jesus. Faith is not just what we believe, it is also how and why we live the way we do. There is a joy and enthusiasm in our young people for life that many of us adults can benefit from, this is why I love being a pastor and being able to spend that week with our youth; every year I probably learn more from them than they do from me!
This week has also changed the way I am a pastor. It has taught me that ministry is more about time together with people than doing programs, that the Bible and faith and our relationship with God is about everyday ordinary things and not complex theological and doctrinal systems. I need to learn and know theology and doctrine, but the goal is to be able to teach it in normal language in a way that shapes how we live and understand our day to day lives as followers of Jesus. 
Thank you to all the young people and my co-leader for another wonderful week and helping me to stay close to God and become more and more the person God has created me to be. 

Friday, 3 August 2012

I Don't Walk Alone

It has been a very stressful few months as a pastor and as a father. There has been death, illness, family brokenness both in the church and in my own family. Now there has been good stress as well with 2 couples coming for pre-marriage counselling and the possibility of a couple of adult baptisms, a beautiful gift for the people being baptised and our church, as well as a wonderful mission trip with high school youth from our church and community (my favourite week of the year!). Normally the summer is a time to slow down and relax, but that has not been the case this year and it has finally caught up to me; thankfully vacation is here next week and I can get away with my wife and we can spend some relaxing time together.
One of the things I've finally learned after years in ministry is to ask people to walk alongside me as I walk alongside others, both as a pastor and friend. I cannot do it all alone. I have been fortunate these past few months to have good elders and friends walk with me and help me as I ministered to others, especially those who have been touched by death and suffering. Having another person's perspective and wisdom helped me to understand much better some of the dynamics involved. This is important since we have such a multicultural church community, but mostly it gave me strength and courage knowing that I'm not walking alone and someone else understands what is going on. Even in the wonderful moments, such as having a co-leader on the mission trip who really understands life and has a great deal of life wisdom, was a blessing as she shared in a deep way her own walk of faith with young people who are wrestling with God and who He is, and living that same kind of life she did at their age.
Jesus had a small group of disciples he relied on for friendship and to confide in; even Jesus didn't walk alone, he chose to include others in his work and journey, but he also included them into his heart and his own struggles. I'm beginning to appreciate the wisdom found in many of the proverbs that we often hear but don't really get until life opens your eyes to their truth. This past year I've learnt the truth in the proverb, "If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together." This includes ministry; it is amazing when you depend on your own strength, talents or wisdom how quickly life can bring you to your knees and you're all alone. Walking with others, inviting them to join you gives you people who will lift you up when you fall, support you when you are tired, and even take over when you need to rest. More importantly, it creates friendships and trusting relationships, something that is more precious to me every year as I learn how rare and difficult these relationships are to keep.
If you are walking alone in order to go fast, I invite you to slow down and invite others to join you in your journey so that you may go far and deep in your walk with God and your walk with others.