From The Heart

Storm Chips …

It really is a thing and it is ours.

The phenomenon can be traced back to a casual on-air conversation in 2014. Stephanie Domet, who hosted the Mainstreet Halifax program on CBC Radio One, made an offhand remark about her plans to pick up some chips and dip in preparation for an upcoming blizzard. An enthusiastic discussion followed with a colleague who shared similar snack preparation rituals in his household.

This seemingly inconsequential chat resonated with listeners. Suddenly, the idea that storm preparations included a trip to the snack aisle gained traction. Media outlets noticed the pattern, and reports of noticeable spikes in chip sales emerged whenever a major storm was on the horizon. Read more …

Do you have YOUR storm chips?

What do you do on a storm day? It’s Wednesday and I, like many of you, are at home today, trying not to feel guilty about having some unproductive time … maybe.

Maybe you are catching up on the list. All those things that have been piling up because you have been busy with everything else. and what waits at home, comes last.

Maybe you are charging your devices in case the power goes out.

Maybe you have decided that you are not going to do anything at all. Every once in a while, or every so often, or more frequently than we do, … we ought to stop the productivity penchant. Busyness is not necessarily a badge of honour. Some times doing less of what doesn’t matter and more of what does is the best approach.

It’s the tension between what is urgent and what is important.

What is urgent screams for our immediate attention. Want is important waits quietly, patiently for us to assign it as a priority.

In a Chuck Swindoll book, I read the following illustration, some years ago.

Benno Schmidt Jr. had just assumed the presidency of Yale University. As you might imagine, this prestigious assignment was a relentlessly demanding assignment. He was being interviewed about the new position and he said this:

”If I can’t put my feet on the desk and look out the window and think without an agenda, I may be managing Yale, but I won’t be leading it.”

For many of us, our busyness mens that we are managing, but in truth, life is running us ragged. Life is making something out of us that we do not want to be or taking something from us that we dare not surrender.

We should be making something out of the life we have been given rather than being shaped by a life that we can barely manage.

There are many aspects to prioritizing the life that disappears so quickly. One of the most important is the value system that we choose to adopt.

An old Bob Dylan song gave us the lyrics, “It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” It was off one of his four gospel albums. This album was entitled, “Slow Train Coming”, an especially appropriate title. In the flavour of this newsletter, take time to listen to this song. Just click that link that you passed over. It might be an important reminder, whether or not you like Bob’s music. It’s a simple truth and a great reminder.

So this morning, we are going to talk about this critical difference. Are managing or living/leading?

Thanks for joining us this morning … at CLC, we’re in for life.

The One and Only

In our last church, in Fredericton, we were blessed to have a wonderful Christian lady who happened to be a doctor. Often, professionals such as doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, accountants are never off-duty when they come to a Sunday church service.

You know what I mean, right?

We have that one question that we feel we need to ask, to tap their expertise in an informal setting. It seems unlike work in our estimation because it is in another atmosphere. We are not in their office … it’s just casual conversation among friends. Most always, when I have been guilty of talking about “business” on Sundays, these folks have been gracious, likely more than I might be, I fear. The are the S.M.E.s (Subject Matter Experts) within arm’s reach.

I’ve stepped over those boundaries more than once and I feel badly about it.

This lady, Dr. Carman … attended to my father, about five years before he died. It seemed that he had a heart attack and I felt that if he were to be hospitalized, the DECH (Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital) would be easier for me to visit than the Regional.

So she agreed to care for him.

Dad, God Bless him … felt that he knew what was wrong with him and a heart attack was not one of the possibilities, in his estimation. I was there for their first meeting and consultation. I sat like a fly on a wall and listened as Dad explained his situation to this dear lady. She patiently absorbed every word he spoke without interruption. Carman had a beautiful, subtle perma-smile that communicated empathy, respect, humility and a host of other qualities that set my father at ease.

When he was finished, she ordered some bloodwork and I took dad home fro supper in New Maryland. We barely sat down at the table and I got a call from her office. She wanted dad at the hospital immediately. The blood work showed evidence that he had experienced a heart attack. I explained to dad that the doctor wanted him at the hospital. He was there for more than a week. I had the chance to visit him each day and enjoy some different kind of conversation than we had ever enjoyed before. Although he never admitted it, the heart attack and thoughts of his mortality, took us to a deeper level of father/son transparency.

And dad eventually returned home with something new, trust for a doctor, who took time and interest in him and allowed him to express himself.

In “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, (Please don’t dismiss the book for the title. It’s really a common sense book about life and relationships.) Steven Covey asserts that people are influenced by us to the degree that they perceive we are influenced by them. Time and fixed attention are two of the most life-changing gifts that we can give people. Conversely, to be “in a hurry” or “distracted” when we are interacting with people, communicates that we really don’t value people, our spouses and children most of all.

A couple of things …

God knows the deepest realities of our hearts. Much of our prayer lives are spent as amateur diagnosticians, telling God what the problem with the world really is. We self-diagnose, self-prescribe and self-medicate.

And the blood work tells the tale, confirming or denying our prognostications. At the end of the day, He is the Great Physician and we are the not-always-so-great patients.

He wants to hear us express our hearts to Him in honesty and trust. This is the essence of relationship.Without the freedom to speak openly, there is no relationship. And that honesty must be reciprocal. When we are open, we want the same openness in return. This is word of God as it comes to us in different ways. Most specifically, the voice of the Spirit coming to us in Truth as much as we are able to comprehend it. And no one understands totally. “We see through a glass, darkly. (1 Cor. 13)

God longs to make us whole. He can cure the body, the mind, the soul and bind up the broken hearted. I love the sign on the cobbler shop, … “We mend the rips, patch the holes, build up the heels and save the soles.” And most of all,He can be trusted.

Thanks for being with us today at CLC. (As of this writing, I am seeing some snow forecast for Sunday. Here’s hoping that the roads will be bare.)

He Remains Faithful …

This is one of those scriptures that I cling to. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful.” Paul’s encouragement to Timothy. I am so conscious of my tendency to faithlessness. There is a bad edit in this sermon that may leave you shaking your head. Somehow I lost a short, connecting portion of the message as I edited it.

PEACE … Life’s Essential Context

Peace … it’s an inside out thing but like so many other faith concepts, our tendency is to make it just the opposite. If we can order our outside world according to our liking and manage or control it then we assume that everything will be okay internally. But the propensity to manage and control is the very problem that makes our ends, so elusive. It creates the internal chaos that makes peace impossible.

The Advent themes: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love strike at the very heart of our desire to find our way independent of God and others.

This week we are highlighting the Peace that comes to us in relationship with God. It is the peace that you bring to life that matters, not the peace that you believe that you can find in life itself. We’ll chat that through in the CLC-ish way today, praying that God communicates Himself to you in the way that you most need Him.

Isn’t it amazing how easy and blessed an experience that we can find when we choose to focus on the Christ whose birthday season we celebrate? It still amazes me.

Advent 2023 Hope …

What does hope look like?

It’s the difference between going forward passionately and going backward or simply giving up. It is a conviction that things are never as bad as they seem and that there is always a “way”. Hope looks for the good and rejoices in it as opposed to the bad and wallowing in despair. Hope believes that we prepare the way for the King to return to something better than he left.

Isaiah writes the following and it is echoed several times in the gospels:

“A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”” (Isaiah 40:3–5, NIV84)

We don’t abdicate our place in this world or abandon the efforts to make it a better place. We work for the coming of the King.

Have you experienced the preparations that we undertake in this nation when royalty visits? We want to be at our best and outlandish amounts of money are spent to present the best version of ourselves.

Capitalism justifies itself Christianly, by claiming that we extract everything that we can from this planet and use it for our benefit. The rich just keep getting richer at the expense of creation itself and the poor. In the end, sometimes spoken and sometimes presumed we live as though we need not care for what we have been given by God because it is all destined for destruction. And there is untempered truth in all of this but it does not justify callous disregard for the good of others or our temporary home.

Some believe that the Christ that we anticipate will come when things get bad enough. What if the opposite is true? What if He will return when they get good enough? (1 Thess. 5:1-3) Make sure you read the bracketed portion of scripture. Peace precedes His coming. What if we hasten His return by making this world a better place rather than leaving it to its own devices?

Personally I would rather engage in making things better, not worse by intent or neglect. We are purveyors of Hope. We are the “light of the world” not the blight of the world. God has called us to bring beauty. Did you read that in Isaiah’s words?

He speaks of the Glory of the Lord being revealed as we engage in making things better. Read it again.

“Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed …”

Could we lay aside the darkness of despair for the sake of that Hope? It’s not just the Christmas experience that suffers but everyday life itself when we allow ourselves to be the bad news bears. Whatever else the gospel is, it is not bad news. A bad news gospel is not gospel at all. It is just pessimistic propaganda that breeds discouragement and robs people of Hope.

I feel as though I am constantly reminding people to look up. Square your shoulders back, lift your heads and look up. Don’t allow yourself to be robbed of the moment in which God wants you to live for bad experiences of the past or a pessimistic paradigm that paints a discouraging picture of the future. We are expecting something good, not something bad.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.” (Titus 2:11–15, NIV84)

Thanks for joining us at CLC on this first Sunday of another wonderful Advent season.

Settling Short of God’s Promise

Some people are never satisfied.  Achievements and acquisitions fail to meet aspirations and fuel that insatiable desire for more.  The problem is that more is never enough. Others are too easily satisfied and lack motivation. The middle ground may be the best. The sermon today references the story of Abraham’s calling and traces his faith to his own father, a man who dared to move forward without a clear picture of what lay before him. Abraham, in answering God’s call, finished a journey that his father had begun. For all of us, God’s story continues to be written.  It is bigger than any one of us, individually. Today, perhaps more than ever, it is important that we don’t stop short of what God has for us.