Prayer

To Hunger and Thirst...

My Heavenly Father, DesertThe past few weeks have been a blur to me and yet I have anguished over the news reports of the death to a young boy in our city back in May 2013 (Click Here). It is incomprehensible to think of the strife and pain he went through as his parents starved him to death! Why would a mother and father do this to their own son? Why did they not seek help from others?

I'm under no delusions either and I recognize sin has a communal role also. So where were the neighbours to this young boy? Where were the doctors who could check on his health? Did no one notice anything? Or did they turn and look the other way, unwilling to be involved, unwilling to care? Where were you God when this boy slowly weakened to the point that he submitted to the powers of death?

Jesus, your words echo in my heart as I contemplate the complexity of sitting on the side of the Mount of Olives; "Blessed are you who hunger..." (Matt. 5:6). To hunger, it is a state of lacking that transcends the simple need of food and substance. We hunger for purpose, for meaning and significance, for the awareness that you and those around us see us and receive us in communion. That in the breaking of bread we find not just the physical nourishment of food for the body, but a healing and communal fare that speaks into our thoughts and our souls.

Martin Luther King said that, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.” The hunger that this boy experienced was not just one of his physical symptoms but of the hunger his parents spiritually and mentally lacked. It was a hunger the community and neighbourhood had lost sight of in the love for those who live so close.

I too live in one of these neighbourhoods Lord. I too struggle with the pains of hunger, the deeper desire for who I am in you; nourished and sustained in the calling of your sacrificial love and the reflection of your eternal presence here in my home, my block, my city. I lament my apathy for communal neighbourhood practice Father. I repent and ask for your leading to the bridges of the full sustenance of community and brotherly love. It is in this "thirst for righteousness..." that I submit.

Righteousness... where do we find this Father? Where is the justice and hope for this boy? The Jews called it shalom, a place where things are as they should be in peace. In some sense it is in the keeping of saying, "In peace I come. My peace I give to you." Culturally, when a relationship is made, one would not leave the other until that peace is experienced; be it in giving of service, food, hospitality, or wisdom.

My knee jerk reaction in the desire for justice for this boy is to say an eye for and eye, "Let the parents starve!" Yet, is this a place of shalom Lord? Should I find justice in the vengeance of death?  I realize in reality that the answer is no. We must also seek righteousness, seek shalom with these parents who lay in starvation for the proper calling you have placed upon them. They are broken, wounded to the spiritual and mental purposes you created them for. In seeking your shalom with these parents we must sit with them, speak with them, nurture them to your presence in the hope of repentance and healing.

Hope... yes, I see you Father, sitting at the side of this boy as he anguishes in his room. I realize that understanding comes at the bigger picture of the whole which is solely in your thoughts. Yet, here you are. Bringing shalom in the hope of your eternal presence amidst all this hunger. Here is a place of submission that justice will be in your receiving and embrace of this boy's eternal life. This is a hope I can be "... satisfied."

Satisfied... A place of contentment where your eternal presence and love supersedes with authority over all places and times of strife, anguish, hunger, and suffering. Richard Rohr brings the words of, “We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.” It is to this spirit Lord that I live into the satisfaction of knowing, amidst the brokenness of my city, my community, my being,  that you are present, you are righteous, and you are hungry to be with me. - Amen

Our Lord's Prayer

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I cannot say "Our" if my religion has no room for others and their needs. I cannot say "Father" if I do not demonstrate this relationship in my daily life.

I cannot say "Who Art In Heaven" if all my interests and pursuits are in earthly things.

I cannot say "Hallowed Be Thy Name" if I, who am called by his name, am not holy.

I cannot say "Thy Kingdom Come" if I am unwilling to give up my own sovereignty and accept the righteous reign of God.

I cannot say "Thy Will Be Done" if I am unwilling or resentful of having it in my life.

I cannot say "On Earth As It Is In Heaven" unless I am truly ready to give myself to his service here and now.

I cannot say "Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread" without expending honest effort for it or by ignoring the genuine needs of my fellowmen.

I cannot say "Forgive Us Our Trespasses As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us" if I continue to harbor a grudge against anyone.

I cannot say "Lead Us Not Into Temptation" if I deliberately choose to remain in a situation where I am likely to be tempted.

I cannot say "Deliver Us From Evil" if I am not prepared to fight in the spiritual realm with the weapon of prayer.

I cannot say "Thine Is The Kingdom" if I do not give the King the disciplined obedience of a loyal subject.

I cannot say "Thine Is The Power" if I fear what my neighbors and friends may say or do.

I cannot say "Thine Is The Glory" if I am seeking my own glory first.

I cannot say "Forever" if I am too anxious about each day's affairs.

I cannot say "Amen" unless I honestly say, "cost what it may, this is my prayer".

As found on The Minds Retreat.

To Save a Life - Youth Event

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Breathing in a Life of Beauty – Thoughts of Dominion

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"God watched as though he were like a child full of joy as the sun rose over the horizon. And as he was engulfed by its beauty he cries out again and again each new morning, ‘Do it again!’” These were the words of my friend Steve several years ago that as I drove into the Rocky Mountains last week I couldn’t help but personally reminisce while describing the beauty of God’s creation to my friend Kenny in the back seat. Kenny was here in Calgary visiting with a team from Abilities Church in Toronto while presenting in a conference at Center Street Church called ‘Life Without Limits’. Being their first time out to Calgary we took the opportunity as a leadership team to drive out to Banff as a bit of a retreat on the Saturday. As we drove further west from the city I realized that Kenny has been blind since birth and so the only way he would be able to see the natural beauty of our surroundings would be if I described it to him.

As I drove I would try my best at describing the amazing beauty of the soaring heights to the mountain tops, the amazing colors of the trees and flowers around us, the depths of the crystal clear lake waters beside the highway, and the excitement of the chance at seeing a large moose which crossed the road in front of us just inside the town of Banff. Each time I described something new Kenny would be so excited while exclaiming, “This is so cool!!!

It seems each night since then that as I turn to the news I hear about the devastating environmental crises that is ravaging our planet. The Gulf Oil Spill, Carbon Emissions, Global Water Crises, Pandemics and Superbugs, Nuclear Energy Waste, and the battle between economic recovery and developments within oil companies or the need for clean energy; where is our sense of holistic stewardship and respect to dominion? Have we lost our created identity and unity for the self serving desires of one dominant species – humanity?

I have heard both sides of the argument; “The world is going to end unless we change now!” and “Global worming is a fraud made up by hippies and tree huggers.” It shouldn’t really matter whether we count ourselves on the environmentalist side or economist’s side; what is important is being on God’s side. After all, it is all created by him!

It is often quoted that God gave dominion to all humanity, “the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Gen. 1:26) I don’t think God’s intentions were that we were to do whatever we wanted to please our own purposes. Rather I believe it was a uniting identity we had as a place in creation to tend to and take care of all that God created. In much the same sense as we would bear the image of God, so to we would look after, love, and foster all that he created within relationship to us.

So then what does it mean to act in dominion of the earth? Here are a few thoughts to which I thought of and maybe you might like to add your own later.

Pray for creation and all that is in it; understanding the realities and context the earth is faceing today. It is important to recognize that we are not just physical but spiritual beings and by acknowledging that spiritual connection with nature we can find God's grace and healing uniting us in purpose and harmony.

Educate and spending some time reading while learning about the many issues our world is facing today. Don’t just really on major corporate news providers to share what they deem as important or relevant but dig deeper into the issues; listen to the hearts and minds of those who find themselves passionately involved in these global concerns. What you might just find is a vision for your own expression of involvement to transform the way we treat the environment! (A place I like to check from time to time; maybe you might like to visit this site as a way of launching some creative thought patterns http://www.globalissues.org/)

Write a letter to your MLA, Prime Minister, or city official (maybe you might even like to start a blog) articulating the thoughts you have towards the need for better environmental legislation or national practice. Don’t just write about your frustrations and disgruntlements; take the opportunity to engage there minds with some ingenuities and resourceful ways in which our city and nation can bring better stewardship to the global issues at hand.

Primarily I think it is important to take an active roll yourself in the way you practice dominion. It might mean some radical changes in your life but by acting holistically in your own stewardship you will be healthier for it and find that many who around you will be inspired by your commitment. One of the easiest ways I have found this in my own life is to try and adapt to a three R’s lifestyle – Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. It’s not that I’m perfect at it but as Jesus exemplified, radical transformations always begin with the movements and choices of one man!

Finally I think it is important to love our environment. Have you ever watched that video of a plant which over the span of a minute or two you see it start from a seedling and then grow into a fully blooming flower? Now imagine sitting there and waiting in natural time, watching with complete anticipation, not just seeing but hearing, smelling, feeling the plant as it blossoms and grows. Perhaps then in those moments, when we are willing to spend this kind of energy and time with God’s creation we will leap at the joy and exuberance of witnessing such miraculous beauty while catching ourselves bursting in praise with the words, “This is so cool! Do it again!

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I Believe in the Enigma of Expressions

"Where were you when Crosby scored the golden goal?" That was the question I woke up to this past Monday morning as I sat there sipping my hot coffee and watching the Global Morning News. Like 85% of the rest of Canada I was sitting on the edge of my seat in front of the TV praying for a miracle! As I watched the highlights one more time the theme song of "I Believe" crept into my thoughts and I began to wonder, just what is it that I believe in? Over the past few weeks Canada has been swept away in a spirit of national and global pride, of communal unity, and the celebration of gifted success in athleticism. But that belief also came in the form of unique and diverse accomplishments of greatness.

As a follower of Jesus I believe faith is united through the crux that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah and Lord over all of life and creation (John 3:16-17). But I also believe that this enigma is expressed through each individuals passions, gifts, and talents as they grow in relationship with Jesus (Matt. 16:15-19). I suppose that is where the story of Expressions Community begins and why I follow a mission of Seeking Expressions of Jesus as Lord in Life and Community.

This mission has led and continues to lead Bonnie and I through some amazing Expressions of Jesus such as our Re:Genesis group which offers support and inspiration to those who face challenges in life. Re:Genesis is meant to inspire people who face many challenges; and not necessarily just physical examples either but all trials in existence, to find a sense of new life and values which encourage us with purpose and significance in God’s calling.

God at the Movies has found Expressions of belief and truth in today’s parables and silver screens. I laughed as my friend Mike who is not a follower of Jesus (yet) began to grow in faith as he said to me, “Going to watch a movie and talk with my friends at Expressions just didn’t seem like going to church!” I couldn’t help but see the paraphrase in Jesus’ words to his disciples (Matt. 13:10-17).

Expressions has also led us to take on many transformational missions such as Conversations in ESL and Expressions of Compassion at the Mustard Seed each month. I am particularly looking forward to our Adventures in Mars Hill mission this April as we lead a group down to the Body, Soul, and Spirit Expo to share about a Kingdom which makes the unknown God known to those who are seeking the truth (Acts 17:23). We did this last September 2008 and were blown away by the miracles we experienced. We were touched after receiving a letter from Perry who we had developed a friendship with while at the Expo as she wrote, “You were the unplanned special gift that will hold a sacred place in my heart when I think of my Calgary trip. The light and radiance you two send out into the world is like a magnetic veil of pure unconditional love.”

The mysteries of belief are not always an easy road to travel as even Jesus said, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matt. 7:14) I count myself blessed and privileged to be one of those who finds himself in the midst of expressing that enigma of belief. Perhaps you are asking too “Who do I say Jesus is?”, “What is it that I believe?”, and “How do I express that belief?” Perhaps we can explore that enigma together and what it means to follow Jesus as Lord in Life and Community. Perhaps together we can find Expressions of Jesus – www.expressionscommunity.org.

Praying for Heart for Home in Haiti

Bonnie's and my prayers are reaching out to our friends Ricot and Mandy Leon in Haiti after the earthquake yesturday. I pray for their safety, courage, and wisdom. Please Jesus let their faith be a light to the many in need there today. I ask that they might be strong in the face of disaster and that God might bring hope to their hearts, minds, and spirits! Please visit: http://heartforhome.wordpress.com/

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Thoughts From Mars Hill and the Body, Soul, and Spirit Expo

It is difficult knowing where to start when describing the impacts which the Body, Soul, & Spirit Expo have had in mine and others faith. Were we called to do this out of bringing Jesus to those who sought after him most? Or, where we there to witness the impacts and expressions of Jesus which would affect those who came seeking and that of ourselves in following his lead? Sitting and listening to the many stories and the many moments of expression coming from those who went to the Expo, I could not help but recognize the depth to which Jesus worked; not just in the hearts and minds of seeking attendees but also in the core of his followers. There are many stories which I would like to share with you but perhaps for the moment I will share just one. It was the later part of Friday afternoon and we had pretty well just finished setting our area up for people to come in and speak with us. A gentleman named Scott, who was just passing by, quickly noticed our open relaxed format and promptly walked right in a sat next to my friend Justin while asking, “So, what is this all about? Who are you guy’s?”

In truth, we were a little taken back by his upfront approach but we easily explained our affiliation with two local churches and intent to offer a place of hospitality and rest to those who might be down here at the Expo. “That’s cool!” he said. I asked him what brought him down to the Expo and he explained that he had come down for a “Quantum Energy Treatment”. I didn’t really understand what he meant but through conversation I could really sense his need to find a social setting of acceptance and to find a community which would not be judgmental by worldly expectations.

That was what was so cool about being in conversation with Scott. We went from talking about worldly judgments and values to the possibility of a different world’s values and then; the possibility of another Kingdom’s values and judgments!

It was in the midst of this conversation that Justin and I extended our hands out to Scott’s shoulders and we asked if we could pray for him. After asking how, he graciously accepted and following praying for him he asks with a large smile, “Is that it?”

I couldn’t help but sense the simplicity of Jesus’ gospel within these many moments at the Body, Soul, and Spirit Expo. Jesus made it clear, “The Kingdom of God is near!” (Luke 10:9) In the acceptance of that truth, “come follow me.” (Luke 9:23). Is that not what a true disciple is?

I have found so much encouragement out of this experience and can see the great things Jesus has done and is doing through our presence at the Body, Soul, and Spirit Expo. It is with the greatest hope that we return to these people as we share a gospel of love, hope, and faith (1 Cor. 13:13) and remain in their home (Luke 10:7).

Thoughts for the future…

Greater and more Radical Discipleship

We need to plan for Invitations of follow up and places for seeking people to go and encounter more about Jesus as we encounter them at the Expo. Whether it is gathering around ‘Alpha’, ‘The Secret Message of Jesus’, or something else.

Planning for Generosity

We offered free Bibles and donated materials. It is just a thought but, if we could plan for a rather more structured generosity “package” such as a connected Bible, Book (i.e. ‘Purpose Driven Life’, ‘The Secret Message of Jesus’, ect.), and a Daily Bread; I wonder if it might find a greater response.

More Space and Planning of Format

It seemed our 8’ X 8’ booth was quit cramped at times and difficult for inclusive and hospitable practices/values. If we had the opportunity to expand our area as well as the availability to use an electrical outlet we could work towards communicating a Third Place space and the values of Authentic Community in greater fashion. Hospitality can also be improved with better coffee, tea, and atmosphere.

Visiting Mars Hill in Calgary: The Body, Soul, & Spirit Expo

Perhaps one of my favorite stories in Acts is of when Paul and Silas visit Athens and the home of the Olympics. Surrounded by their art, there architecture, culture, and the people who were in desperate need to seek a god to which was unknown to them; Paul brings a message of truth, of love, of acceptance, and makes an unknown god become a known God. Even today his opening statement to the philosophers and teachers seems to reach through the fabric of time and speak to the people of Calgary and even the world as we know it.

"People of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed your many objects of worship, I found also an alter with this inscription, 'To An Unknown God'." - Acts 17:22-23

This coming Friday September 19th, 2008 through Sunday September 21st, 2008 the Body, Soul, and Spirit Expo will be coming to Calgary. As I picture the many people walking up and down the rows of different objects of worship and "temples to unknown gods" I cannot help but sense the calling of Jesus to follow in his footsteps as Paul did and live out the gospel message in the midst of these people.

That is why I would like to invite you to join us as we 'Relax, Sit, & Pray' with those who will be at the Body, Soul, and Spirit Expo that weekend. Come out with us as together we can Encounter, Experience, and find Expressions of Jesus in the midst of those who are seeking him most. Together we can bring the Way, the Truth, the Life, and a Light into a place where there once was darkness!!

"What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you." - Acts 17:23

Lost: Are You a Worker of the Harvest?

Norm, the Lead Pastor at McKenzie Towne Church had an incredible message this past Sunday morning centered on what it means to be sent as workers into the harvest. Speaking from the passage in Luke 10 it carried a heavy call to what it means to be missional in our community. Here it is for you to listen to and I would "enjoy" hearing your responses and comments!

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Praying Through Psalm 77

I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah

I take this time to focus my thoughts on your presence with in this very moment Father. I cry out to you to fill me with the presence of your Spirit as I draw to you in meditation. I open my heart just as I do my hands that it might be soft spoken in the aweness of your taking notice of me; your faithful and loving servant.

You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I consider the days of old, the years long ago. I said, “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search:

I am thankful Father for your delivery through this past Tuesday's surgery but, I seek after you in the pain I am experiencing now. I feel guilty in asking this of you and am hesitant to speak but in lack of sleep I cry out to you for mercy that you might hear my pains. My head is pounding like a ticking time bomb and my body screams within the agony of my joints. The cutting of flesh is done Father however, my heart continues to bleed. I am exhausted Father and feel the emotional settlement of feeling defeated.

Yet I am alert and look for the excitement of your guidance as I examine myself in spirit. Yes, I am in pain however I am alive! I bleed yet remember that you bled also and resurrection is soon to follow. My emotions may be squelching and yet I am surrounded by the blessings of family and a wife who loves me.

“Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?

Of course not! I hold to your unending faith and your desire to be with me both in my times of need and in my times of great joy and celebration!

Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah

I know that the answer is simple and straight forward... "No!" I must confess in my own struggle to see this whole heartedly though Father. Perhaps it is within my own blindness but, why would you love me? Why would you bring compassion and graciousness to my existence as I am yet a small puppet within this glorious creation of yours?

This has no bearing however as I acknowledge all these within my life. You are truly a merciful, kind, and loving God who enriches my life with your graceful presence!

Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

I am once again reminded of you words to Job that "You are God" and we have little understanding yet of that. You are God and you have been at work since the dawn of creation. As you are the creator of the foundations of this world I can find new roots within your promises. My faith is renewed as I reflect on the times you have brought me through so much already!

I remember laying in an ICU bed in 1994 and you made a promise to me through the words of my mother that, "You and your father will be just fine." I know even now with this pain that that promise is still true. You have great plans for the future and much work for me as your humble servant. Your seeds of fruit are great and nothing will hold them back!

When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

There is a fluidity to your creation Father. It rises and falls in crashing waves of love, kindness, goodness, mercy, and great blessing. It speaks of your ways both in the softness of beauty and the loud clashing of spiritual fire. I praise you Jesus for the glories you so richly disserve and I continue to seek after you in all my ways. I pray that you hear my words and bring me quick healing that I might bless you more through serving your people. Amen. Amen.

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