Friday, December 18, 2009

Getting published


I'm ready to be rejected.

So over the next few weeks I'm going to be writing articles and sending them to ministry magazines.

I was inspired by a couple of books we received last week. They give details on how to write for Christian publications.

The introduction to one of them says, "Before you start, be warned that the journey is rife with pitfalls and dead ends, discouragements and dashed hopes."

I've been there before, so I think I can handle it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mechanic? Not me.


It's hard being clueless about mechanical things.

Some people have a knack for fixing things. Not me. Ask me to build a strong team of leaders, sure. Invite me to stand up in front of hundreds of people and preach or teach, no problem.

Challenge me to screw a nut into my tractor's oil pan? I'd better pass. Figure out why my toilet keeps running? I've tried and I've failed. I'm an idiot when it comes to fixing things that run.

I'm so glad I have smart, available, gracious, mechanically minded friends; the kind that don't make fun of me, much.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thanks for the encouragement

This is a shout out to everyone who has encouraged me lately. As I said in my last post, you can think what you want. But as you'll see from this post, I like encouragement.
  1. To all of you who have posted encouraging comments on my blog, thank-you.
  2. To everyone who has emailed me words of blessing after I preach, thanks.
  3. To those who speak to me in the church foyer, or when I'm drinking juice in the coffee room, or in the men's washroom, thanks.
  4. To the wanderers who seem to find their way to my office, thanks for the great conversations.
  5. To the growing tribe who used to gather, currently gathers, or has plans to join the gathering in our home on Saturday evenings, thanks for your friendship.
  6. To the few who faithfully follow my life via sermon downloads available on the church website, thank-you for inspiring me.
  7. To my beloved mentors, I owe you more than I could ever give back. Thank-you for freely giving.
  8. To my loyal opposition. You probably don't read my blog. But, on the off chance you're reading, thanks for making me a better more sensitive leader, and for emboldening me to follow Jesus.
  9. To my kids, thanks for reminding me to whom the kingdom really belongs.
  10. To my wife, you're my fave.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thoughts about me


Fear of what people think about me. It can be downright restricting.

That's why I'm giving it up this advent season.

I know most people don't give things up for advent (it's more of a lent thing) but I think Jesus is calling me into the deeper places. Maybe I caught a mountain parasite or maybe my time in the Rockies has forced me to re-evaluate my priorities.

Sometimes I catch myself wondering what people think about me? I want to appear smart or capable, somehow thinking that God and people will be pleased by my courage to fight.

But this season I'm going to try to seek the thoughts of Another. I want to follow the One who calls me to be still when the voices around me clamour to be heard and drive me to the same. I want to heed the call of the One who invites me to expose my brokenness rather than arming myself to fight for, or against, the masses.

So, you can think what you want. I'm not scared.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fun in the Mountains

Erika and I have been in Alberta since Tuesday.

Our main purpose for the trip was to attend the Church Planting Congress. One of the most powerful moments came during a time of communion at the end. As the band was wrapping up their song one of my pastor friends from Alberta reached over and pulled Erika and I in close and prayed over us.

It was a prophetic moment that we haven't fully understood yet. Nevertheless, we both left the conference believing that God is up to something.

Since then we've wandered through the shops in downtown Banff, sipped Starbucks lattes at the top of Sulphur Mountain, and navigated our tiny rental car up the snow-covered road to Lake Louise.

When you throw in the tax savings on retail purchases (Alberta only charges the federal tax) it's easy to see why God calls so many people to Alberta.

It's too bad I'm not one of them.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Family medicine


Amazingly, the Mills clan now have a family physician in our area.

We started looking for a Doc shortly after arriving in the area in 2007. We weren't overly aggressive about searching until last winter.

Our 8-year-old is prone to strep infections. After multiple emergency room visits, Erika started praying. During one snowy visit, a new-to-town, super-nice physician introduced himself to Erika and Shawna and asked if we had a family physician. Erika said, "no". So he volunteered to enlist our whole family as his patients.

We took our forms into his office and after two or three unsuccessful follow-up calls that went unanswered, we gave up. It was strange but we assumed that his patient list must not have room for us.

Last week we received an out-of-the-blue call from his office. I'm still not sure what prompted them to call us. Nevertheless, the receptionist asked if we still needed a family physician. We told her we did. The rest is history.

We met him on Wednesday. He is warm, friendly, and he took a lot of time to answer questions and check us over. And the best part is that every computer I saw was a Mac.

I don't even care if he knows stuff about family medicine.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Update on change


A couple of weeks ago I announced that I was going to start praying for change.

What I didn't say was that I invited the rest of our staff team to join with me. And since my invitation, we've met three times. We spend 1/2 hour talking openly about the transition and 1/2 hour praying for God to bring change during this time of flux.

Some have been too busy to set that time aside, others have forgotten about the opportunity, and a few of us have made it a regular part of our week.

I can't speak for the regulars but for me our times of praying have only fueled my desire for change.

I think my longing for something different, something fresh, is emerging from my study of the Scriptures. The more I teach and preach, the more I'm driven to study and reflect on the way of the early church. It leads me to questions like why the Jesus followers of the first century were so gospel crazy? How could the New Testament disciples lead a movement of nobodies that has now become a collection of organizations that pride themselves on having a solid leadership hierarchy?

And then there are deeper questions, ones that haunt me, like what am I becoming? How far am I willing to go as I walk with God? Am I willing to follow Jesus in the way of downward mobility that, for Him, ended on a cross? Or am I more interested in jockeying for positional authority?

I'm praying that the change starts in me.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

HappE Birthday

Happy Birthday to my favorite person in the whole world.

No, not me; Erika.

Last night we laid in bed reminiscing about when we first met. I think God had something to do with it. We were both raised by parents who spent a lot of time reminding us that we the greatest thing since sliced bread. Maybe even better than sliced bread. As such, we were a bit self-centered. We probably still are.

Nevertheless, our worlds collided about 10 years ago and we both decided that our lives would be even better if they united.

We've made a lot of great decisions, that was one of our finest.

Since then, I've had the time of my life getting to know Erika and her mysterious ways. She has taught me so much about compassion, right-brained living, spontaneity, coffee, leadership, Jesus, and living by faith.

I can wait till we get old and we can share our dentures with each other.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Lay it down

This morning we sang the song "Lay it down" during two of our worship services.

The words of that song resonate deeply with the questions I'm currently asking: questions like, "Who am I?", "Where is God calling me?", and "What is God asking of me?"

Personal recognition and ambition often get in the way of God's calling in my life. For example, I like to see my ideas, no matter how far fetched, become reality. In the process, I can get trapped with my fists tightly clenched around things that aren't God.

I'm reminded that Jesus isn't found in what I'm clinging to. He's in the place where I lay down the things I hold most dear.

It's only when I'm prepared to lay it all down that I can explore the wonder, beauty and freedom that comes with following Jesus perpetually into the unknown.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Praying for change


I'm ready for change. So, beginning tomorrow, I'm going to pray to that end.

I've got some attitudes and ambitions that need to die. And I've got questions: questions about ideas that are in my head.

Sometimes I see things that others might not; not "I-see-dead-people" kind of things but "what-could-the-future-look-like-if..." kind of things. Lately I've been wondering if God and I are on the same page.

So, I'm devoting 1/2 hour every Thursday morning in November to pray for change. Stay tuned for details.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Re:calibrate


I've been invited to present a seminar at a missional church conference this weekend in Guelph.

It's being put on by the United Brethren Church in Canada. I spent the first twenty years of my life learning from the leaders and servants in that tribe.

Needless to say, I'm feeling a bit sentimental.

I'm co-presenting with my friend, Joel Zantingh. He's a super-pastor in my current denomination. That means he's a pastor to the pastors of the churches in Ontario.

For anyone that is interested, here's a synopsis of what we'll be covering:

From Production to Reproduction: essential transitions for attractional churches looking to become missional communities

For the last few decades many Canadian churches have tried to make their church services and programs as attractive as possible to non-churchgoers. But have the masses been enticed to follow Jesus on mission? Today, congregations across Canada are talking about moving from being attractional (focused on drawing people into worship services and programs) toward a missional (every person sees themselves as sent on mission) framework. This workshop will outline the predominant values of both the attractional church and the missional church. Attention will be given to the philosophical and practical changes necessary for churches interested in moving from attractional to missional. We'll conclude with real life examples of people and communities living on mission.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Jesus, don't leave home without Him


Last Sunday morning I preached for 30-40 minutes, casting a vision and laying out a strategy for accomplishing our congregational mission. Tomorrow we begin our fall sermon series.

Today, I'm stoked and here's why:

1. In the past two weeks, it has felt like we've left our church moorings and set sail. There is a tangible buzz happening across the congregation.

2. We've developed the sermon series in house. Everything from the weekly titles to the life group curriculum has been made in Hanover. Every creative idea (including our take it home credit cards pictured above) has come from the minds of our staff and our congregation.

3. This may sound selfish but it contributes to my excitement: I'm getting a lot of opportunities to preach, lead and cast vision. In the absence of a lead pastor, I'm getting to handle lead pastorish affairs and I'm lovin' it.

Only one question remains: are we sailing an ocean liner or a yellow submarine?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Outside the Box


My family spent our labour day in Owen Sound hanging out with longtime friends.

While we were waiting to eat, I chatted with someone who was part of the Owen Sound church I pastored.

After some informal chit-chat, she made a bold statement.

She said, "You were way ahead of your time. You saw things and you thought things that were years away from where we were and where we needed to be as a church."

That's how I feel, most of the time. I wonder if it's my lot in life to fight against ecclesiastical policies and practices that were one day "cutting edge" but have since become ineffective.

As a visionary, I find this to be one of my toughest challenges: confronting ingrained ideologies carried by people who, in the past, risked everything to implement them. These people are often prepared to die on the hill for a fifteen-year-old system.

Without change, the very thing that once functioned as a conduit of life can become that which casts aside new ideas, models, impulses, and people.

Someone please hit me if I ever dig in my heels to prevent the next generation of church leaders from leading me outside of my 2015 box!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Learning @ Home


For those who don't follow my wife's blog, you may not know our big news: we've decided to homeschool.

In typical 'Jason & Erika style', we made a snap decision last week. It came after years of conversation about whether the public system was an ideal learning environment for our children. Last week, we knew the time had come.

The actual curriculum will arrive next week but we've already changed our routine. I had today off from church work so I helped Shawna learn the names of the Provinces, Territories and their capital cities. At the same time, I toiled with Elijah to correctly order cards with numbers on them, from smallest to largest.

But that's not all; we went beyond normal school work into the world of domestic responsibilities:

Shawna learned how to work the washing machine and hang laundry on the line. And Elijah? He learned how to handle weeds.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Birthday visit


Today marks the end of birthday week at our house.

It's a week of festivities and fun that begins with my daughter's birthday and ends with my son's. They were born seven days apart (in different years, of course).

On Shawna's birthday we spent the day hanging out, playing and reading.

Today is very similar except instead of reading I spent some time chatting with the friendly neighbourhood Jehovah's Witnesses. Two kind folks came to my door to try to convince me of a few things: that the Trinity doesn't exist, Jesus isn't God, and that the Holy Spirit is not a person but a force.

We had an interesting conversation. It came to an end when I let them know that they weren't going to change my belief or experience with the Triune God. They'd probably have a better chance of convincing me that my wife, although influential, is not a person; I don't have children; and I can leap tall buildings in a single bound.

I wonder when their children's birthdays are. Then I could return the visit.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A day with my favorite people


It feels strange watching my wife play our shooting gallery wii game while I edit this blog post.
It feels even weirder knowing that she got a bronze medal and I didn't.

In other news, it was our daughter's 8th birthday today. Erika spent it downstairs slaving away on business related work. I, on the other hand, spent the afternoon reading outside while our kids played under a maple tree nearby.

This evening the birthday girl dished up "man sized" slices of birthday cake & ice cream for the whole family. We finished the day by playing a rousing game of Cranium; our 4-year-old emerged victorious by performing amazing feats, such as, acting out 'C-3PO' by collapsing into a tripod and shuffling along the living room floor.

Now that the little ones are safely in bed, I think I should spend some quality time with my wiife. No, I didn't misspell that last word.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pastoring: 1st century style


I'm becoming more and more convinced that 21st century pastoral leadership doesn't require titles, offices, positions, buildings or pay cheques.

It does demand personal investment in people, authenticity, and a willingness to boldly and humbly challenge the religious status quo.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Time to move


I wrote this for our church website a few months ago:

"The church is not a building. It is the community of God on mission."

How would church leadership change if pastors were asked to mobilize people rather than attracted them to Sunday morning services?

What if a church community decided to flatten its leadership and give the power it invested in its clergy to small group leaders.

We'd have a movement on our hands, folks.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Towing the party line?


Sometimes I wonder what the church would be like without politics.

As I read the definitions for the term (below), I was struck by the references to power.

Isn't it funny that the very community where power should be shared and given away to others tends to be the context where power is used to get our own way.

politics |ˈpäləˌtiks| |ˈpɑlətɪks| |ˈpɒlɪtɪks|
plural noun [usu. treated as sing. ]the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, esp. the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve powerthe activities of governments concerning the political relations between countriesthe academic study of government and the state activities within an organization that are aimed at improving someone's status or position and are typically considered to be devious or divisivea particular set of political beliefs or principles(often the politics of) the assumptions or principles relating to or inherent in a sphere, theory, or thing, esp. when concerned with power and status in a society

I dream of a day when the church will be characterized by giving instead of getting, humility not pride, and liberation rather than power struggles.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vacationing

I've taken this week off of church ministry to accomplish two things:

1. Have fun with my family.
2. Come as close as I can to finishing the New Testament Distance Education course I've been writing.

Here's an update:

Yesterday we spent the day at Canada's Wonderland. Since Elijah is only 4 years old we were limited to certain rides by his 40 inch height. My two favorites were Thunder Run and the Ghoster Coaster. The ice cream and strawberry funnel cake was a close third.

Today I submitted my supplementary notes on apocalyptic literature to the College Distance Ed. office. The director liked what I had written so this evening I'll be writing at least one more section. If it sounds like fun, it's not. It's certainly not something I'd recommend doing on a vacation.

For supper tonight we're eating vegetable stir fry and cucumber salad. The green beans, cabbage, cucumbers, and broccoli have all been freshly picked from our garden.

Too bad ice cream doesn't grow on trees.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Leadership Summit 2009


I got back from Leadership Summit 2009 on Friday night. It was a 2 day simulcast that our staff team attended in St. Catharines.

Here are some highlights from the presenters:

In regards to hiring staff...
-Don't hire in a great state of need since candidates can get idealized
-First impressions are frequently wrong
-Look for 2 or 3 values that are essentials. If the candidate doesn't have them, they're not the right person for the job
-Create a strong culture and ask whether the candidate can picture themselves in that culture

In regards to cultural shifts...
-Churches should stand out as islands in a sea of secularization
-Relevance is lost when internal change lags behind external change
-Listen to the renegades
-Generate more new things
-Deconstruct what you already believe about the church
-God expects us to be radically unconventional
-It doesn't happen in a top down, autocratic approach
-Build organizations that can thrive without hierarchy
-Power comes from below rather than from above
-The problem with organized religion isn't the religion part
-God commonly releases vision from the fringe
-Lead from the fringe
-Failure is success to God

Am I willing to take the faith steps I know God is asking me to take?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Making a difference in the world


I love it when people live life on mission.

It characterizes the lifestyle of the exceptional folks that lead our regional coffeehouse gatherings.

Once a month a group of 10 to 15 people gather to plan and pray for something we call Conversation Peace. We work hard--coming up with ideas for interesting conversations; administering the details; and creating the culture of fun and transparency that typifies our coffeehouse gatherings. If it weren't for such a great team, Conversation Peace would be Conversation: Rest In Peace.

Our purpose is simple: we want to foster conversations with our friends and neighbours. We believe that Jesus can use dialogue to draw people into our community on mission.

We meet in two locations: in Walkerton at the White Rose Coffeehouse and in Durham at the Durham Art Gallery. And we meet in both locations simultaneously: the team of 10-15 people is actually 2 teams of five to eight people. We gather as a large group to organize. But we separate to make Conversation Peace happen in Walkerton and Durham, respectively.

Every month, newcomers are welcomed at both venues. People talk. More importantly, people listen.

And my favorite part is that it's not dependent on me. The organizing teams believe in the vision. And they are committed to inviting their friends and neighbours into these conversational communities.

So, to the team of people who work so hard to make Conversation Peace a transformational community, thank-you. You inspire me. You are making a difference in the world.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Be a freak, take a chance


My wife thinks I'm a freak.

Not in a "I don't want to be around you" kind of way. But in a "you're special" kind of way.

It's because I'm not afraid of rejection.

I actually believe that crashing and burning is not something to fear; that failure is a necessary prelude to success; that open windows are not far from closed doors; and that God can be trusted with my future.

So, next time you're tempted to back down because you're afraid of failing or being rejected, do something bold. Take a step forward into the unknown. That move could be the one that changes your life forever.

Friday, July 17, 2009

My birthday reflection


Am I getting old?

It's strange, I've always felt young. Maybe it's because most other pastors weren't born at the height of the disco era. Or maybe it's because Erika and I chose to have our first child in our early twenties.

Maybe it's because most professionals, like Physicians, have always been older than me. That is until Monday, when Shawna had her tonsils removed. In the process Erika and I met two wonderful M.D.'s: an otolaryngologist--we could have been in high school together;
and an anesthetist? She had to have been my age.

All of these observations are leading me to one, unavoidable conclusion. I'm becoming a middle-aged man.

Someone, convince me otherwise.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

No more kittens


Our cat got spayed yesterday.

It took 2 litters in 8 months for us to see the vet. I'm glad it's done.

He called after the procedure to say everything went well. Then he went on to list the concerns he had about her weight loss (she's a skinny cat) and her overall health.

I think he thought we neglected our cat. I mean, sure, she had just been weaned from her kittens. And, yes, she spent last week outside (where she spends all of her time in the summer) while we were on vacation. But she's a hunter; when she's not sleeping.

Nevertheless, the vet was concerned.

I should have asked him if he was concerned about the mouse Tiger-lily killed and ate the day before her operation.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

New Testament II is coming to Hanover

Today I finished the promotional video for the New Testament course being offered at Hanover Missionary Church this fall.

It's an extension course that can be taken for credit or audit through Emmanuel Bible College.

Last fall I taught New Testament I in Hanover and it was so successful that we're following it up with New Testament II.

N.T. I was an overview of the time period between Old and New Testaments, and an examination of the Gospels and the book of Acts.

N.T. II focuses on the rest of the New Testament (Romans-Revelation).

Here's a promotional video to whet your appetite for taking a Bible College course in Grey County.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Found Days


Last night our family went on a one night camping extravaganza with some families from our former church in Owen Sound.

We arrived yesterday after supper and planned to stay until this evening.

That was before it rained.

The drops started falling around midnight and it was still pouring when we awoke this morning.

By the time we exited the tent, must all of the other families had packed it in and drove home.

So, we did too. It became a 'found day' for our family.

We spent it playing, gardening and relaxing.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Taking it easy


This week, I went to a pastor's gathering @ EBC with our interim lead pastor.

We heard from Phil Wagler. He's the lead pastor of a number of churches in Huron county. Their model of leadership and their ideas about ministry resonated with me.

One of the things that stood out to me was something Phil said about visionary leadership and the faithful opposition. As a visionary myself, I have come to appreciate those who oppose my ideas. I used to get uptight when others didn't see what I saw. Now I see how important nay sayers are in refining the vision. The church needs the dreamers and those who oppose because in the end, we're all better off working together.

I was also struck by the one year Sabbath Phil's church took. Yes, the entire church stopped all programs and only gathered for two reasons. First, they gathered Sunday mornings to worship and learn. Second, they gathered in intergenerational house groups throughout the week to grow together, study Scripture together, and serve together.

Phil reported that during their Sabbath year they saw more people come to Christ and be baptized than in any other prior year.

I wonder what might happen if HMC decided to take a Sabbath year?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Shivering in the shed


Where is God when disaster strikes?

That's one of the conversation topics we'll be tackling at tonight's coffeehouse gathering.

The whole "you never know when things are going to turn bad" thing is a running theme these days at HMC. 

This morning we held all three of our services in the church shed.  Normally the shed houses the bus and some odds and ends.  Today it was used as a massive illustration for the question of the morning: would we still love and serve God if we lost everything?  Paul (HMC youth pastor) talked about Job and he used the financial meltdown in North America to challenge us to store up kingdom of God treasures, which are eternal rather than material wealth, which evaporates quickly in a bear market.

So, if you want to have a conversation about this theme, why not join us tonight at the White Rose Coffeehouse in Walkerton @ 7pm.  It's open to everyone and I promise it'll be warmer than the s-s-s-s-shhed.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Formation @ Home wraps up


Yesterday marked the last Sunday in our church's Formation @ Home series.

It was a profound experience for me.  It's the first time I've been able to design an extended sermon series (5 weeks) and preach all but one Sunday.

I've been awakened.  I don't think I'll ever be the same. 

I'm grateful to Peter, our interim lead pastor.  He asked me to craft a sermon series for the post-Easter season.  He asked me to design something for the summer, too.

The latest is a fall pulpit series.  Yes, that's the third one since Easter.  I'll be working on that one in July and August.  I'm planning on developing some small group material that will compliment the Sunday morning messages.  It will be made in Hanover, rather than some large church in the U.S.

June-August I will also be working on a distance education course for EBC.  I wrote New Testament 1 (Gospels-Acts) last summer.  This summer I'll write New Testament 2 (Romans-Revelation).  

Oh, and I'm taking some vacation too.
 

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Institutions vs. Movements


Tomorrow is the conclusion of the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada national assembly.

That means I get to see my family after being away from them for 4 days straight.

I've met a lot of great people and I've been inspired to follow Jesus.

In a quiet moment I snuck away to my hotel room and read some of a book called The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch.

Here are a couple of statements that stand out to me:

"God's people are more potent by far when they have little of what we would recognize as church institution in their life together."p. 23

"All great missionary movements begin at the fringes of the church, among the poor and the marginalized, and seldom, if ever, at the center." p. 30

They are fairly bold statements.  Convicting.  Especially the second. 

What are your thoughts?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Gener8 reflections


Gener8 is now over and it was a powerful experience for me.

I was privileged to be in on the ground level of something God is doing across Canada.

24 young leaders were divided into small groups to listen to each other's stories.  I was amazed as our leader intuitively and prophetically called out dreams and obstacles to our dreams as we shared together.  Tears were shed, future visions were carefully painted, and we spent time praying for one another.

More than anything, I felt affirmed.  

Here are some of the things I've been chewing on:
1.  Don't make life too complex.  Simply follow Jesus.
2.  God is still proud of me when I fail miserably.
3.  I have a dream but I might be settling for selling tea in a crystal shop.  (you'll have to read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho if you want to know what that means).

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Gener8

Today marks the first day of a weekend training event aimed at young leaders in my denominational tribe, the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada.

30 leaders, mostly between 20-30 years old, have been invited from across Canada.

I was invited.  I'm glad they didn't check ID's at the door.

I packed up my stuff, kissed my family good-bye, backed up my computer, and made the trek to Paris.  Ontario, not France.

I'm not sure what to expect but here's some of what the invite said:


• Share your dreams in an eclectic environment

• Hear echoes of affirmation in the voices of like-minded peers

• Develop your dreams for service to Jesus

• Expect inspiration and challenge

• Think and act missionally in your own context

• Venture on paths no one has traveled before


I'm looking forward to the untravelled paths. 

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Beware of potholes!


I've been enjoying my bike rides into work.  I feel stronger and more environmentally conscious.

Yesterday, I wasn't paying enough attention to the road and I hit a pothole.  The kind where the asphalt has broken off and caved into the ground about 6 inches.

My skinny road bike tires didn't have a chance.  I blew them both out.

I was at the half-way point in my ride so I walked the rest of the way.  The trek took me about 1 hour and 10 mins.  It normally takes me 35.

I don't carry a cell phone but I like to be prepared for these sorts of mishaps.  So, I have a small pump mounted to my bike frame.  The pump, however, is useless without an extra tube.  

Next time I'll be including extra tubes with my pump.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Family breakdown


Last night I spent my evening at our Walkerton coffeehouse.

We discussed relativism and the lines that are often blurred between right and wrong.

My group talked a lot about the differences between boundaries (or the lack thereof) set by parents today and those that were set by our parents, back in the day.

Then I came home a caught a piece of the CBC news: Sunday night.  I happened to see an interview with journalist and author Victor Malarek.  He has spent years following the illegal sex trade and much of what he was saying last night stems from a breakdown of the family.

He shot straight about the need for parents to talk to their boys about treating girls with respect and dignity.  He also talked about the link between prostitution (sex for money) and power.

I wondered how many of us Jesus followers are talking to our kids about sexuality and healthy boundaries between boys and girls & men and women?  If we're not, then we'd better start because the media (internet, video games, movies...) is sending a strong, self-serving message about sex and power.

For a great book on the relationship between money, sex and power, see Richard Foster's book, The Challenge of the Disciplined life: Christian reflections on money, sex and power.

You can see the CBC interview by clicking here.  (Warning, some parts are uncomfortable)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday - Feedback time


Our week long meditation and study in blogland concluded yesterday.

Thanks to everyone who participated by posting comments.

Thanks also, to those who followed the conversation and participated in the readings but didn't feel comfortable sharing comments.

I've been blessed by all of you.

I'd love to hear any concluding thoughts you have about the experience:  Was it helpful?  Are there changes you'd make to the process?  Should I plan on using this medium in the future to keep the sermon alive throughout the week?

I welcome any and all comments.  

P.S.  To those of you who have posted throughout the week, don't be surprised if some of your comments show up on the big screen tomorrow morning.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday - Matt. 5:27-32

Today's verses are packed with ideas and commands that are highly applicable to people in our culture.  I've heard that divorce rates are no different in the Christian community than they are in society at large.

Additionally, sexuality is the hottest commodity on today's market.  The message is everywhere: old or young, if you're not expressing yourself sexually, you're not human.

There is so much that could be said, and needs to be said, about today's text.  But I think I'll save my thoughts for a sermon.  Or a sermon series on what God thinks about marriage & sexuality.  Matt. 5:27-32 would be a great text to exegete.

This morning I decided to go another route.  I decided to employ an ancient practice of meditation called Lectio Divina (spiritual reading).  Richard Foster says, "Distinct from other ways of approaching the Bible, the ancient Christian practice of lectio divina is the primary mode of reading the Bible for transformation."  Foster, Life with God, 62.

Lectio Divina involves four elements or movements: lectio (reading with a listening spirit), meditatio (reflecting on what we are 'hearing'), oratio (praying in response to this hearing), and contemplatio (contemplating what we will carry forward into our lives).  There is much more that could be said about this practice but I'll leave that for another day.

As I read the text through a few times, the words "throw it away" stood out.  It was interesting because in the first part of the text Jesus calls us to throw away our eyes or hands if they cause us to sin.  But in v. 31-32 he confronts the common practice of his time that wives could simply be "thrown away".  Our selfish tendencies long for what we don't have (as with seeing others with lustful intent or going one step further to claim them with our right hand).

Jesus knows that sin, especially sins of lust and covetousness, can spread.  And to keep a contaminated part from spreading and contaminating the whole, it must be cut off.

I remember visiting an elderly gentleman and his wife in my first pastorate.  He spent his days in a wheelchair because his legs had been amputated.  They had been infected.  And that infection was spreading.  He lost his legs to save his life.  

I wonder how many of us should be taking sin, especially sexual sin, a little more seriously than we do.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thursday - Matt. 5:21-26


I have been thoroughly enjoying my times of study and meditation this week.  Thanks for all the great comments/questions you've been posting.  Keep them coming.  We only have one day left.  

As I studied the text, here's what I learned today:

I sat down with my Bible and an excellent book called Kingdom Ethics by Glen Stassen and David Gushee.  In the book, the authors break this text down into three parts: Traditional Righteousness (Matt. 5:21), Vicious Cycle (Matt. 5:22), and Transforming Initiative (Matt. 5:23-26).  

1.  Traditional Righteousness (v. 21)
Every good Jewish person knew that "do not murder" was one of the 10 commandments (Ex. 20:13).  That was the traditional benchmark for righteous living.

2.  Vicious Cycle (v. 22)
Jesus then addresses the inner attitude that leads to murder.  Anger.  Notice that he doesn't say, "don't be angry".  He simply explains the implications of unresolved anger.  Notice as well that he shows a progression when things are left unsettled between rivals.  It starts with 'judgement' between brothers (those who follow Jesus).  Then it may lead to the Sanhedrin (that's the Jewish court where disputes were settled).  The Sanhedrin is a step up from a grudge between two people and indicates the the anger has lead to an outright offense.  Finally, Jesus goes beyond the Jewish court to say that unresolved anger can, ultimately, lead someone to hell.  

As an aside: this progression from anger to murder can also be seen the O.T. in Deut. 19:11. 

3.  Transforming Initiative (v. 23-26)
This is the climax of the teaching.  In this last section, Jesus shows the way out of the downward spiral of anger.  He calls the offended party to take the reconciliatory initiative if the other party is unwilling.  This example was most beautifully illustrated by Jesus himself when He died on the cross for the very people who had offended him.

Okay, I know there are many, many examples of extremely complex situations where reconciliation might not be possible.  Just remember, this text is primarily about anger and settling disputes.  

I've said enough.  Now it's your turn.      

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wednesday - Matt. 5:17-20

I decided to spend some time studying today's text:

Here's what I learned:

1. Jesus begins by addressing the role of "the Law" and "the Prophets". These are 2 parts of the Old Testament. The Law, also known as Torah, is the first 5 books of the Hebrew Scriptures (O.T.). The Prophets are the latter books of the O.T. There are the books called "the Former Prophets" (Joshua-2 Kings), followed by "the Major Prophets" (Isaiah-Daniel), and finally there were "the 12 Minor Prophets" (Hosea-Malachi). Taken all together they were understood to be the whole O.T. (including the Writings - Ezra-Songs of Solomon).

Jesus is upholding the value of the O.T. by saying he has come to fulfill it, not abolish it.

2. Jesus thinks it's worth practicing the O.T. commands (v. 19).

I was brought up in the church. And growing up I learned a lot more about the New Testament than I did about the Old. The first 2/3 of the Bible were often treated as irrelevant, unnecessary and impossibly hard to understand. The more I've studied, the more I realized that the Old Testament is essential for understanding Jesus, Covenant and the Kingdom of God.

Dallas Willard says this about God's O.T. law,

"The law of God marks the movements of God's kingdom, of his own actions and of how that kingdom works. When we keep the law, we step into his ways and drink in his power. Jesus shows us those ways even more fully and leads us into them." Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 142.

3. Jesus demands right living that leads to right actions, not right actions leading to right living (v. 20). The Scribes and Pharisees knew the Hebrew Scriptures and spent their lives interpreting them so they would be righteous. Their intentions started out good but they got lost in hypocrisy (that's the same root word in classical Greek for 'actor'). In Matt. 23:3 Jesus tells us that the Pharisees don't practice what they preach. They talk the talk but don't walk the walk.

Again. Dallas Willard writes,

"And here also lies the fundamental mistake of the scribe and the Pharisee. They focus on the actions that the law requires and make elaborate specifications of exactly what they actions are and of the manner in which they are to be done. They also generate immense social pressure to force conformity of action to the law as they interpret it... But the inner dimension of their personality... are left to remain contrary to what God has required." Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 143.

God established the Law to lead people to one Truth--Jesus (Gal. 3:23-24). When we follow Jesus wholeheartedly we automatically fulfill the Law.

In fact, in Matt. 7:12 Jesus sums up the Law and the Prophets in one phrase. Check it out and let me know if you think Jesus is simplifying it too much.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tuesday - Matt. 5:13-16


I'm trying to memorize today's text.

After my kids get on their bus I'll be mounting my bike and peddling to work.

It's about a 10km trek.

My plan is to chew on the passage while I ride.

I'll tell you how it went later this morning.


*Update*

So, here's what I learned as I meditated and cycled:

It's easier to climb hills in a car than on a bike, especially when your loaded down with stuff on your back.  And, in Jesus day, when they wanted to build a city on a hill it was going to take a lot more effort, pain, and hard labour than if they built it in a valley.  

I had to dismount my bike at least 3 times this morning because I couldn't make it up a couple of hills.

Jesus never said it was going to be easy to be the light of the world.  As I walked up those hills I wondered how many people fail to set up camp on the hill because it requires too much effort.  Too much discipline.

But the sacrifice was well worth it when I reached the hill's summit.  Because gravity did all the work on the way down.  

I wonder how often God's people miss being carried by the Spirit after a long, disciplined climb to the summit to build the city?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday - Matt. 5:1-12


Welcome to all who have taken up the challenge to study and meditate upon Matt. 5.

I'm looking forward to the journey.

I read through Matt. 5:1-12 a couple of times.  Then I picked up a book by Dallas Willard called, The Divine Conspiracy.  A large part of his book is devoted to the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7).  So, today was a 'study' day rather than a 'meditation' day.

Here's what struck me from the Matt. 5:1-12 passage:

1.  Jesus was speaking to his newly chosen, wet behind the ears, disciples (Matt. 4:18-22).  The didn't yet have any understanding of Jesus' kingdom values.

2.  He was also speaking to a rag tag horde of messed up people.  Gathered before him were the formally ill, those recently freed from demon-possession, people who have been in pain for years, and folks who had been paralyzed (Matt. 4:24).  Not only had those people just been set free but it's a guarantee that many in the crowd showed up to see Jesus that had not yet been healed or set free from being demonized. 

3.  This mob was in Jesus mind and eyes as he spoke the words of in Matt. 5-7.  Most of them were probably dirty, illiterate, unorthodox in their ideology, and irreligious.  They were certainly poor in spirit, mourning, and searching for righteousness.  They had very recently been shown tremendous mercy by Jesus (through healing and casting out demons).  And they were persecuted.  I used to think that the persecution Jesus was speaking about came from people who didn't follow God.  But remember who hated Jesus in his time?  It was the religious elite.  The Pharisees and Sadducees.  They spent their life trying to follow God, religiously. 

That's scary because I tend to spend most of my time on the religious side of the tracks.

4.  So, who would be in that crowd today?  Here's what Dallas Willard says, 
"The flunk-outs and drop-outs ad burned-outs.  The broke and the broken.  The drug heads and the divorced.  The HIV-positive and herpes-ridden.  The brain-damaged, the incurable ill.  The barren and the pregnant too-many-times or at the wrong time. The over-employed, the underemployed, the unemployed.  The unemployable.  The swindled, the shoved aside, the replaced.  The parents with children living on the street, the children with parents not dying in the 'rest' home.  The lonely, the incompetent, the stupid.  The emotionally starved or emotionally dead...  Murders and child-molesters.  The brutal and the bigoted.  Drug lords and pornographers.  War criminals and sadists.  Terrorists.  The perverted and the filthy and the filthy rich..."

Am I telling the people in the above list that the are valuable and loved by God or do I turn a blind eye to them?

Okay, gotta run.  I promised my little guy I'd play cars with him. 

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Formation @ Home - One week exercise


I'm starting a new sermon series tomorrow.  It's entitled Formation @ Home.

As a practical application of the message I'd like to invite you on a one week meditation and study exercise.

Let's read a few verses each day then post our experiences/responses to what we've learned in the passage.

Monday - Matt. 5:1-12
Tuesday - Matt. 5:13-16
Wednesday - Matt. 5:17-20
Thursday - Matt. 5:21-26
Friday - Matt. 5:27-32

I'll go first.  Check back sometime on Monday for my first post then click the 'comments' button to share your insights.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Another vehicle


It's official.

It's Good Friday and our van is dead.  There's no Easter Sunday resurrection in its future.

Instead, I dusted off my old road bike and took it to a shop in Scone.  They specialize two things: selling nature paintings and fixing bicycles.  The place is almost as interesting as the guy who tunes up the two-wheelers.

He's going to shine it up, change the tires, and make some needed adjustments.

It's going to replace the van as my vehicle of choice for the days I commute to work.  

The timing is perfect.  Not only is the weather getting nicer by the day, my work at the college is done for the semester.  Otherwise, I'd have to be on the road at 2:45am just to be on time for my morning class.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Slowing Down


Ever since posting my "busy pastor" rant a few weeks ago I've been trying to slow down.

I'm failing.  Miserably.

Friday, March 20, 2009

What's your church cooking with?


I'm preaching this Sunday morning.

The theme is the church's role in nurturing faith at home.

I'll be talking about next generation faith. The church can stunt the faith of the emerging generation if young people are not encouraged to leave "home" one day.

Jesus did it to the disciples when he sent out the 72.
Paul and Barnabas did it when they left on their first missionary journey.

What would happen if a church adopted the value of empty nesting?

We'd probably see a lot more faith being fostered in homes. We'd probably also see a lot more people walking the talk.

Of course, it means we'd have to stop cooking with cheese.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bad news...

I got some bad news on Tuesday.

Our Pontiac--the Cadillac of mini-vans--is dying

Rotten frame.  That was my mechanic's diagnosis after trying to attach the hoist to something solid.

He figures it'll last the summer.

It's funny.  The outside is fiberglass so it looks great.  It's underneath--the part you can't see--that's showing evidence of decay.

I hope vehicles don't emulate their owners.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Theology for 4-year-olds


I tucked my 2 favorite little people into bed tonight.

I read Shawna the story about Abram telling the Egyptians that Sarai wasn't his wife.  We talked about lying; and about how God takes care of us, even when we're afraid to do the right thing; and about not marrying your sibling.

I told Elijah the story of Jesus washing the disciples stinky, sweaty, poo-caked feet.  We talked about how that job was reserved for servants/slaves.  And we talked about how the most powerful person in the world volunteered to do the lowest job in the world.

And as I talked I got excited.  And I could tell that Elijah was getting excited too.

And after my theologizing was over he cut in the question that had been rolling around in his mind since the beginning of my homily, "Dad, where did the dinosaurs come from?"

I'm glad people don't ask questions after my Sunday morning sermon.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Staff Evaluation time


My annual staff review/evaluation is coming up on Tuesday.

In past years, I've answered a questionnaire about how well I was doing according to my ministry (job) description.

Things are different this year.  Since we're in a transition as a church, our interim lead pastor has asked us to answer questions like, "What's your primary ministry passion?" and "what's your vision for HMC?"  

There's even a question that asks how long we're committed to continue on staff at the church.

That tells me, our interim leader is looking to build a strong, committed team.  And he is open to new possibilities. 

So, anyone what to guess what I'm going to say to this one, "If you could rework your job description, what would you change?"

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

my family the church


I wonder what would happen if I treated my family like a congregation?

1.  We'd align our couch and chairs in rows whenever we watched T.V.

2.  If my kids wanted to talk to me, they'd have to make an appointment.

3.  I'd make special 'visits' to my wife.  She'd make tea and we would sit and talk about gardening and the neighbours.  Our time would conclude with me reading a Psalm.

4.  We'd have tailor-made family envelopes printed.  'The Mills family inc.' would receive money from individual family members.  The cash would be used to pay bills, my salary, and maybe a child in Spain.

5.  We'd buy another house.  A bigger house.  Just so we could run programs. 

6.  I'd have separate meal times for each of my 2 children.  I'd feed my daughter exactly what she wanted.  Then she'd go back to her room.  We'd have 25 minutes to get my son's favorite meal ready.  He'd eat, then wander back to his room. 

7.  When my kids were ready to leave home, and start their own families, I'd say 'no.'  Then I'd send them to their rooms.


I don't know about you but I'm ready for change.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Reflections on being busy


Currently, I've got a couple of Eugene Peterson books on my reading list. 

The other day, while reading, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the art of spiritual direction, I was convicted.

He writes:

"But the word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal.  It is not devotion but defection.  The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should be to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a banker.  It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront." The Contemplative Pastor, 27.

Being busy makes me feel important.  It can also be a smokescreen for a commitment I don't want to make.

Sadly, I'd rather say "I'm too busy," than tell the truth.

For me, being busy means:

1.  I haven't managed my time well, or
2.  I haven't said "no" to life's non-essentials. 

I need to make some changes.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Miracles


I got a phone call at the church on Wednesday.  

An unfamiliar woman was looking for our congregational care pastor and was accidently redirected to my extension.

She had an urgent prayer request for her daughter who was on her way to the hospital.  She needed a miracle.

The woman called me back at home that evening.  It turns out her daughter got that miracle.  We both rejoiced.  God is good. 

It inspired me to keep praying like I have the power to change God's mind.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I'm Obsessed


Okay. I admit it. I'm obsessed with Dallas Willard.

I read this tonight in his book, The Spirit of the Disciplines.

"The secret of the easy yoke, then, is to learn from Christ how to live our total lives, how to invest all our time and our energies of mind and body as he did. We must learn how to follow his preparations, the disciplines for life in God's rule that enabled him to receive his Father's constant and effective support while doing his will. We have to discover how to enter into his disciplines from where we stand today--and no doubt, how to extend and amplify them to suit our needy cases." p. 9.

I don't spend enough time preparing for life like Jesus did. It's no wonder I don't respond like him.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Empowerment vs. Delegation


I want to empower people.

Not delegate my unwanted tasks to them.





In other news, click here for a great article on what the term 'missional' means





  

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Coffeehouse tonight

I'm getting ready for our coffeehouse gathering in Walkerton tonight.

One of the discussion items is this clip from MLK.  We're going to be linking it back to Deuteronomy 34.  It's amazing what one courageous person can do when standing against injustice and inequality.

Maybe I'll see you at 7pm.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Spiritual growth measuring stick

Some of my recent thoughts on measuring growth:

"We need new ways of measuring church success.  In a large church, Sunday morning attendance indicates an ability to attract people.  We give them excellent music and dynamic preaching.  And Christians come.  Then, when we measure our effectiveness we ask, 'are people coming to church?'

We rarely ask, 'are those churchgoers apprenticing to be like Jesus?'  Why not?  Because we don’t know.  We have very few, if any, ways of measuring whether or not a person is learning to be like Jesus."

We need a new spiritual growth ruler.


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