my prayer


I just came back from a long walk where I meditated on these words of blessing;

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”                         2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, NIV

Its funny how taking a phrase and repeating it over and over again, while in motion, works God’s truth into your body and mind. Five things struck me as I walked with this text;

“…that God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power…” Nothing that I’ve ever done in my life, nothing of any value to God’s kingdom has come through my calling apart from his initiative and power. As I pondered this truth, it felt like I was getting smaller and smaller as I walked along.

“…may he bring to fruition your every desire for goodness…” And I thought about my deepest desire – that every single person in our city come to know and experience the glory and grace of Jesus Christ, in every facet of their life, with all of their being, all the time and forever more; that they would know him through their work, rest, family, friends, church, world, sport, science, music, art, movies and everything else in between! As the fullness of that desire filled me I could do nothing but cry.

“…may he bring to fruition… your every deed prompted by faith…” Then I thought about all of the sermons on all of those creational texts, crafted in faith (‘What in the world are you revealing through this thing God?’), now floating out there in cyberspace. I imagined a whole bunch of nephrologists hearing about the kidney as text for the first time, meeting God through the nature of the nephron. And then came the electricians, classical music lovers, restaurant servers, artists, business people, moms, nurses, neurologists, mechanics, movie buffs and botanists. I trembled at the thought of God taking all that we’ve done in faith over the past 10 years and bringing it to an unimaginable fruition.

“…so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him…” As I pondered this phrase I kept changing out the words, ‘Jesus glorified in youmeus“…  and “Us, me, you… glorified in him”. John Calvin’s idea that we can only know ourselves when we know God, and only know God as we know ourselves was pounded home with every step. Our glory can only come in glorifying him and the fullness of his glory will only come in glorifying us. For a few seconds it was as though the sun was shining a little bit brighter.

“…according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” And all of this – our calling, desires for goodness, deeds prompted by faith, and back and forth glory – is a grace, a gift from God!  And I smiled in gratitude as I walked by a young mom, kneeling down to her daughter in love in order to show her something beautiful that they’d found along the way.

This is my prayer for our city and for our world; that all of the blessing of these words would come to fruition – come to fully be!  And I am so thankful to be called to pray for these things.

Grieving in your own way

Last night Fran and I finished binge watching the BBC’s The Hour. In the final episode two characters that we’d grown to love received news that the daughter they’d been searching for, given away at birth nineteen years earlier, died as a child during a second world war bombing raid. The father, Randall Brown’s grief was compelling. Throughout earlier episodes we were introduced to a man with an obsessive compulsive disorder; always straightening and reordering things on desks, totally controlled and precise in all he did. Then he got the worst news any parent ever could… and he grieved like a man with OCD would, in the only way that would be authentic to who he was. I couldn’t help but wonder if every human being on this planet has their own way to grieve.

The perilous distraction of complaining

FullSizeRenderFor the past half hour I’ve been staring at this photo of a group of Rohingya migrants, jammed onto a wooden fishing boat, fleeing persecution and looking for a home.

They have nothing and their faces haunt me.

Earlier this morning, after laying awake since 5:00 am, I told my wife that I don’t know what to do anymore. For the past six months I have been whining incessantly about the increased air traffic over our home and now it looks as though nothing can remedy the matter. My complaining has cost me an embarrassing amount of attention, time and peace. I can’t stop thinking, “This is not fair”.

And now I see these people in this boat.

When Fran and I talked it through this morning I came to the realization that I need to let go. I need to give up my right to make it right along with my insistence on having it my way. I’ve been so caught up in my personal comfort that I’ve started to lose focus on what really matters.  As Fran and I spoke, the story of Jonah came to mind; of how, at the end of the book, he was more concerned about the loss of a tree that was giving him shade than he was about a city full of people who didn’t know God.

As I read the closing chapter to Fran, I couldn’t finish the last few verses –  because of my tears…. and my shame.

God arranged for a broad-leafed tree to spring up. It grew over Jonah to cool him off and get him out of his angry sulk. Jonah was pleased and enjoyed the shade. Life was looking up. But then God sent a worm. By dawn of the next day, the worm had bored into the shade tree and it withered away. The sun came up and God sent a hot, blistering wind from the east. The sun beat down on Jonah’s head and he started to faint. He prayed to die: “I’m better off dead!” 

Then God said to Jonah, “What right do you have to get angry about this shade tree?”

Jonah said, “Plenty of right. It’s made me angry enough to die!”

God said, “What’s this? How is it that you can change your feelings from pleasure to anger overnight about a mere shade tree that you did nothing to get? You neither planted nor watered it. It grew up one night and died the next night. So, why can’t I likewise change what I feel about Nineveh from anger to pleasure, this big city of more than 120,000 childlike people who don’t yet know right from wrong, to say nothing of all the innocent animals?”

Jonah 4:6-11, MSG



Zoo Church Homework (and stories)

young pensive mountain sheep copy 2In the beginning God made animals. He thought about each and every species before it ever came to be.

“God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.”
Genesis 1:25, NIV

This weekend our church is going to explore some of that goodness at the Calgary Zoo and see if we can catch a glimpse of God through the animals he’s made.

“Ask the animals what they think—let them teach you; let the birds tell you what’s going on. Put your ear to the earth—learn the basics. Listen—the fish in the ocean will tell you their stories. Isn’t it clear that they all know and agree that God is sovereign, that he holds all things in his hand—Every living soul, yes, every breathing creature?”  Job 12:7-10, MSG

Every animal that you’ve ever seen was held, sustained and designed by God. And they had stories to tell and lessons to teach about who God is and how he thinks – if you had your ears to the earth.

To help you listen better this weekend there are three things you can do to prepare;

1.    Meditate on the two bible texts you’ve just read. Read them aloud. Hang them on your fridge. Memorize them. Read them to your children (if you have them).

2.    Start asking the questions now. Let the birds tell you what’s going on, along with the squirrels darting across your lawn, and all of the insects now coming to life. Try to notice what’s unique about each creature and ask yourself, “What does this unique thing teach me about you God?”

3.    Watch this New Hope Church sermon on a wolverine. Write down some of the questions that are raised and take them to the zoo on Sunday. Pose them to the other animals you meet!

Seeds, trees and budding leaves; all pointing to Christ

Yesterday I preached on the iconic nature of germinating seeds; anchored into the soil and reaching for the sky, connecting heaven and earth, mysteriously moving from darkness to light. Every plant and tree that fills our city (and world) is a pointer to the incarnate Christ. As I walked this morning I pondered these truths with the chorus of a new Decembrist’s song running though my head;

“I am hopeful, should I be hopeful, all around me
When all around me…

Is the sunlight, it’s the shadows
Is the quiet, it’s the word
Is the beating heart
Is the ocean, it’s the boy
Is you, my sweet love
Oh, my love
And the light, bright light
And the light, bright light
Bright light, bright light
It’s all around me…”

At times it was hard to keep my eyes dry. Everywhere the  gospel being preached… all around me.  It took me three hours and 268 photos of trees in glorious bud to do my one hour walk. Here are a few of the images that slowed me down…

IMG_8014 IMG_8003 IMG_7988 IMG_7944 IMG_7917 IMG_7907 IMG_7873 IMG_7864 IMG_7813 IMG_7807 IMG_7801 IMG_7754



Learning how to read God’s World

It seems that lately I’ve been calling everything a parable; people’s jobs, current events, films, songs and stories of germinating seeds. If all things are spoken by God, then I suppose this way of engaging his revelation makes sense (even through their falleness). God speaks through complex, eloquent, everyday stories – those found in the bible and those filling our world.

In a recent article for the Collegeville Institute, Susan Van Zanten writes about how reading (fiction mostly, but surely the connection can apply to real life stories as well) helps us grow in our ability to relate. As I read her words I kept doing the God-math! How does reading all of the parable-like stories God’s speaks (via fiction and real life) help us to know God more?

VanZanten writes, “Recent scholarship in cognitive psychology and neuroscience confirms [that] reading literary fiction… helps people perform better on tests measuring empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence. Fiction helps create and inform a person’s capacity to attribute mental states to others and to explain people’s behaviors in terms of their thoughts, feelings, beliefs and desires. It changes how we view other cultural or ethnic groups more effectively than non-fiction.”

Did God give us reading to help us develop these capacities so that we could empathize, know and experience him more; the ultimate Other?

“Reading is capacious,” she writes. “It has multiple potentials. Reading doesn’t merely offer an escape from the world but is a path for Christians to engage with the world in multiple ways as faithful imagers of God. We read literature to encounter and grow in our relationship with God.”

Reading is incarnational. We image God as we enter into the stories of others and take on their flesh, emotions, hearts and minds. Through all of these things we can get a glimpse of the nature of their maker; even as we grow and develop out empathic capacities in general.

All of which makes me think I need to read more, so that I can know him more.