middle age

it's almost here again. the day when i come face to face with the yearly reality check that reminds me that i am no longer in my 20s...or even 30s. it's almost time to get older... again.

i know this is a silly statement to make, but i don't believe in chronological age. and i'm not just saying that because of the too-soon addition onto the already too-high number. i say it because, really, what does the number of years you've been breathing on this planet mean? it doesn't necessarily make us any smarter, richer or hotter. the holder of higher numbers isn't automatically granted exceptional wisdom or common sense. and, most sadly, just because you have been on the planet for an abundance of years, there is no guarantee that you've actually lived-- been present-- every day you've been granted.

knowing my tendency to get philosophical when faced with the topic of aging, i seem to be haunted by margaret becker's statement in her book with new eyes, that she 'more resembles those near the end of their journey than those at the beginning' more this year than usual. if anything, it makes me more aware that i need to be present for all the days of my life. to actually live, and not just bide time, wait for the next trip to paris, or worse, squander the time i've been given.

while i may never know what prompted him to write these words, i am grateful for this observation:
youth is the period in which a man can be hopeless. the end of every episode is the end of the world. but the power of hoping through everything, the knowledge that the soul survives its adventures, that great inspiration comes to the middle-aged. {g.k. chesterton}
perhaps this whole getting older thing is simply the gift wrapping of the days to come...



...he giveth his beloved sleep. {Psalm 127:2}
for as long as i can remember, i have had a love/hate relationship with sleep. i have always envied my mother's ability to fall asleep the moment that she laid her head down on the pillow. instead of inheriting her sleep 'gene', i have instead taken after my grandmother, who herself often found sleep more elusive than not.

before last night, i have not had a solid, uninterrupted night of sleep in over two weeks. i have made an art out of waking up many times during the hours when the lucky/blessed people are all sleeping soundly. the sleep deprivation has not left me on my best game. sadly, it makes me less likely to listen, more likely to jump to conclusions and way too likely to be overly self-centered.

i've recently been reminded of something else that too many of us walk around deprived of: encouragement. i don't think any of us too often walk through our lives thinking, "i really wish someone would encourage me today." but in those rare, golden moments when someone actually goes out of their way to encourage us, whether verbally or written, it can be cool water to a soul that didn't realize it was dry and thirsty.

who in your world needs your encouraging words today?

what is stopping you from giving them that gift?
you need to be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes, and encourage them in their pursuits. when we all help one another, everybody wins. {jim stovall}



for the first time in many years, i have chosen to participate in the Lenten season by giving up certain things. i know that fasting as a spiritual discipline is a vital and necessary part of a Christ follower's journey, but this year, i felt compelled to return to this practice. perhaps my Catholic roots run deeper than i thought.

on saturday evenings, when our infamous movie nights are not happening, i like to spend some reflective time in preparation for the next morning's worship service. and since i got walter brueggemann's book prayers for a priviledged people, i like to use one of the prayers in that as my springboard. sadly, though, i do not do this as often as i would like to.

but tonight, i did, and my new friend walter has not disappointed me.

sustained by angels
on reading Mark 1:12-13

maybe we have not thought much about satan,
either in glib self-regard,
or in rejection of such silly speculation,
or in a way more urbane and benign
than to imagine such a character.

except that as we begin our strenuous Lenten trek,
we are aware
that the power of resistance is at work in our midst,
that the force of negation is alive and well,
that our best will is contradicted
by stuff that surges
against our best selves,
that we, even we, are prone to our
several addictions that render us helpless.

so we pray in the Lenten season,
give us primative freedom to
take full stock of satan and the power of
evil still among us in our prosperity and
wealth and sophistication,
and give us primitive openness
to your ministering angels
who are present with care and gentleness
and great nourishment.

in the Lenten season, give us freedom
to reconfigure our lives
as a testing field between the force of satan
and the food of your angels.

enter our lives with power for newness,
deliver us from a sense of naive mastery,
and give us honest contact with our vulnerability.

enter the deep places of our life and claim us for your purposes.
we would be more free than we are,
more bold than we dare,
more obedient than we choose.

we wait for the gift of your large gift of life
that will wrench us away from death
to the miracle of Easter joy.
i think this is enough to think about for tonight... and exactly what i needed to hear.



apparently, when the teachers in our small group are away, we are a terribly unruly group... but it makes for a very entertaining evening!

tonight we talked for a bit about if it is even possibly to be madly in love with God. we've all heard Jesus' words as he quoted the book of deuteronomy, saying, 'love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.' but the actual doing of this is where most of us get lost. no one wants to be labeled a crazy christian, one with no seeming grasp on reality, no clue how to relate with people who don't speak the same 'language', the ones we would cross the street to avoid.

but our fear of crazy doesn't absolve us from the call to love our God with everything in our lives. maybe we need to be a little less conscious of the crazy, and a little more purposeful with the love.

i love you, gentlest of ways,
who ripened us as we wrestled with you.

you, the great homesickness we could never shake off,
you, the forest that always surrounded us,

you, the song we sang in every silence,
you, the dark net threading through us,

on the day you made us you created yourself,
and we grew sturdy in your sunlight...

let your hand rest on the rim of heaven now
and mutely bear the darkness we bring over you.
~ranier maria rilke



we are moved.

there are still some hurdles to cross. not everything is finished. some furniture is incomplete. some desks are not quite assembled. some of the details are still awaiting someone skilled enough to do them. and finally, the construction project is not finished... but in spite of all of this, we are in. perhaps, now, for the first time this week, i will sleep through the night.

i have never really outgrown the 'just like a child at christmas' excitement phase... hopefully i never will.



it's the week everyone on staff at PORTICO has been waiting for: the big move back to the church campus.

ten months ago, we packed up everything, took some of the stuff with us, demolished the portapak and moved across town. it all seemed temporary at first, but some time around september or october, it started feeling less temporary, and more like we would be making the commute forever.

i wish i could tell you that i have handled the inconvenience with the utmost of grace and joy... but that would be a pathetic lie. i have complained, internally and externally. i have grumbled about the added expense, the quadrupled commute time, and things too trivial to even remember at this point.

in short, i have not been an example i would want anyone to follow.

then today, on my very last early morning commute day, i took the bus that i've taken at least three or four times a week for the past ten months, and while i was waiting at the Square One terminal, the bus i normally connect to pulled up, and, as usual, most passengers exited. the last passenger, a man in his late 50s or early 60s, uses a cane and has very limited mobility. he is always the last one off, mostly, i am sure, because passengers exiting a bus seldom wait patiently for someone moving slowly in front of them.

over the ten months, i have seen this man at least three times a week and since usually i am in the crowd waiting to get on the bus he is exiting, i have never spoken a word to him. today, however, i decided to wait for the next bus, in an effort to cut one transfer out of my commute. as i waited, the man walked past me, and i smiled at him. he stopped for a moment, commenting on how glad he was that mississauga has a good transit system, but that you simply cannot get anywhere on one bus. he was very pleasant and well-spoken, and we chatted for a few moments before he was off to catch his next bus.

as i watched him slowly walk away, the selfishness of my attitude and actions over the past ten months overwhelmed me. i have two good feet at the end of my two good legs. i have a healthy body that has not experienced any real hardship in the commute. i have nothing to complain about. and yet, i have complained.

after this week, if all goes well and the move happens as planned, i may never see that man again, but i will always be grateful to him for helping me see my own crippled heart in comparison to his healthy, grateful one.



i love the quietness of sunday morning. it's 7:47 am right now, and still i hear only the heat the just came on. soon enough folks will begin moving around, and the peace that now exists will be gone.

the series that we are on at PORTICO, Jesus: An Original Biography, is challenging the way we all look at him. it is too easy to think that given a situation, or some facet of his character that we've learned or heard about is all that there is to him. but if that were true, he would be a sad kind of god.

this morning, i read this passage taken from ken gire's book incredible moments with the savior, and it has only served to renew my wonder.

“On our way to Lazarus’ tomb we stumble on still another question. Jesus approaches the gravesite with the full assurance that he will raise his friend from the dead. Why then does the sight of the tomb trouble him? Maybe the tomb in the garden is too graphic a reminder of Eden gone to seed. Of Paradise lost. And of the cold, dark tomb he would have to enter to regain it. In any case, it is remarkable that our plight could trouble his spirit; that our pain could summon his tears.

“The raising of Lazarus is the most daring and dramatic of all the Savior’s healings. He courageously went into a den where hostility raged against him to snatch a friend from the jaws of death. It was an incredible moment. It revealed that Jesus was who he said he was—the resurrection and the life. But it revealed something else. The tears of God. And who’s to say which is more incredible—a man who raises the dead…or a God who weeps?”
and this morning, as i sit here with so many things weighing on my heart, i cannot decide which Jesus i need more... the one who has the power to do anything, or the one who cares so deeply about us...

which is why it is so amazing that he is both. i never have to choose.



it's movie night, and right now i have no clue what we will watch. what i do know is that we will each chocolate cream pie, and, given who is coming over, i know that we will laugh.

usually this is my least favorite saturday night of the year. it is the one where we lose an hour, and i really hate losing anything, especially time. but i love my friends, so technically, this cannot be my least favorite saturday night of the year. unless we end up watching a jim carey movie...


comfort & safety

at tonight's small group, we discussed chapter eight of crazy love, profile of the obsessed. the second point was one that we had a lengthy discussion on, and it still sticks in my mind. chan writes,
people who are obsessed with Jesus aren't consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else. obsessed people care more about God's kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain or distress.
do i care more about my personal safety than i do my discipleship? do i value discipleship over my comfort? sadly, the answer i would verbalize would be seldom seen in the way my life plays out.

we talked about safety from a traveling point of view, but for me, there are bigger issues that all stem back to fear. for instance, PORTICO is sending a missions team to poland this summer, and i have been considering my involvement on the team. it's been over four years since i did missions in poland, and the thought of helping a church plant that meets in cafes, just so much appeals to me!

but the fear somehow always creeps back in... regardless of how many missions trips i have been on and how God has provided, sometimes miraculously, to raise all the money necessary, i still fear that this will be the time it won't happen. and the truly crazy part is, that if someone were to share the same fear with me, i would be the first person to tell them that God always provides, that i've never seen someone, no matter how dire the situation, not get all their funding for a missions trip in all the years i've been doing them...and i would mean it for them, yet for me, i question, making the whole mission idea not a particularly safe one.

gary haugen's words from last year's leadership summit have been once again haunting me.
Jesus didn't come to make us safe, he came to make us brave.
if i am really honest, i don't want to live a life marked by safety. anyone can do that. anyone can only attempt what they can do in the physical. anyone can do something when the outcome is completely predictable. as appealing as 'safe' can be at times, for the most part, the idea is more revolting to me.

brave is definitely the more challenging of the options...

suddenly it was march...

Slayer of the winter, art thou here again?
O welcome, thou that bring'st the summer nigh!
The bitter wind makes not the victory vain.
Nor will we mock thee for thy faint blue sky.
{William Morris}

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