Affording a new facility

new hope logo Later this morning I’m meeting with someone who is representing a potential ‘next facility’ for New Hope Church. It’s an ideal building, but there are a lot of unanswered questions. I have no idea how ‘attainable’ it is for us. Plus, the cost (in our city) will surely be way out of our very limited range. So I’m trying not to hope too much, to be reasonable in my expectations, to listen. It’s just an exploratory meeting.

Then I read the Old Testament story of the widow’s oil. She had nothing. And out of nothing God made just enough. When I read the words, “There is not a jar left’, I had to catch my breath.  God is a God who takes ‘next to nothing’ and makes ‘just enough’.

By his Spirit he’s poured something beautiful and valuable into our little faith community. I want nothing more than for the little we have to be poured out for many. And I want everyone to see that it was by God’s mighty power that this happened.

 

Top Ten Reasons why I’m not worried about finding new digs for our church

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So, ten days ago our landlord told us that New Hope Church has to leave the premises (by Feb 2015 ish). And for some (not so strange) reason I haven’t been worried at all! I wasn’t uptight when he told me and haven’t stressed about it since. Why?

1. It’s not our church.

2. Very early on the day I made the announcement at church the eastern sky was filled with a huge flaming orange cloud.

3. Over the past 18 years New Hope has never once fallen apart.

4. When I emailed Canada’s biggest landlord about our situation on the day I got the news, he immediately got back to me and put one his top staff on the job.

5. On a neighborhood walkabout, two days ago, scoping out locations, I discovered three possible sites that I didn’t know even existed.

6. As I was examining the third of the three I got a text from an unknown # telling me about a local college that had space. I called the president. We’re talking tomorrow.

7. So many New Hopers are now actively searching for a new church home. The passion with which their looking is so beautiful.

8. A week before we got the news I was joking with a guy after church about how I might want to tap him one day re: helping us find new facilities (he’s the CEO of the Calgary Board of Education) (And he’s put me onto his people).

9. The whole time I’ve been doing this property search I’ve been feeling a bit like a developer again… sensing the buzz of the deal… at home in this place… excited to take wield some olde skills again.

10. It’s not our church.

 

A Conversation with a Journalist

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I am so excited about this upcoming message on the parable of a journalist. Four have agreed to help me with sermon research – a Edmonton based TV producer, a Beijing based foreign correspondent, a columnist in Toronto and a Reuters reporter from the UK. Yesterday I sent out a few exegetical questions for each to engage.

This morning I got my first response (from the TV producer). After reading her answer to my first question I was kind of taken aback. Already her journalistic heart was teaching me something new about God – something I hadn’t thought of before.

Below is how the conversation played out – first, my initial question, then her answer and then my response to her answer.

What do you love most about your work as a journalist?

I get to call up complete strangers and ask them to tell me about themselves.

Other people are the most interesting thing in the world – but it can be intrusive to ask a stranger to open up to you. I’ve had the great privilege, for example, of asking grieving parents to tell me all about their extraordinary daughter who had died before her 30th birthday of aggressive breast cancer. I got to ask a man who lost both arms up to the shoulder to show me how he brushes his hair and puts on his socks – and how he keeps going day to day without succumbing to sadness and despair. I got to have dinner with a couple who’d finally brought home their little boy from Haiti after the terrifying earthquake made them fear they’d lost him right at the end of the adoption process.

In many of these situations, it’s safe to say I was asking some questions even my interview subjects’ closest friends and family might have hesitated to ask. But it was my job to be bold and ask difficult questions so I dove in and did it in spite of myself. In the end, I would often leave interviews feeling so connected to the people I’d talked to – and lucky to be their storyteller.

I do fewer personal interviews at this stage in my career, but it’s still pretty great to call someone up and basically say, “Hey, you know that thing you’re the most passionate about? That you’ve devoted years of your life to? Tell me all about that! And let me help you tell other people all about it, too. Because your life’s work/expertise/personal experience are worthy of being shouted from the rooftops. People need to know what you think.”  I’m constantly talking to new, interesting people and learning new things. That means my own horizons are always expanding.  And that’s the best thing about what I do.

My Response – This is such a beautiful answer! One of the angles that I hope to pursue in this sermon is the idea that journalists are, in a very real way, like the bible’s prophets. Most people think prophecy is always about the future (and that future part ‘is’ there) but it’s also very much about the present – about “telling the truth about reality as it is”… no matter how hard it is to tell that truth. Sometimes biblical truth telling comes in the form of a judgment, other times it’s an eloquent statement of beauty or hope (like the stories you cite above). What I find compelling in what you said above is that I’ve never once considered that the prophet Isaiah might have felt ‘lucky to be [God’s] story teller’, or that he would have struggled in getting to the truth of a situation (i.e.: asking tough questions), that in telling the truth about reality he might felt closer to God (the author of the stories Isaiah told). And that you so passionately want to get people’s ‘good stories’ out there > well that, to me, is just so incredibly God-like! I personally believe that God is mysteriously, behind the scenes, authoring all stories. So when you write and produce stories of good, beauty and sometimes hard truth, you’re in a very real sense relaying God’s words to the world.  Like you, I think God thinks “other people are the most interesting thing in the world!” God is interested in everything and everyone. I guess that you, doing your job, is one way he shows that interest!

Picking up Flowers for Fran

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I just picked up a small flower arrangement for Fran, from one of the florists who’s been helping me with this Sunday’s sermon. Each of the three times I’ve dropped into Anne’s shop this week, I’ve exegeted a different facet of her vocation back to her. It’s been quite profound for both of us. “You see all this stuff in what I do,” she said. And I walk away even more convinced of the need for a good book on the spirituality of vocation.

This morning, after telling her how beautiful the arrangement was (Frescias are Fran’s favorites), I asked her for a few floral maintenance tips.  She told me to keep the water fresh and clip the stems when I change the water. Then she pointed to one of the Frescias and ran her baby finger down the dark green, unopened blooms. “Every single one of these should bloom,” she said. “Just pick off the old blooms as they die and each of these should come into flower.”

As she ran her finger down the unopened blooms I thought about the God who – knowing how things are made – knows where things are going and still has a plan for that little flower, plans to prosper it and not to harm it and to give it hope and a future.

After I told Anne that she reminded me of God in this way, her eyes teared up. Then she talked about some of the pain and mystery she encounters in her work – her search for meaning and how she wonders sometimes if she’s making a difference. We had a good talk.

How beautiful that God put this florist in my path this week.

And I hope Fran like these flowers…

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Stone Cold Stares

Sitting by the river, minding my own business, and I notice all these stones staring at me!

“And this our life exempt from public haunt. Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones and good in every thing. I would not change it.”                                  Senior Duke, As You Like It, Shakespeare

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Preaching the Parable of a Florist

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This is how it works…  I just sent an email to a botany professor (from a faith based school) for my upcoming sermon on a florist. After making my introduction I wrote;

“I have a question (if you have the time). I’m preaching a sermon on the vocation of a florist (how their job is a, kind of, embodied parable illumining the heart of God) and am wondering why God (the original floral arranger) created so may different kinds of flowers…  or more scientifically, why are there so many kinds of flowers in this world? I’m hoping that the answer to that question, will illumine something about the mind and heart of God, that will highlight where florist’s vocationally image him (in their continued filling of the earth with floral beauty).

(imagine exegeting everyone’s job like this!)

 (I love my job!)

Mitigating College/University Rape Culture

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“This past weekend, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that makes universities redefine consensual sex. From now on, students must  effectively obtain the “affirmative consent” of their partners, which must be “ongoing” every step of the way.”

When I read these words in Margaret Wente’s Globe and Mail editorial this morning I thought, “Well in order for that to happen, people are going to have to really know each other, know their partner’s personality, know how they communicate, know what kind of mood they’re in and what they’ve been dealing with that day, week or month. In order to really know someone that well, it’s almost as though you’d have to have spend some time with them, have a relationship, maybe date for a while; even court.”

Sort of slows down a hookup culture’s momentum a bit doesn’t it? And perhaps it teaches us that ‘old fashioned’ sexual ethics didn’t have it all wrong. Sex, it appears, works best under certain conditions, with clear constraints and a strong sense of commitment. The more you know someone, the better you’ll be able to trust them and the more sexual freedom you’ll enjoy.

(“Toronto-Slutwalk” by Anton Bielousov – Own work: Slutwalk (Toronto, ON). Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Toronto-Slutwalk.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Toronto-Slutwalk.jpg)