Happy Thanksgiving… Again! (Particular for those of us who get to celebrate it twice)

So this video is priceless, and got me thinking today…

The Rick Mercer Report – Rant on Syrian Refugees

I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t getting some responses to my emails today. Then it hit me… Happy Thanksgiving to my friends and family to the south!

Gratitude is an amazing thing. When I am truly grateful, I understand the value of giving. I am grateful for a great place to call home. So much so, I would love to give some of that space up so those in need of refuge can also find a safe place to call home. The ungrateful side of me would love to be cynical and possessive. It is too easy for me to dream up hypotheticals of all that could go wrong for me and those I love, rather than simply ask: What would I want others to do for me if the roles were reversed? The gift I have here was not earned; I received it freely just by consequence of birth.

When I’m overwhelmingly grateful, it’s ironic how loose my grip on God’s gifts becomes.

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”
(Colossians 3:17, NLT)

Shoveling Snow and Conflict

Conflict is a little like shoveling snow.

You have to get to it before it piles up.
If left too long, it will pack down and eventually become dense and harden up. Making it a nightmare to break apart.
When you start clearing it up, there is an immense sense of accomplishment in the space that is cleared and open.
It is hard work, but is absolutely necessary.
If you ignore it, it does not go away, it only piles deeper and blocks whatever needs to be opened.
You can injure yourself if you take it on too quickly or load the shovel too full, so you have to work at it at a safe pace.
Attacking it can make the problem worse.
You cannot just push it aside. It has to go somewhere, so you need to be mindful of where you pile it. Otherwise, you will be tackling the same pile snow in the very near future.
No one really likes shoveling snow.
It is always hard work, and it always comes at the most inconvenient moment.

Like it or not, it has to be dealt with. Imagine if you let conflict in your life pile up like  snow on your driveway. Eventually, it will leave you immobilized. Move it and you will be free to move.


Terror and the Battle of Wills

The real tragedy of acts of terror is the battle of the mind that ensues among those least affected.IMG_20150731_210343472_HDR

Those closest and to whom the most harm is caused, seem to work out the feelings of the act because it is placed squarely in their laps. They have no choice but to deal with it, and so, they do. Those further and further from the scene can wax philosophical and create scenarios of what could happen, and how they ‘should’ deal with it before it happens, and can even argue about why victims were ‘chosen’ by violators, etc., etc.

Because that is a luxury afforded to them. Playing the role of both victim and victor by way of safe distance. I fall into this category. Able to comment, draw attention, change my profile picture for a day, and feel good. Or do I feel good? It seems the proximity only brings about a conversation about better walls and cleaner filters. Not so much about perpetuating a peace that seeks to be absent of fear.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
(Romans 12:2)

There is a constant battle of wills. Call them the ‘Battle of Ben & Mal’ if you will. They are constantly at war, both within and without. We allow them room to move in every situation from expressing our thoughts about other drivers on the freeway to keeping our mouth shut when someone has a bad day and curses us at random. We take part in this battle as we internally decide whether to match blows or make an attempt to turn the tide in a moment.

Benevolence is literally ‘good will’. Malevolence alternately is ‘bad or evil will’. Not action, will. It is the thought and movement from within that fuels which force we shall extend into any given situation. We decide every day how we will speak and act based on the will that is present from within. From birth to the grave we wrestle with these two from within, and consequentially wrestle with interpreting the wills of others. The next step, beyond assumptions of the other and misguided motions on our part, is our attempt to change the will of the other. If we assume we are capable of changing another’s will, our benevolence easily becomes malevolence.

“…his good, pleasing and perfect will.” This is an internal struggle for each individual, as this will pulls us past simply deciding if what we want is good or bad. As I wrestle with this will I am confronted with a new reality; I cannot change the other, whether they want to harm me or save me. I can only be transformed by the renewing of my mind, and be at peace with what God does, and how the world responds around me. Four simple thoughts from Philippians 4:4-7 are reminders of how my will transformed effects my thinking regardless of the circumstance.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
Not words of anger. Not calls for fire from heaven. Not asking for the government to act on God’s behalf so I will not have to worry anymore. Rejoice…always. And note, the verses prior to this are discussing a dispute between two people in the church. Regardless of the size of adversity, the call is still the same.

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”
Look back over your responses to others recently; whether it be hiding behind your profile on social media, or face to face with a neighbour. Somehow realizing your proximity to the King of Kings should have an impact on your evidenced gentleness. Even when we observe injustice or experience a strong push from the malevolent spirit within.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Take this verse out of its fancy frame on grandma’s wall for a moment, and maybe revisit why you quote it when you feel tense. It may speak to something more than just worrying about whether you get the right score on a test, or if you get the right toys at Christmas. “…anything…every situation…” That pretty much sums up your day. This is a response to the prior comments, because it underlies all reactions and responses in every moment. In all things, in every time, you are not to be anxious. How?

Prayer. Petition. Thanksgiving. It all comes before God. Not your blog, your status, a tweet, a vaguebook comment, and definitely not another internet battle of wits. Come before God lest you begin to think you speak for Him.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The Western mindset seems to favour the ancient Greek understanding of peace over the ancient Hebrew. That is unfortunate, because it shapes the will to favour malevolence, and a sense of security lodged deeply within a heart of distrust. The former sense of peace is based on two warring factions at rest, ready but not engaged. The latter is an ideal, literally the lion and the lamb at rest together, with no indication that one could potentially harm the other.

Hard to imagine? I suppose that is why it ‘transcends all understanding’. It seems it is a paradox so long as there is the existence of malevolence, and the potential to act out of this will. Somehow this peace guards our hearts and minds. Not our houses. Not our borders. Not our communities. The mind in Christ Jesus is guarded as part of the transformation. That is hard to imagine, but it is true, and it shapes our reality from the inside out.

Morning Prayer Noodles

Careful what you pray for, or God may grant it.


Today’s morning prayer came to me as an epiphany. I was beginning to feel resentment for whatever reason; overthinking past moments that cannot be undone, and of course, situations that cannot be changed by stewing on them. I had a moment of awareness: you are thinking yourself into a negative reality.

So I prayed. A very simple prayer.

I find that when the Spirit prompts me to stop, there is either a key piece of Scripture that comes to mind, or a statement that serves as a reminder. Today it was the latter.

“Lord, Shape me, sculpt me.
My heart is hardening, and I’m not thinking truth.
So shape me, sculpt me.”


And then, almost in the moment, I reached into the pantry to move a small bag of spaghettini that was blocking my breakfast. I grabbed the wrong end. As you can imagine, I was slightly unhappy as I looked upon the amazing array of criss-crossed noodles on the floor. It was as though I was playing a part in a badly written sitcom, sans the canned laughter.

And then it hit me: Shape me. Sculpt me.

I patiently cleaned up and realized this was a time given to me to be open to what God had to say, rather than telling Him how things were not.

Be careful what you pray for, rather, take care to observe when your prayers receive a response.

Why do you remember?

I wrote this post on Remembrance Day 4 years ago. You can read it first, because for some reason part of its message resonated with my feelings on this Remembrance Day:


“Does remembering change your day to day life?”
This is what I tweeted as I reflected upon the day of remembrance. For whatever reason, I have high expectations for such a day. It seems like if we honour it with our work schedules and school calendars it should impact how we spend our day. But little within the media world, beyond the morning ceremonies, looked a whole lot different. Social media had a few mentions, mostly personal, but not much hoopla. Mostly recurring memes, mentions of menial wants unfulfilled, and of course, the nauseating pictures of animals. Clearly, the day of remembrance was quite similar to the regular day to day life.

But then there are the philosophical posts.
In my circles, most are of a pacifistic nature. Calling for an end to war and a reminder that Christ was and is the Prince of Peace. We are called to a life of peace, and to be peacemakers in our world. The other few from the other side of the philosophical fence remind us of the occasional need for a just war. One where a mad man is not allowed to destroy freedom and commit atrocities to whole people groups, so someone needs to step in his way, trading violence for violence. It is difficult to disagree with either of these views.

I am an uncomfortable pacifist. That is a wide spectrum of thought, so it can be hard to group anyone in this group. I suppose that can be said of everyone in the space between arbitrary violence and complete non-resistance. I suppose this is why I have settled more comfortably on a peace position. One where all attempts are made to establish that I am a citizen of Heaven, and my King is one who desires to re-establish His peace, living with His kingdom values. Even though I am more comfortable in this understanding, it does not create ease in the day to day. In fact, it tends to create tension; not always on the outside, but definitely on the inside. I desire that peace which surpasses all understanding in the now, but the struggle of humanity dictates that it is not yet.

“Do this in remembrance of me.”
Those are Jesus’ famous words as He prepared His disciples for what would happen next. Remember what He taught, remember what He gave you, remember the hope that is promised. A day of remembrance can draw many things to mind, but the question remains, “Why do you remember?” Remembrance should bring change and a life of difference, not simply glorying in getting nice things out of the deal. Freedom is not an acquisition; it is not being held captive by the things which in the end will only bind us.

Taking a moment to remember is a very good practice. But the why of our remembrance is embodied in what we do with the days that follow.

A Good Man

I recently read a fair chunk of this op-ed debate on the New York Times regarding how boys and girls treat one another. More specifically, whether we are raising sexist boys. The title alone presented some bias, but have a look, and then read on: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/11/09/do-we-need-to-change-the-way-we-raise-boys

 “Have I lived a good life?”

“Am I a good man?”

These are the famous final questions from the movie Saving Private Ryan, where we find the subject of the story reflecting on how he was given the opportunity to live to an old age. A veteran of the Second World War, he lived because a small band of soldiers gave their lives for his sake. The story begins with him and his family making the trek to visit the grave of the captain who led his rescue. And it ends with this reflective moment. Spurned by the final words and final moments of the captain in war torn France many years before:

“Earn it.”

Those simple words haunted Private Ryan his entire life. Did he honour those who gave their all for his life, with the life he lived? Interesting perspective to hold; to earn it meant he owed these men a debt. But it could also have meant he needed to earn what lay ahead. It would seem that at this graveside moment, he needed to know whether he earned the gift the soldiers gave to him. And so he asks his wife those 2 famous questions. He does not phone up a friend, or bring his children near for this conversation. It is only with his wife.

I am convinced these 2 questions plague most men today. At the risk of sounding sexist, I will stand behind this one based on the curse of Adam from Genesis chapter 3. The proof seems to lie in the pudding of time and the historical record. Men have warred for power and territory since the time they were able to assemble. There is something about taking hold of both these entities, regardless of the setting, that overtakes the heart of men. Putting it into perspective of the Garden of Eden, it seems when we are strained and pushed both sexes land in God’s words to Adam & Eve. When we feel good, we look at our accomplishments, ignoring where we have fallen and our capacity to do so repeatedly. When we struggle though, when we are looking in the mirror of our personal predicaments, this is where we could hold the Garden curses next to our profiles.

Adam, just like Private Ryan, has only his wife to compare with regarding a well lived life.

“Have I lived a good life?”

Did I toil in the dirt and see something fruitful grow out of it? Did my words matter in the right moments? My actions? My presence in all circumstances? Was I only working and doing for my own gratification, lulling myself into a misguided personal trajectory? Or was my living worthy of a legacy?

 “Am I a good man?”

What have I done to the people around me? Were my activities reflective of my Creator? Are you and those I have walked with changed for the better because I was here? Am I more than the dirt I came from?

This is truly where the finished work of Christ comes into play. The ‘last Adam’ restores us back to Genesis 1:26-27 and, in the Spirit, we are being forged into this true identity. But it is an earthly struggle with eternal ramifications. It is Isaiah being brought into God’s throne room to be cleansed for prophetic ministry, crying out, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips…” And Paul’s proclamation in Romans, it is this flesh, this earthliness that wars with his desire to be all that the Last Adam promised and accomplished for eternity. The Spirit and the Flesh, at war within, causing us to cry out in the same way along the path to finding our true and whole identity in His image;

“For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am! (Romans 7:18-24)

Jesus said that only the Father in Heaven is good. Yet, just like children looking up to their dad, we desire to live wholly the image of our heavenly Father. That includes a desire to be good as He sees it, and to be remembered so. With all this talk lately about how the sexes relate in society, much opinion lands on how men should respond. The problem is few are detailing what exactly should be the measure of a man.

Given the example of Adam and the story of Private Ryan, we might start with those two questions put before the Eve’s in our lives.

Why do Weeping Willows Weep?

So why does the willow weep?
As I was doing the fall pruning last week, I got to thinking about this awesome tree and it’s parallel to relationships and life. Funny thing pruning, it leaves you time to think about all kinds of things. And the weeping willow is a good analogy for so many different aspects of life, well it just got me drawing parallels and caught me monologuing. So I threw out a few questions to self ponder…
Because it needs constant pruning?
It feels good that it always provides more and more shelter, but it also grows into everything else around it. Those things are living beings. Those living beings do not survive without their own source of sunlight and air. So, the weeping willow stifles them and can actually bring death. It just wants to grow into their space, but it doesn’t have very good boundaries.
Because it is a great place to hide?
And maybe likes this ability? It is like a superpower that works against itself. It hides the house. It hides the sidewalk. It hides me while I watch the neighbours. It hides the other beautiful flowers covering the front of the house. Hiding means you don’t see the weeds cropping up around the root base. Hiding also means people can hide that aren’t supposed to be on the yard. It presents a false sense of security to be hidden by something so nice; because hiding works against us and doesn’t work the way we want it to.
Because it knows that to continue growing it will need shed?
It is like pruning part 2. The wider and denser the weeping the willow, the more it looks unkempt and short. It reaches its full potential as a plant when it is trimmed and cleaned up from the ground up. Otherwise you have limbs growing out of the base of the trunk to the point where there is no way of getting close to the tree itself. It becomes less like a canopy to enjoy, and more than a rainforest to fight through.
Maybe because it is a great ditch plant?
I love the fact that I can plant this tree in a low-lying area, right where the water drains off the property, and it will thrive. It is part of what makes it fantastic. It can be planted anywhere, but it excels in these situations. It just will not drown (Within reason of course). And more importantly, it beautifies a spot that could potentially look like a swamp with any other plants accustomed to fussy yard conditions. I don’t believe my tree has a self-esteem, but its place of residence makes a great analogy for how so many people feel about where they have been planted. Many refuse to grow where they are planted.
Maybe I should garden more often, because it sure springs a lot of solid reminders to life. Ultimately, it brings me back to one of my favourite metaphors from Jesus, on doing life, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)