Tag Archive: life


ImageOk, so I know that this is technically “two” days after OFLO ends, but most of you probably slept all day yesterday and so that doesn’t really count. Today was your first full day back into your normal routine of school, work, family, school bus, homework, home room, teachers, parents, detention, siblings, lost homework, exams…and so on.

So, I want to ask you this: How are you doing? No, really. How are you doing?

OFLO was amazing! Sometimes regular life is not amazing. OFLO definitely was a place where God’s voice and worship were readily accessible. Sometimes regular life can mask or drown out the voice of God in our lives. OFLO makes having faith easy. Sometimes regular life crushes our dreams and steals away our faith.

When Jesus was on earth he took some of his closest people away on a prayer retreat to a certain mountain. While they were there the presence of God was so rich and so real that Jesus’ face changed its looks and his clothes shone like lightening. The friends that were with Jesus thought this was amazing and wanted to build three shelters so that they could stay there. They recognized that it was good to be there.

Jesus, however, did not comply. The friends and Jesus all returned to their regular life after this prayer retreat on a mountain. Do you know what they faced the very next day? A demon possessed child that Jesus’ disciples had prayed for but was still ill. A screaming, raging, convulsing, foaming at the mouth, display of evil in all of its limited power. (Luke 9:28-43)

What a contrast. One day they experienced the ultimate glory of God and the next they were experiencing the frustrating entanglement of evil in all of its limited but real impact.

Does this sound like what you are feeling right now? Do you wish OFLO had not ended? Would you like to have built shelters to stay in (or just booked a few extra nights at the Crowne Plazza)? Do you want to worship with the house band night after night?

It was good to be there; but now it is good to be home…right? I am sure that some of you (if not many of you) have been confronted with evil, temptations, and the ugly sludge of life already. OFLO was good…so what now?

I have some great ideas for how each of you can carry on what God has revealed to your heart. As your pastor, I have been thinking and praying about each of you and the things that God has done in your heart. And I do have some ideas.

For now, however, I want you to rest comfortable in the fact that feeling a sense of loss and disorientation after OFLO is a real and normal thing to be experiencing. Nevertheless, the answer is not to constantly look back to what was. Rather, look forward to what will be and how God will continue to be with you in the meantime.

I have another idea for you too…and this one will require work. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

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My wife and I had a unique first experience just before Christmas last year: we experienced Black Friday shopping in Michigan for the first time in our lives. It was exhilarating, it was intense, it was LOUD, it was late…(we had to line up)…it was crazy…and at the same time I had so much fun. We picked up some really great deals on Christmas presents for our kids, presents for other people and a few things for us.

There were people present at WalMart that evening, however, who did not handle this shopping trip in the same light hearted nature that Mandy and I approached it with. There was swearing, pushing, light punching, diving on top of merchandise, evictions from the store by security and shopping carts EVERYWHERE.

Lets fast forward to Christmas morning: our kids got up and were amazed at the number of wrapped packages that filled the living room! We skyped with some family and then began to open presents. It went something like this: rip paper, look, set aside…rip paper, look, set aside…cry and scream because you want to play with a toy you just opened (me included)…but instead get another wrapped package placed into your lap to open.

As Mandy and I reflected on this first Christmas in our own home with our children we realized that it did not play out quite like we had wanted. We envisioned a quiet and peaceful time opening presents, making organized piles of everything and then playing with toys later in the day in an organized fashion. We were naïve…and quite wrong!

Recently I ran into the photo that I included at the beginning of the blog post. I was immediately reminded of my Black Friday shopping experience and subsequent Christmas morning chaos. There is a poignant truth conveyed by this photo that is quite impossible to relate in words. I guess a photo really is worth 1000 words.

I am not writing so as to condemn us for enjoying the blessings of life in Canada. I too enjoy a warm bed, more food than I need and many toys and gadgets that make life easier. I even enjoyed Black Friday shopping…and the 40” television in my living room that came as a result.

However…I also enjoy being a good steward of the blessings God has given me. I enjoy receiving our charitable donations receipts at the end of each year to see that with what God has given us we have been able to return a tithe and then some. I enjoy speaking with Phil and Donna Williams of Servant Heart Ministries; our church supports their medical and relief work in the Dominican Republic. I enjoy visiting the Dominican Republic and hanging out with people like Sandra Torino; though she has nothing she gives evenything back to those in her village of Auga Negra. She is a modern day Dorcas (Acts 9:36-42). I enjoyed taking Sandra out for ice cream one afternoon with our youth missions team and hearing her describe how special this was for her.

I enjoy the talk of giving a young girl in our community a baby shower to show her that we still care deeply no matter the choices she has made. I enjoy having friends over when part of their family is out of town and I enjoy hanging out with Benjamin’s friends for an evening while their family attends to a medical emergency.

These are the things that are necessary in life.

When we define necessity with greater depth than what can be found in a department store we suddenly find many more things to enjoy in this life and much more fulfillment in the way that we live.

When we become aware of the blessings that we can pass on to others we suddenly realize that in so many ways we can bring much joy and fulfillment to those that live around us.

Luke 12:48 “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Good morning readers! Just two more pieces of information to complement my last post entitled “Facebook: Friend or Foe”.

In my last post I reference one teenage suicide in the Halifax region last week; there were actually two teenage suicides last week and both funerals were this past weekend. It is not clear if both are somehow linked to cyberbullying; however, there is certainly the perception that at least one of these suicides may be linked to this. This is certainly a tough week for many students at teachers in Halifax region schools and prayers for them would be much appreciated.

Secondly, CBC.ca has followed up their Facebook depression article with another article yesterday. This one is called “Monitor Facebook use by teens” and can be found at (http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2011/03/28/facebook-social-media-teens-children.html). The bulk of this article is reiteration from previous articles, however, there is a sidebar included with some very practical advice for parents and teenagers regarding Facebook use. It is certainly a worthwhile read and a great complement to the suggestions that I have put forth for safe social networking.

Have a great day!

~PN

It seems that Facebook has been the topic of some interesting media coverage lately. It is not surprising that Facebook is in the media for some reason; there are over 500 million users worldwide! Certainly this must be an administrative nightmare at the best of times.

Let me tell you about three recent news reports. The first report that caught my eye this morning was on CBC.ca and was entitled “Facebook Depression raised by MDs for teens” (http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2011/03/28/facebook-social-media-teens-children.html). The premise of this article is that medical doctors are now starting to see a phenomenon in teenagers that is similar to depression but is caused by devastating experiences with social networking. This is how something like this might work: a teenager signs up for a Facebook account and can then sees the pictures and postings of their friends or others they might know from school who do not have strict privacy settings on their profiles. Perhaps this teenager reaches out and requests friendship with several of his/her classmates and is rejected or simply ignored. Maybe there is a group event that is initiated but this person is not included on the invite list. Or, perhaps after posting pictures of himself/herself or family events others respond with hurtful or degrading comments.

This is essentially the online equivalent of getting picked last in gym class…times a million because everyone in the school will see it in their newsfeed over and over and over again. More than just one event in time, offenses that take place on Facebook are present indefinitely and the hurt can be relived each time it is viewed or talked about.

Is this for real, you might ask? Well, let me tell you about the two other reports that have been in the news recently.

The second and third reports are both from the Chronicle Herald (Nova Scotia’s provincial newspaper published in Halifax, NS). One article was published on Friday March 25th and was entitled “Is Lower Sackville teen’s suicide a result of cyberbullying?” (http://thechronicleherald.ca/Front/9020294.html). The other was published on Saturday March 26th and was entitled “Online bullying, suicide link probed” (http://thechronicleherald.ca/Front/9020297.html). All of this after a 14 year old girl from Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia killed herself this past week. At some point after her suicide there was a memorial page started on Facebook and numerous comments attributed her death to cyberbullying. Now, family members and her principal are questioning these reports stating that other factors likely contributed to this death…which makes me wonder… if just days after the death we can be so certain about what contributed to it, why then did we not reach out two weeks ago to prevent it? Anyhow, I digress. The fact is that there is a perception that cyberbullying certainly contributed to this unfortunate ending of life and the RCMP in Nova Scotia are following up this lead.

Here are my thoughts on all of this: it is for good reason that Facebook has a policy that you must be 13 years old to have an account and that even those individuals who are older than 13 should still consult with their parents as they experience Facebook. I know for a fact that many teenagers somewhat embellish pictures, ages, and other features about themselves on Facebook…I know this because I know these people in real life and I also follow many (many, many…) teenagers on Facebook and see the glaring discrepancies.

Social media in itself is not to blame for the depression or suicide described above. Facebook, or the less popular (and less monitored by adults) social network found at formspring.me, are tools that can be used for much good. Mandy and I connect with family that live a great distance away using social networking tools.

Here are some beginning thoughts to keep safe while using the benefits of social media:

1. Be true to who you are! Post pictures, posts, and birthdays that are accurate! Misrepresenting yourself online can never lead  to good things. You are unique and special in your own way and you don’t have to pretend to be something that you are not.

2. Treat bullying seriously. Bullying is never ok, and just because it isn’t face to face (but on Facebook instead) it still hurts and obviously has devastating consequences. Don’t do it, don’t believe it, and don’t stay silent about it!

3. Involve parents and other people in your online activities. Don’t ever let your online habits become so secretive that you are not talking with parents and others that you trust about what is taking place online. Parents, talk to your kids about their online habits just the same as you would about the friends they see in real life and the places they go in real life. As someone said, Facebook is the new ‘corner store’ where teens go to hang out.

Lets strive to make sure these past news reports never become future headlines once again.

So, although I did not spend much time with you guys last night (blame it on the Monkey Barrel crowd) I STILL know what you guys were up to. In fact, I was talking with your small group leaders afterwards last night and they said that you were…well, fairly engaged given the topic.

So, lets briefly summarize what last night was all about (in case you were not here or not paying attention).

We watched Rob Bell in one of his first NOOMA videos called “Flame”. In this video he talks a lot about dating, relationships…and sex. He basically says that sex is something that is so special that you need to want until you are absolutely committed to one person and then allow it your life. Any deviation of this pattern leads to potential destruction…if you don’t believe Rob (or me) just look around teenage culture.

Song of Songs 2:7

Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you
by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not arouse or awaken love
until it so desires.

The reason for this: love is a flame.

There are three Hebrew words used for love; the first is raya, the second is ahave, and the third is dode.

Raya is used to describe the relationship between friends. It is a companionship kind of love. Ahave is a willful love that you choose and decide who to give to. Rob Bells says, “…this is way more profound than fleeting romantic feelings. This is much more than temporary urges. Ahava is making a decision to join your life to the life of another. This is an emotion that leads to commitment.”

Dode is the sexual/intimate love in a relationship. Dode is like a potent flame that when unleashed out of sequence with the other aspects of love can certainly result in destruction of you and others. All three love ‘flames’ must burn at the same time and in the proper sequence.

When the three burn in complete unison you have….well….you saw it; that BIG flame. If you have never seen Rob Bell’s NOOMA video called “Flame” I urge you to locate a copy (we have them in the EGCC library) and watch it!

Think about these questions:

Why is love so complex?

Do we generally treat love as sacred, beautiful and mysterious?

Do you love tacos, or baseball, or your pet…the same way you love people?

What else is there inside you aside from your physical body? How do these invisible parts of your body love?

Have a great week! Next week we move on from this LOVE TALK and onto something else….phew!

So I watched Glee last night…and about half way through the episode I was having a bad case of déjà vu about their portrayal of God, faith and Christianity; it just seemed like they were perpetrating all the cliché statements of pop culture concerning faith. I felt as though the whole foundation of Glee (i.e. the plight of the underdog) had more depth and more integrity than what was playing out before my eyes.

My hope was restored as the show concluded as there did seem to be an attempt to present a balanced perspective; no solid conclusions were reached but there was balance.

All of this has me thinking about the role that prime time television plays in educating our culture. If I were not a person of faith I may have finished watching Glee last night and been somewhat perplexed. Is faith really worthless? Is there really no God; Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) certainly had a convincing argument to support this fact. What about supernatural things taking place in our world today; are they really as ludicrous as a ‘grilled cheesus”?

I think that we all (myself included) need to take a step back from prime time television to realize that its purpose is not to educate but to provide lighthearted and satirical entertainment at the end of a busy day. These programs give us a moment to exit the constraints of the real world where the rules are changed and characters are free to say and to do what they wish. In a stuffy world of confusing political correctness and nauseating conversations about proper etiquette, the genre of shows like Glee help to provide relief and humor from all of this; to this end they do accomplish their task.

There is an unfortunate and undesirable side effect related to the humor and comic relief brought about by prime time television; many people actually believe everything they hear.

The writers of last night’s episode of Glee managed to fill the show full of clichés and stereotypes related to having faith and not having faith. There was the appearance of the image of Jesus in a physical object (the ‘grilled cheesus sandwich’), there was the classic ‘I asked for it and God did not answer, ergo he does not exist’ argument, there was the notion that keeping faith out of school is a good thing, there was the extremely trendy statement ‘God created me a homosexual and yet condemns me for this very fact’, and a host of other popular statements. There was enough reality and emotion in what was presented for the viewer to be almost convinced that this is the way the real world actually is.

The thing is, the writers of this episode of Glee were under no obligation to provide a balanced ‘peer reviewed’ perspective of faith and of God. Prime time television in general is under no obligation to ensure the complete accuracy of the information that they present and they are under no obligation to resolve every dilemma that they raise. Their genre is one of entertainment and not education; however this distinction is becoming muddy in our present day.

I am sure that some will commend Glee for confirming God’s non-existence last night without realizing the subtle nuances that were present and without really examining the arguments that were raised. Let me (gently) correct the record as one who works in and studies faith and God: none of the arguments and/or dilemmas presented on Glee last night were new, nothing presented on Glee last night is as simple or as clear-cut as it may have appeared, and no new conclusions or syntheses about faith and God were construed by the characters on the show. It certainly was entertaining, but that is all.

I commend the writers of Glee for achieving somewhat of a balance last night. Emma Pillsbury’s (Jayma Mays) reminder that although God works and speaks in mysterious ways, but probably not through a grilled cheese sandwich, was a tactful way to dismiss the ‘grilled cheesus’ while not dismissing faith. I also commend the writers for demonstrating the faith of students like Mercedes Jones (Amber Riley) as firm and unwavering. Finally, I think that it was in good taste (and balance) that once Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) seemed to accept prayer as a legitimate expression of sympathy and grief we see his comatose dad begin to respond to his son’s presence for the first time.

I am not sad that this show aired, in fact I am somewhat glad. Glee’s whole foundation is built around exposing stereotype and cliché in a comical fashion. The basis of the show is about the competition between sports and arts in a local high school and the typical students involved in each. Last night’s episode placed the topic of faith and spirituality in the minds and conversations of the general public and this is not necessarily a bad thing.

To fix our confusion of the genres of entertainment and education I think that conversation and blogging such as this is so necessary so that once we jump back into the real world we can make sense of what we saw and perhaps dreamed about just the night before.

What do you think?