Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Called to be relevant? Maybe not

I'm preaching this Sunday.  It's one of my favorite things to do. 

My topic?  Jesus' desert temptations.  Part of my inspiration has been Henri Nouwen's excellent little book, In the Name of Jesus.  In it, Nouwen reflects on his transition from Harvard to L'Arche in Toronto to work with people who have developmental disabilities.

As I sermonize, I'm struggling with the first temptation: the temptation to be relevant.  How do I speak about the perils of relevance to a church where the 3rd core value states, "We believe that the church should be relevant while remaining doctrinally pure."

What if the church wasn't meant to be relevant?

Jesus was a great example of irrelevance.  When his disciples went by boat, he walked on water.  When approached by a brilliant, spiritual, leader Jesus told him that seeing the kingdom was messy.  "You have to be born again," he said.  "Born what?"  If those examples aren't irrelevant enough, Jesus told people that if they wanted to enter the kingdom of God they had to become like little children.  Kids.  That's absurd.

Want to hear more?  Why not show up this weekend at one of the three Sunday morning services.  I'll do my best to be irrelevant.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Writing and Books

I can't celebrate Christmas in Niagara without going to my favorite discount bookstore  for their 1/2 price Boxing Day book clearance.  (These are actual pictures from the store)  

Books that would normally cost $40 are reduced to $9.99 in the warehouse.  On Boxing day, you pay half of the sticker price.  So that $40 book is $5.

I picked up about a dozen books by authors like N.T. Wright, Greg Boyd and Annie Dillard.  I also grabbed a book called "On Writing Well."

That's right, a book on writing.

I've been feeding my growing appetite for writing by submitting occasional articles to the Hanover Post (our local newspaper).  My brother-in-law (he's a writer) told me that writers get better by practicing.  It's sounds a lot like what my dad used to say, "practice makes perfect."  Getting published in the Post is a small part of honing my literary skills.  One day, I hope to publish something substantial, like a journal article in Leadership Journal or a book on Christian spirituality or pastoring in the 21st century Canadian church.

Until then, I'm happy to practice by blogging and writing "Dear Editor" letters.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Eve is coming

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.

Ever since taking my position as director of worship and the arts, Christmas Eve has meant "month-long frenzied extravaganza."

Every year our church puts on a large scale community worship service on Christmas Eve.

That means that we rehearse a handful of times the week before Christmas.

This year, 3 major winter storms have conveniently touched down same day as our practices (Friday and Sunday).

Tonight is our last practice and you guessed it.

Environment Canada has posted a "Winter Storm Watch" just in time for our final rehearsal.

God, are you trying to tell me something?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Winter is just beginning

I love the Hanover winters.

We've been without internet since Wednesday.  I think our wireless receiver got iced up. Thankfully a technician came out this morning.

While he was working on getting us online, a Purolator package arrived for Erika.  The delivery guy made an attempt at our driveway.  He almost made it to the top.

He came to the door to deliver two things: the parcel and news of his unplanned parking arrangement.  "I think I'm stuck in your driveway," he said.

I fired up my tractor (yes, the one that I used to knock down my neighbour's mailbox) and tried, unsuccessfully, to pull him free.

By this time our internet connection was fixed so the technician decided to join the fun.

We tried everything: shoveling, chaining the truck to my tractor, we even used half a bag of kitty litter for traction.  

In the end he managed to rock his way out of the icy rut.  As he backed his way the rest of the way down the driveway he signaled his thanks with a series of quick, happy "beeps" on his horn.  I was relieved that he was free a few tree branches were the only remains from the recent driveway trauma. 

The internet tech quickly hopped in his van and vacated the premises, probably eager to get his vehicle back on the safety of the road.

Here's my prediction: it's going to be a long winter.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

When nice turns nasty

Have you ever tried to do something nice and it backfires?

That describes my life yesterday.

I arrived home from Kitchener to find a foot of snow covering our driveway.  Driving through it would have been impossible so I parked at the bottom and trudged my way up.  After a fleeting family greeting I donned my winter gear and proceeded to the tractor.

Since most people shovel or use walk-behind snowblowers, allow me to describe what snow removal looks like chez Mills.  I drive a tractor.  Backwards.  Downhill.  And all the while, wind whipped snow pellets are blown high enough to boomerang back and freeze on my face.

It's not as bad as it sounds.  It can be a welcome change from working with negative people.

As is my custom, I blew out my neighbours' driveway.  They don't have a blower or a shovel so its an easy way to help them out.

It was my turn for mailbox duty.  On our road the mailboxes are grouped together so everyone takes a turn removing snow from around them.  That's when things took a nasty turn.

Picture this: a guy who spends more time using conditioning shampoo than driving heavy machinery, guiding a 6-foot snowblower and a diesel tractor around the neighbourhood mailboxes. 

Not pretty.

I must have steered a bit too close to the last mailbox because my rear tire brushed it sending the box and 2 feet of lumber cascading into the snowbank.

I felt like an idiot.  I probably looked like one too.

I walked apologetically up my neighours' freshly blown driveway to his front door.  He was gracious, forgiving and he wouldn't accept my offer to pay for the damage.

Next time, I think I'll use my shovel. 

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