Hot off the press, your one stop spot for some of the upcoming fall events happening in our churches and communities. Some thoughts and themes are included, one of my summer reading books, as well as my latest pick for NADC feature artists. If there is an event happening in your church, diaconate or community that you would like me to know about and share, please let me know and I can pass it along. Also see the downloadable files for reading and sharing below, including an in-depth book review of the feature book in the newsletter. Enjoy - Jesse.
Remember November!? Have you seen, in your emails or bulletins, that the registration for the Day of Encouragement is open and registering at the super early bird price? The DOE will take place on Saturday November 2nd, but if you register early you will save the date, save having to remember to do it later and save money! Up until September 9th you can register for $40. September 9 - October 16th will be $50 and after that is the regular pricing of $60. Cost for the day goes towards paying for the facility, refreshments, lunch, and many great speakers. This day is for everyone in the congregation, not only council members and ministry leaders, so if cost is a hurdle for you please ask about it with your church staff or contact Jesse at email@example.com. Follow this link to register now... www.regonline.ca/doeedmonton2019
If you are having any problems with the registration process, email the above address or call 780-819-7488 at anytime and the NADC consultant will help or reserve your spot.
This years DOE will feature stories, teaching and sharing about how Canada has been a welcoming nation, from the time of the first europeans coming to Turtle Island, to the 40 most recent years of church involvement in partnership with World Renew and the Canadian government. The intent, spirit and practise of hospitality has been shaped, moulded and reformed for more than 300 years in Western Canada and this day will give us an opportunity to examine, celebrate and look at how it can be continued strong into the future. Lewis Cardinal will start off the day by telling stories of how the Indigenous Peoples were the first to welcome anyone to Canada and touch on topics like wampum belts, treaty agreements, gift giving and circle of stones. We will also hear about the current situation facing refugees and the work being done to support them, from the director and refugee coordinator of World Renew, Ida Kaastra-Mutoigo and Rebecca Walker. Jennifer Henry, the director of Kairos Canada, will wrap up the day with a theological reflection about the elements of hospitality; welcoming the other and will encourage us all on the path ahead together.
Workshops will include: 1. A panel of people working for local service provider agencies who have "feet on the ground" experience navigating the systems in our area. 2. A panel of refugees and committee members with lived experience. 3. A panel of faith based agencies and advocates who work to promote policy and participation. 4. A workshop examining unconscious biases and what we can do to learn about them and turn that into practical involvement.
Please share this info on social media, with your friends, congregations and anyone who is participating or interested in hospitality, welcoming and refugee sponsorship. The poster is available now to download and share in two different file versions below. A full brochure with details of workshop descriptions and presenter biographies will be made available when ready. You will receive schedule details upon confirmation of registration or later in the full brochure.
Again, that website to register is... www.regonline.ca/doeedmonton2019
I just finished a whirl wind weekend of music at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. There are some pretty obvious reasons why I love it; great music, being outdoors, the food and the community. Above and beyond that though, I love the EFMF because folk artists are often concerned about justice issues and are not afraid to speak about them through their message of music. We know music connects us on a different, deeper level, that is why music is such a large part of worship in our faith communities. These amazing singer/song writers know how to craft a message that rings true, makes us think and can move us to action. This weekend I heard messages about our biases, the harm we do to others and the harm we do to our world. Some of these songs are new and speak to the dangers of ruining our environment (www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYOkYoPXvOw&list=PL7yLbVS3ud7jR9sq0xMU0kWHlBggT7cam&index=9) and causing suffering for the poorest among us now. But some of the songs have been around for a long time and as one artist put it, "we need to keep singing them until something changes." This artist was referring to Bob Dylan's song "Blowing in the Wind."
This year for Sunday morning "folk church" I took in a show with The War & Treaty, The Hamiltones, The California Honeydrops and Don Bryant. Wow was it dynamic, full of energy, clapping, dancing and praise to God. Variety is also another great spice of folk music and I was sure happy to enjoy some blue grass, southern gospel and big band flair all in one worship service that spoke about the name and person of Jesus Christ. I'll give an AMEN shout out to that! I will also leave you with one last song, performed on the Main Stage in front of thousands of people, by Bruce Cockburn. His career is long filled with sharp critic for societal ills and injustice. Apparently he is somewhat of an evangelist as well; enjoy.
The Edmonton Public Library has a summer reading club that is popular with my family. The boys get reading and library challenges and I love it because the adults can participate too. I love sitting down with a good book and this one, written by author Kent Nerburn, definitely fits that description. It is filled with an engaging story of adventure, educational excerpts of history and many chunks of wisdom that make you sit back and consider deep issues.
The author tells the story of immersing himself in relationship with an Indigenous elder and how that experience shaped and informed his work and life. The elder, named Dan to keep his real identity anonymous, tells stories about his life, his people, his culture and is often starkly blunt about how he sees the realties of Native culture and how they are misconstrued by current stereotypes.
Hearing stories from another perspective can challenge and move us and I was certainly inspired to join in the adventures of Kent, Dan, Grover and "Fatback." There were many things that stood out for me and some of them even enlightened my own questions and stereotypes. For example, there is a discussion about why Indigenous Peoples properties or reservations are often perceived as junky with discarded items strewn about. I am not going to go into detail about the discussions and views of the characters but I will say it is only one example of something that opened my heat and mind to a new level of awareness. That narrative is just one example of why I would encourage anyone to take the time to read Neither Wolf Nor Dog.
Cultural connection and interaction are one of the major themes in the book. Our Canadian history and recent moves towards reconciliation are part of the ongoing story. I really liked one great discussion about words and communication. "You don’t convince anyone by arguing. People make decisions in their heart, not their ears and mind. Words should be like seeds; you plant them and let them grow in silence... We use words to make things what we want. We can use words in deceptive ways and should be careful with them. We should use words like beautiful stones, lift each one and look at it from all sides before using it. If we throw them out without thinking, they can hurt someone."
"The enemy is not each other, it is blindness to each others ways." - Dan
There are difficult parts of the book, discussion about spirituality and stories of how Dan believed many Indigenous People were Christ followers. They believed in Jesus before European settlers even arrived. He talks about aspects of culture, ceremony and a way of life that is bathed in prayer, hope and anticipation of a Messiah. In his opinion, the Ghost Dance of the Lakota people, is all about Jesus. One particular Dan story, coincidentally (or not) on page 316, was one that could make for a lengthy exploration and discussion all on its own. Dan talking to Kent...
“Your people must learn to give up your arrogance. They are not the only ones placed on this earth. Theirs is not the only way. People have worshipped the Creator and loved their families in many ways in all places. You people must learn to honor this… I am sad that the Creator saw it fit to destroy us to give you life. But maybe that is not so bad, for is that not what your religion teaches you that he did with Jesus? Maybe it was the power of our spirit that made us able to accept our physical death. Maybe it was the power of our spirit that made the Creator see that we, alone, could save you, who cared so much about things that should not matter. Maybe it is we who are the true sons and daughters of God, who had to die on the cross of your fears and greed, so that you could be saved from yourselves.” – page 316.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. - John 3:16.
Even though our summer has started out rainy and cool, I hold out hope that the sun will shine and we can enjoy warm temperatures soon. I am grateful for our summer season, to be outside, in the garden, taking in festivals and all the other activities we can do with friends and family. Another thing that I have been thinking about lately and am EXTREMELY grateful for are the global relief and development agencies at work in our denomination. Our world is a complex one, there are so many factors at play and groups like World Renew, Resonate Global Mission and Partners Worldwide have a lot of valuable experience from years of being involved (in many different ways). The people serve, evaluate, learn and adapt with each passing experience. I have recently been pointed towards a couple of videos that I would guess these two groups have wrestled with and are ones that we too have to be aware of and consider when we move from a posture of thinking, evaluating and then acting. Take a look...
This past June saw the NADC meetings experiment with two regional gatherings and experience a NADC first. As you can see in the pictures above, we had deacons of all varieties, including pelicans, deer and Homo sapiens!
Our central/south meeting was held at Sonrise CRC in Ponoka, on the heals of one of the walking segments for the Walk for Common Ground (pictured above with Wampum Belt). It featured a guest presentation by Tarence Barg from the Canadian Food Grains Bank.
The next evening was the North/Central meeting, held at the Lady Flower Gardens in Edmonton, where we experienced a walk and talk with our hosts and were joined by the other deacons you see in the pictures. Muriel Hogarth toured us around the property and our meeting was comfortably hosted in the yurt, arranged by a gracious invitation from Doug Visser and Kelly Mills.
See the attached files below, of the draft minutes of those meetings, for details as well as web links for mentioned features and presentations.
Walking for Common Ground - www.treatytalks.com
The Canadian Foodgrains Bank - www.foodgrainsbank.ca
Lady Flower Gardens - www.ladyflowergardens.com
A posture that has been growing in missions work is that of recognizing the fact that God is already present in places we are headed to, even if we may not realize it. We have a difficult time not falling into the temptation of making assumptions and judgments about people and cultures we do know a lot about. We can be forgiven for that, and God gives us grace, because even Old Testament fathers like Abraham, who closely communed with God, made the same mistake. We know Abraham was a great man of God, and God appeared to him multiple times, so clearly he knew God’s voice.
In Genesis 20 verses 1-6 we see that Abraham may have been making some assumptions without listening or looking for God’s presence. "20: Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, 2 and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her. 3 But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.” 4 Now Abimelek had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? 5 Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.” 6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her.”
God then tells the King to return Sarah, so he did asking Abraham in verse 10 and 11, “10 Whatever possessed you to do such a thing?” 11 Abraham replied, “I thought, ‘this is a godless place. They will want my wife and will kill me to get her.”
Author David Smith, in his book Learning from the Stranger, highlights the incorrect assumption of Abraham. “I thought, this is a godless place.” How wrong he was because clearly God was there, God has the power to be everywhere and talk to everyone, even people who may not outwardly appear to be walking with him. He spoke to the King directly through a dream. This is both a challenge and a reminder for us, God goes before us and is present, even when we may not see or understand it. We would do well, as we go into situations in mission’s fields near and far, to listen for the Holy Spirit and listen to others in our presence, watching for signs of God and His love.
On my learning trip to Mexico, we had the opportunity to share an afternoon with an Indigenous leader named Nacho Torres. It was a unique time of listening and learning because of their cultural practice of oral teaching. He held a deep historical knowledge about his people, the land and the connectedness of them with the Creator. I was intrigued by how he used and defined terms like dualism and syncretism because they were different than how I have heard people in our culture defining them. This raised questions for me but is something that I would have to learn more about from the different contexts and would not be something I would feel comfortable drawing a conclusion about God’s presence and workings in that place. It would take deeper engagement, stronger relationship connection and listening to the Holy Spirit, as we were formed in community together.
I grew up working for my dad in concrete construction and many of our jobs were in the small towns and surrounding farming countryside. We would often eat our lunch in the work truck and listen to Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story" on the radio. You will recognize his distinct voice in the video below, made popular as a Super Bowl Commercial.
"So God Made a Farmer" was a speech given by radio broadcaster Paul Harvey at the Future Farmers of America convention in 1978. It has origins (or should I say roots) that were inspired by parts of “A definition of a dirt farmer” published in The Farmer-Stockman magazine back in 1940.
Farming is something that requires deep knowledge of the land, of creation; it requires faith and perseverance. It is a physical reality of how we can work as co-laborers in God’s loving and renewing mission. Farming involves a balanced relationship with our creator, creation and those who need His sustenance; everyone.
Wendell Berry, someone many of you may have heard of, was a farmer and writer who embodied what it meant for faith to be lived out as a farmer. In a collection called The Art of the Commonplace: Agrarian Essays, Berry wrote these words:
"We must learn to acknowledge that the creation is full of mystery; we will never entirely understand it. We must abandon arrogance and stand in awe. We must recover the sense of the majesty of creation, and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For I do not doubt that it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it."
So as we spend time in God's creation, no matter what we are doing, let us practice that act of being worshipful in God’s creation and each other’s presence. Maybe you have experienced a prayer walk or have practiced a spiritual discipline called Lectio Divina. Lectio Tierra is very similar to that, but instead of resting in Gods word, listening for his voice, we spend time in God’s natural revelation, His creation.
As you enjoy creation this summer, if it is camping, leisure, or practising Lectio Tierra, be aware of all your senses, notice the elements of creation that God is drawing your attention to and offer prayers of thanksgiving to God for His creation, His grace and His presence with us; knowing that we are His beloved children.
I recently had the nerve racking, and stretching, experience of being a part of preaching some of the message one Sunday morning. My pastor approached me about sharing some thoughts during the sermon he was going to preach on Philippians 2: 19-30. We sat down and talked about the passage, what I could share from my role as deacon and then worked on how to fit it into the message. I was grateful that I was given the small opportunity to share in that way and here is the simple, short part of Sunday morning worship I was blessed to be a part of...
The CRCNA denomination has an international ministry called the Timothy Leadership Training program. It is a ministry that has recognized the huge wave of church growth in other parts of the world and the need for training up local leaders to serve in the churches there. In many places, the needs and resources are very different than what we experience here in Canada, but that does not hold the people back from risking, forming and being church. I have seen it first hand, in my time in Mexico and Honduras, people with seemingly almost nothing, finding ways or means to give to their church community and reach out in evangelism to others.
The image of open hands has always been an impactful one for me as a visual learner. Open hands are outstretched in order for God to take us by the hand and lead us in use of our gifts and to also place something in them; gifts from the Holy Spirit. When we close our hands to hold onto something, we can no longer receive more. If our hands remain open, we can then easily give things to others and in service with others. When this is done in community, it builds each other up and we can often give more as a group than we can on our own. We are also more likely to give to those we have formed relationships with, so I would encourage all of us to look around for a moment. There is a wonderful diversity of people in our midst, who we can get to know and love more deeply. When we do that, we will grow, desire to live and serve each other more sacrificially and enter into the work of Christ together.
As mentioned in the text in Philippians chapter 2 verse 21, our culture tells us to look out for number one and serve our own interests, but through God’s covenant with us, we know living in communion with each other and God, is a much better path. I strongly believe that giving is also a camouflaged way of receiving. If we are open to listen for the spirits leading in our lives and step out and give at the leading edge of our own comfort, God has ways of blessing us beyond what we have given. When we do this together we also have the security of Christian fellowship to encourage and lift each other up along the way. That encouragement of being served opens the door to then allow others to give and serve. By modeling the servant heart of Christ, we are living out the mindset of Christ as described in verses 5-8. Many times, serving in community means we are also planting seeds in God’s Kindom that may be watered and harvested by others, for God’s glory.
I encourage you brothers and sisters in Christ, in words from the Contemporary Testimony, Our World Belongs to God, lets embrace God’s mission in our neighbourhoods and the world, through the giving of our daily lives in acts of service, mercy, compassion, justice and love … for God’s sovereign purposes.
Let the following questions rest on your heart and mind and see where the Holy Spirit is nudging you this week. It may be about money… time… talents… service to others… changing priorities or even words of encouragement and the good news of Jesus Christ.
What have I received?
What can I share?
What can I give?
Recently I took some time to attend one of the Dunamis Conferences, with a group of other CRC people, called Growing the Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit. It was a valuable time of learning about and experiencing the movement of the Holy Spirit. In the beautiful setting at Providence Renewal Centre, we had time to go out for a prayer walk. I want to share my experience with you in a digital way to familiarize and encourage you if you have never done something like this in the past. It is an excellent spiritual discipline practise and especially enriching when done in creation, focused on silence and solitude. So this medium will be imperfect but will hopefully inspire you to then head outside and practise it for yourself!
The instructions were simple; God gives us times of refreshing, but they spring from when our hearts are repentant and prepared. As you pray through the following scriptures listen to that still small voice of the Lord. Go out, walk until you are drawn to stop and then reflect and pray. When you feel you are done meditating on that passage, move on to the next spot and passage.
Psalm 100:4 - The first thing I was drawn to was this hedge. I thanked God for the chance to be outdoors, in creation and to feel a warm sense of created-ness and protection. I praised God for being our sustainer, provider and for His renewing presence.
Acts 3:19 - The second spot I paused was at this tree. As the text reflects, I considered the sin in my life and the need to let it be peeled away from me and drop off. Like this tree, even though it may expose softer more vulnerable parts of the trees interior, it is necessary for growth. With roots firmly in place in the soil, it is able to face the elements around it and continue to thrive.
James 4:6-7 - As I walked past some towering columnar aspens, into a corridor of green space, there was a distinct difference between what was on my right and left. To my left was a stand of deciduous trees (middle picture) and to my right a stand of coniferous trees (right picture). It was striking to me how they were only separated by the walking trail but very little mixing of the species was to be seen. I stopped and reflected on the size and magnitude of trees and how our own sin and pride can get in the way of our relationship and service to God and others. I prayed for humility and for God to reveal the ways certain stands of pride had grown in my life that I needed to let go.
Ephesians 4:29-32 - I stopped in front of this burning bush, (how could I not!) to hear from God about the deepest convictions of my own heart and actions. Was there any bitterness or unforgiveness in me that needed healing? Are there relationships that need mending? Are there parts of my life, like the picture on the right, that have been clearcut, stripped bare, where only stumps and roots remain? This sadly happens in our human interactions and relationships with each other and with creation. What needs to be done in my own life to heal and repair this. I sat, prayed and considered these things while ever conscious of the warmth of the sun on my skin.
Acts 1:8 - The final passage to reflect on took me down a hill to a bridge at the bottom of the ravine. There I was drawn to the water, the element that is so important to sustaining and flourishing of life. Like our own spiritual journeys, the need for a complete communion with the entirety of the Trinity is essential. I thanked God for what he has done in my life and asked for more of the power of the Holy Spirit to be a witness and continue the path of walking with Him. Down to the water for refreshing, to make the journey up again.