Heart (Re)tuning

My palms burned as I held the tuning peg on my cello in a death grip, tightening it millimetre by stubborn millimetre. Would it stay put? Cautiously picking at the string, I heard a perfectly pitched “A” ring out. The moment I released the peg, though, it immediately backslid to the original position, leaving me with a string hanging limply by a piece of wood. As time-consuming as the tuning process took, there was no shortcut if I wanted the instrument to play decently. I just wished I hadn’t let it sit long enough to get *so* out of tune.

In the daily news, harsh tones of fear and anxiety echo throughout the COVID-19 reports, stories of senseless murders and racist attacks, and accounts of other horrors ranging from the local to global scale. Facing this cacophony, I wonder if we as a church also need to regularly check our built-in instruments of worship–our hearts–to make sure they’re in tune.

Too often, whatever thanksgiving my prayers start off with is too quickly buried under a landslide of requests: that God would have mercy on the suffering, that He would keep my family and friends safe, that He would give me a discerning heart for the topsy-turvy challenges of the coming day, that He would give a certain student a helpful nudge to hand his homework in…the list goes on.

God does want to hear us voice our needs. Jesus tells us that our Heavenly Father is more than willing to give good gifts to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:11). In fact, we are encouraged to pray “on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18). Yet, sometimes, the worries and sorrows and all I want the Lord to do threaten to take centre stage in my conversations with Him, pushing into the wings all that He has already done.

Time and again, the themes of praise and thanksgiving pop up in the Bible. Almost every one of Paul’s New Testament letters opens with a passage thanking or praising God. Curiously, these words of thanksgiving always come first. And I wonder if these joyful prologues serve as heart-tuners. Tuning pegs that pull us away from the “sour notes” of worry, bitterness, shame or irritation lingering in the chambers of our souls. Thought-knobs that limber up the strings of limp, exhausted spirits.

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Remember you are talking with the God who:
● enriches you in all speech and all knowledge (1 Corinthians 1:4),
● mercifully comforts you in all afflictions (2 Corinthians 1:3),
● blessed you in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, predestined you for adoption as a child through Jesus Christ, redeemed you through his blood, forgave your trespasses and lavished grace upon you (Ephesians 1),
● begins and completes good works in you (Philippians 1:6),
● teaches believers to grow in faith and love (2 Thessalonians 1:3),
● gives us a spirit of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:3),
● … (It turns out that the list goes on here, too.)

A friend and I recently discussed what it would be like to begin prayers with at least one minute of praise and gratitude for what God has already done. It’s not always easy. Years of launching into litanies of supplication after only a brief note of appreciation tempts me to spend more time on the “Would you please, Lord,” than on the “Hallelujah! Thank you, Lord!”

But the more I focus on all that this Lord has already done for me and humankind, the more I am awed by His gracious and generous character. Sometimes, the gratitude list gets so long that I never get to the requests. Or, if I do, it is less out of desperation or frustration and more out of trust in the One who gives the best gifts in His time.

While it takes time to tune–and retune–my heart to thanksgiving as it backslides to discontent, fear and other “sour notes,” this promises the hope of living and thinking in harmony with the great Conductor of heaven and earth.

How do you fine-tune your heart to sing in the tones of reverence, awe and gratitude that are due to the loving Creator and Saviour of all things? How can we challenge ourselves and each other to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present our requests to God” (Philippians 4:5)?

Who’s Enough?

who is enough

“I’m too fat; I’m too tall. I sing off-key and I don’t fit at all.”

So runs a rhyme I made up as a seven-year-old with a crippling case of self-doubt.

For several years, I chanted this merciless mantra under my breath whenever I did something wrong, couldn’t find friends to play with, or “messed up” in one way or another. Why I enjoyed replaying this negative self-talk remains a mystery. What I do know is that replacing it with Biblical truths about who I am as God’s created treasure I and many others struggle with to this day. Almost every day, the underlying currents of self-doubt—Am I beautiful? Am I lovable? Am I good enough? simmer in the back of my mind.

The North American consumer culture capitalizes on self-doubt. Advertisers design their commercials to make us feel not enough: not rich enough, not successful enough, not good-looking enough. The hope is that we will buy their products and services in the wild goose chase of becoming “enough.” Societal influences like pornography and misuse of social media platforms, which laud “perfect” and often unrealistic images, become key ingredients in recipes for self-destructive thoughts, harsh self-criticism, and depression. The discontentment that runs rampant in the adult world filters too easily into the teenage sphere: high school students can fall prey to the comparison game as they vie for good grades, brand name clothing, athletic ability, looks and popularity.  

What hope is there for those who battle with self-doubt? Here are three tools which have helped me in the past and which I am still learning to use:

1. Look to the Word.

God’s Word alone has the power to lift people from a spiral of mantras borne of fear, shame and guilt. Romans 12:3 reads, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” According to John Piper, Paul says through this verse that our pride is found in our valuing of Christ Jesus and therefore in our “faith.” Thinking of ourselves with “sober judgment,” we avoid both becoming puffed up with an inflated self-image and beating ourselves up with unnecessary criticism. Instead, we can learn to “look away from ourselves to Christ as our truth and treasure.”

2. Look to the Lord.

Praise the Lord that, when we look to the Word, we discover that “it is by grace we have been saved, through faith—and this is…the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The fact is, when it comes to salvation, everyone misses the mark. No one is good or smart or beautiful enough to win their own salvation—if we were, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die on the cross. Writer Andy Stanley sums up the gospel this way: “The good news is that good people don’t go to heaven—forgiven people do.” Thank God that Christ came not to save the healthy and righteous, and but the sick and the sinners.

Where we are not enough, His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).  It’s funny how “I”-focussed my childhood rhyme was and how obsessed I was (and still am, sometimes) with my perceived shortcomings. When we take our eyes off our many limitations and shift our focus to Him, we go from saying “I can’t do this” to “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). Our attitude turns from one of self-pity and fear to one of gratitude and worship.

3. Look to the world.

Shifting our focus to the Creator demands shifting our focus to His created. As a high school teacher, my focus is conveniently forced outward. Juggling students’ questions, reactions and needs, I have very little time to spare for berating myself on a less-than-ideal lesson and wondering if I can really teach (although, granted, there are days when that’s all I waste time thinking about!) Instead I can choose to wonder, What can I do better to help them now/next class/the next time we do this activity?

Sometimes looking to the world may take the form of intentional acts like:

-Encouraging someone else—a classmate, a colleague, a stranger

-Volunteering

-Doing a good deed for a family member or a friend

-Enjoying nature—garden, hike or play with a pet—and thanking the One who gives us these good gifts

How do we look to the Lord, the Word and the world to combat self-doubt? How do we replace the doubts niggling at the backs of our minds with words of thanks and worship:

“For you created my inmost being, You knit me together in my mother’s womb;

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:13-14)

Developing a Hunger for God

developing a hunger for God

In a season of feasting, celebrating and giving it is not always apparent who or what we are hungry for. The health of Faith’s family depends on an ongoing hunger for God but when all our needs are met how do we stay aware of this underlying hunger?

In John Piper’s book, A Hunger for God, he focuses the believer on the discipline of fasting and prayer. His thoughts are anchored on the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 9:14-17.

Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

When fasting is a common practice in religions, cultures and societies why should we join in? Doesn’t the arrival of Jesus do away with harsh and manipulative practices by people trying to fill some form of law? Aren’t we, in the church, living in post-resurrection days beyond the realm of ritual and self-denial? Shouldn’t we, as Spirit-filled people, live above the pulling and prodding of our bodily appetites and pleasures?

Piper notes that, although fasting is a universal practice, no one knows its origins. It has been used to mark religious festivals, political purposes, health pursuits and mourning rituals. Outside the gospels, the practice of fasting is hardly mentioned among church disciplines.

Still, Jesus says that his followers will fast after he leaves. Piper says “in this age there is an ache inside every Christian that Jesus is not here as fully and intimately and as powerfully and as gloriously as we want him to be. We hunger for so much more. That is why we fast.” (p. 38) He notes that our longing is based on the finished work of Christ and not out of an emptiness of some kind.

“We have tasted the powers of the age to come, and our fasting is not because we are hungry for something we have not experienced, but because the new wine of Christ’s presence is so real and so satisfying. We must have all that it is possible to have. The newness of our fasting is this: its intensity comes not because we have never tasted the wine of Christ’s presence, but because we have tasted It so wonderfully by his Spirit, and cannot now be satisfied until the consummation of joy arrives. The new fasting, the Christian fasting, is a hunger for all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19), aroused by the aroma of Jesus’ love and by the taste of God’s goodness in the gospel of Christ (I Peter 2:2-3).

“…Faith is a spiritual feasting on Christ with a view to being so satisfied in him that the power of all other allurements is broken. This feasting begins by receiving the past grace of Christ’s death and resurrection, and then embraces all that God promises to be for us in him. As long as we are finite and fallen, Christian faith will mean both delighting in the (past) incarnation and desiring the (future) consummation.” (pp. 42-43)

As Isaiah reminds us (58:1-12) true fasting in God’s eyes “looses the chains of injustice, sets the oppressed free, shares food with the hungry, provides the poor wanderer with shelter, clothes the naked and takes care of needy humans in our community.

Now, is there some way that our hunger for Jesus to be fully present among us might stimulate us to see those around us and meet their needs? Faith’s family needs this hunger for Jesus to show itself in real and practical ways. May God bless you as you put your hunger into practice. However you demonstrate it, know that you are loved more than you could ask or imagine. Pastor Jack

Spiritual Leadership

In our recent Remembrance Day ceremonies, we recognize that many of the war’s leaders emerged under fire from necessity. Not often enough, we recognize that many of the church’s leaders arise from the reality of the spiritual warfare we are involved in. In our November Leadership Forum we will be envisioning the importance of younger leaders rising up to embrace the future movement and impact of the church.

One of the standard works of leadership is Henry and Richard Blackaby’s Spiritual Leadership. The premise of their book is that spiritual leadership means moving people onto God’s agenda. This is a book which the members of our board of governors is working our way through.

The task of a spiritual leader involves the following at Faith and anywhere else where God’s men and women step up to this responsibility.

Spiritual leaders move people through influence to pursue God’s purposes. We are on a journey together toward the destination God has designed for his people. Change is an inevitable part of being in God’s family. It affects our attitudes and behaviours and requires us to exemplify the pattern and lifestyle for the vision we are embracing. Not everyone likes change but leaders need to learn to thrive in the midst of it. The church is continually handing off the keys to decision making to the next generations and that requires a humble trust with what the Holy Spirit is doing through those who walk beside and behind us.

Spiritual leaders use spiritual methods to move people and soon realize they are trying to accomplish spiritual change in people which only God can accomplish. Someone has wisely said, “Pray as if everything depends on God and work as if everything depends on you.” God’s agenda for his church is often much larger than anything we can ask or imagine.

Spiritual leaders are accountable to God and this means that leaders don’t make excuses when their attempts to influence God’s people fall short. The leader is not successful until he has moved others onto God’s agenda. A leader can easily fill a position or role without accomplishing their purpose to move others onto God’s agenda. Faithfulness and fruitfulness are both essential.

Spiritual leaders focus on people even when having to consider budgets, visions and strategies. With so many introverts rising to influential positions it is important to recognize that leadership is not always a comfortable role. Leaders move toward people and with people and for people. When you sense yourself withdrawing or withholding it is wise to review the factors impacting your personality and action. It is ideal to enjoy people as those made in God’s image and as those whom Christ has called into partnership to finish the good work he began.

Spiritual leaders expand their influence over people beyond the borders of the church. Together, we are designed and purposed to reach out into the communities of our world. No matter what profession or place of work, God’s Spirit desires to reach and impact the lives who work there. Our significant influence nudges people toward God. Blackaby notes that “history is replete with examples of Christian men and women exerting spiritual leadership upon secular society.” He notes the examples of William Wilberforce in the abolition of slavery and cites Joseph’s role in setting up a grain distribution system to take Egypt through the famine years. Christ followers are invested in significant roles all around this planet.

Spiritual leaders find the foundation of their work in God’s agenda rather than in their own. “His purpose is to turn his people away from their self-centeredness and obsession with temporal, material concerns and to draw them into a relationship with himself so they are his instruments for accomplishing his purposes.” (p. 40) We often envision something we can control and manage whereas God is building something only he controls. We can develop “aggressive goals”, “grandiose dreams”, and “grand visions”, and then ask God to bless the work of our hands but this is not our role. We seek God’s will and agenda.

7. Spiritual leaders must be oriented toward God’s voice so they can hear and follow him. Developing a vibrant, dynamic relationship with the living God is vital before any good thing can be accomplished. Jesus is the perfect model of the spiritual leader and studying and imitating his life is a good start for understanding how to understand God’s agenda and how to influence others toward that agenda.

For Faith’s family, we understand that God is making multi-cultural, multi-generational disciples from all nations. Focusing on how we can do this together is the vision we continually embrace and follow. May God give you strength to lead in your area of influence and may you always know that you are loved more than you could ask or imagine.  Pastor Jack

Building a Church Family Culture

Faith Fellowship Baptist church people

September 8th Faith Fellowship’s family paraded around 62 flags representing the nations who had come to gather in worship. Three more countries had representatives but we didn’t have their flags – yet. We talked about courage – the courage of God for entrusting less than perfect people with a message of hope for the nations. We talked about the courage we needed to share that hope through the life and message we are called to live in the world in which God placed us.

Daniel Coyle, in his book, The Culture Code (The secrets of highly successful groups), states that “when you ask people inside highly successful groups to describe their relationship with one another, they all tend to choose the same word. This word is not friends or team or tribe or any other equally plausible term. The word they use is family. What’s more, they tend to describe the feeling of those relationships in the same way.” (pp. 6-7)

How do you know you’re a family if you’re not part of the same birth group? What characteristics are we striving for in a church family made up of diverse cultures, personalities, socio-economic levels, and professions?

Coyle says he found the same characteristics, whether he studied a special-ops military unit, an inner-city school, a professional basketball team, a movie studio, a comedy troupe, a gang of jewel thieves, and others who had proved successful. He says that there is an energy, an individualization and a future orientation. What he means is that “members invest in the exchange that is occurring; “they treat the person as unique and valued”; and “they signal the relationship will continue.” (p. 11)

What makes those of us in a church different than a gang, a team, or a group that has been drawn together for a common cause or goal? Certainly more than something psychological or experiential -although it could easily remain that way if we don’t understand the work of the Spirit, the Word and the Body.

Coyle says “when I visited these groups, I noticed a pattern of interaction. The pattern was located not in the big things but in little moments of social connection. These interactions were consistent whether the group was a military unit or a movie studio or an inner-city school.” (p. 7)

He made a list:

Close physical proximity, often in circles – (sounds like our small groups)

Profuse amounts of eye contact

Physical touch (handshakes, fist bumps, hugs) – sound familiar?

Lots of short, energetic exchanges (no long speeches) – after the service, lunches

High levels of mixing; everyone talks to everyone

Few interruptions

Lots of questions

Intensive, active listening

Humour, laughter

Small, attentive courtesies (thank-yous, opening doors, etc.)

All this only makes us feel safe as a group and makes us feel like we might be wanted and maybe even belong somewhere. The reality is that we have a common Spirit drawing us into one family; we have a common Lord who has paid the price for our sin and removed all the barriers that may have divided us; we have a common Father who created us for everlasting relationship with himself. Knowing this, we embrace each other, we flow into small groups for disciple making, and we pray earnestly for each other as we face our own brokenness in a broken world. No matter who you are or where you come from, you are welcome in Faith’s family.

Always remember: you are loved more than you could ask or imagine. Pastor Jack

Belonging, Becoming, Believing

Belonging, Becoming, Believing

Michael Whitmer’s book, Don’t Stop Believing ( Why Living Like Jesus is Not Enough) helps us to pause and reflect on the relationship of Belonging, Becoming and Believing. For as long as I can remember being part of a Bible-believing church the order for newcomers has been clear. Believe then you can belong and then become what you are supposed to be.

In order to believe, we were instructed to pray a prayer – confessing our sin, accepting what Jesus did on our behalf and embracing a relationship with God. Belonging meant getting baptized so we could join the church so we could be held accountable for our spiritual growth. Becoming meant staying obedient, pure and resisting temptation.

Many postmodern churches think that belonging should be the first step in our relationship with the church. Being missional is considered most important and we should be embracing others rather than condemning them.

Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch illustrate by saying that conservatives love to build fences to show who is in and who is out while missional churches dig wells and invite all to come and partake. “Rather than seeing people as Christian or non-Christian, as in or out, we would see people by their degree of distance from the center, Christ. In this way, the missional-incarnational church sees people as Christian and not-yet-Christian. It acknowledges the contribution of not-yet-Christians to Christian community and values the contribution of all people.” (p.101)

Some people have gone further in saying it isn’t how close you are to Jesus but in which direction you’re headed. They want the church to feel like a safe, hospitable community where they can belong. The believe that faith is a pilgrimage which we are all on.

In this later framework, we belong first, become and then learn to believe. “Evangelism or mission… is no longer about persuading people to believe what I believe … It is about shared experiences and encounters. It is about walking the journey of life and faith together, each distinct to his or her own tradition and culture but with the possibility of encountering God and truth from one another.”

Conservatives tend to focus on believe, belong, become because they emphasize the impact of the fall and so define us as sinners who need to repent. Our condition is that of fallen sinners; our goal is to convert; our means is to find answers and discover truth; our ministry is to confidently declare the authoritative truth and our church tends to cater to people who believe like us.

Missional churches see our condition as that of created seekers on a spiritual journey who are asking questions, wondering about truth. Believers humbly invite others to participate in the journey and welcome community members to join the larger faith family as they explore. We would love to see all of us engaged with Jesus, bringing truth, grace and love to those around us. (This is our vision statement).

Each of us might have a clear preference for one or the other option but Whitmer sees both options as inadequate. The missional church is too permissive – allowing a wide diversity of beliefs as long as one is inclusive and tolerant. The conservative view is seen as stifling and oppressive when one has to believe all the right things before being accepted.

Whitmer sees the missional view as positive for those on their journey toward faith and the conservative view as strengthening for those who have embraced the faith and what it stands for. He summarizes his teaching as follows (p. 108)

“When we combine both models in the way we do church, we will gladly admit that Christian and non-Christian alike are on a journey, but we will emphasize the turning point of repentance and faith to get on track. We will clasp the clear, life-giving answer of Christianity in one hand and raise a hand for questions with the other. We will expect new Christians to grow in love and righteousness, and we will compassionately embrace those who struggle. We will limit membership in the body of Christ to those who believe but welcome and make room for those who do not.”

Where do you think Faith’s family falls in helping believe to belong, believe and become? Regardless of where you fall, realized that you are loved more than you can ask or imagine. Pastor Jack

Are we really One?

Faith’s family is made up of individuals from over 50 nations trying to worship, fellowship, serve, pray and give generously together for the glory of God.

C.S. Lewis, British author and apologist, argues that this life is a preparation for the life to come and that we should be preparing for the great sense of unity that is coming when every tribe and tongue and nation melds as one around the throne of Jesus.

Richard Neuhaus says “God is one, and all who are God’s are one. The church is a communal articulation of that truth.”

At Faith, we would love to see this played out in our life together.

I see a shadow of the great reality when our summer camp staff come together with volunteers to reach the children in our community. That means individuals from India, Niger, Korea, China, Philippines, Congo, Iran and even Canada are working together.

I see a shadow of the great reality in our New Hope childcare where staff from Guatamala, El Salvador, Fiji, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Korea, China, Taiwan and Canada work together to nurture and encourage children and families in our neighbourhood.

I see a shadow of the great reality when musicians and artists from many different countries gathered with volunteers to host our Canada Day event for the community where over 300 people joined with us in celebrating the country where we all have freedom to experience and explore our unity.

I see a shadow of the great reality when I look through our photo directory and see believers who have come from the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Denmark, Burundi, Honduras, China, St. Vincents, Mexico, Taiwan, Peru, India, Nigeria, India, Brazil and many other countries worshipping together as one body.

In a recent message from Philippians, it was clear that the key to unity came in valuing each other, in dealing with the barriers between us and in actually doing work together.

Through the years, we have done much together as God sent us opportunity and people who were gifted. More than any specific work we strive to do we want to preserve our unity as we move forward.

Charles Colson, in his book, Being the Body (p. 76), says “Non-christians aren’t looking so much at our tracts and rallies and telecasts and books as they are looking at us and how we behave. When they fail to see the unity of Jesus’ followers – the church – they fail to see the validation that Christ is indeed the Son of the living God.”

Colson says that our unity as the body of Christ “validates our faith and enables us to influence the skeptical world around us.” He reminds us that unity doesn’t mean ignoring the differences between us and others but in respecting those differences and in embracing the great orthodox truths we all share.

Kneeling before the throne of God on behalf of the world around us is the great equalizer where we all find ourselves desperately dependent on the God of grace and mercy. Regardless of how long you have walked this road toward unity, know that you are loved more than you can imagine. May God grant us his grace as we walk together.

Some of us love surprises and some of us don’t.

Some of us will do all we can to know all we can before it happens so we keep that illusory sense that we are somewhat in control of what is coming. One of our members tries to “stay ahead of the curve” by asking questions about everything she can think of. It helps her stay connected and helps her feel a little more in control.

This past week our children’s pastor had her daughter as scheduled. There were several surprises along the way that made this challenging. A doctor told her the child had abnormalities and we all lived with that “reality” for two months until another doctor looked at the test results and declared there was nothing wrong with this child at all. Indeed, the girl was born healthy and well. Although abortion was never an option, it made us wonder how many misdiagnoses end up resulting in the premature destruction of children by parents who are concerned.

The fun part about this birth is that the husband didn’t know he was having a daughter. Quite a few others knew but somehow managed to keep it to themselves so that the surprise was preserved.

On the day we announced the birth in the service we had the debut of our new church orchestra. Several of our members, who we hadn’t seen on the platform together, blended beautifully for the prelude and offertory and provided a great complementary addition to the contemporary youth team who led us in worship. Being surprised by the gifts of members is always a joy.

The day all this came together, we reflected back on the 75th anniversary of D Day and the sacrificial battle where young Canadians charged into the face of the enemy on the beaches of Normandy. We thanked God that our youth aren’t involved in current conflict like this but noted that many of them are involved in fighting for the environment in an age of waste; fighting for purity in an age of sexual delusion; and fighting for life in an age focused on the destruction of life.

I was pleasantly surprised by 13 of our members who completed the first half of our spiritual care for seniors series in partnership with Shannon Oaks and Baptist Housing. This kind of commitment to shepherding ministries can only result in increasing health and strength for our church family.

Our graduates are coming to the conclusion of their terms of study and some of their fields of study show incredible diversity and talent. We hope to be pleasantly surprised by how God uses them in their fields of expertise. One surprise we are hoping for has to do with the redevelopment of our building. I was surprised to find 75 people willing to gather for a dream luncheon to consider next steps after our engineer’s report suggested we had a limited lifespan on our building. 8 members further agreed to serve on a committee to focus us forward. We celebrated our 62nd anniversary and distributed the results of our luncheon. Not surprising, some members will hesitate to walk into anything that might have surprises. Others are relishing the adventure of what might happen next if we walk by faith and trust G

Who’s Got the Road Map?

A couple of years ago, I spent a summer tour guiding at the Parliament of Canada. Visitors young and old from across the world flocked to marvel at one of our nation’s most prized monuments, take photos of Parliamentary chambers and admire the view of the national capital from the top deck of the clock tower. Although the majority of these tours ran smoothly, logistical bumps would often spring up along the way.

No sooner would my colleagues and I ask visitors to keep the door closed at the end of the hall when several would promptly push it open and begin milling into the hall on the right, reserved only for staff and parliamentarians.

No matter how many times we asked visitors to stay on the left side when walking from stop to stop (a trick to keep traffic running smoothly in the building), there would always be a few who wandered to the right to take photos.

Despite our pleas for the visitors to stay with the group, a determined few would hang back to admire particularly ornate pillars or appealing tableaux, only to lose the group and rejoin us at another stop with a constable’s help.

And then there were the anxious questions:

“How many more stops?”

“Can’t we take this shortcut?”

“How come we can’t go there?”

“Can we slow down?”

“Can we pick up the pace?”

“Why does she get to go in that room? Is she more important than us or something?” 

“Will you show us where the exit is when the tour is done?”

Sometimes, I felt my energy flagging and my patience wearing thin. If only they would quit straying off by themselves! If only they would follow me without questioning every step and every turn! If only they would trust me! In such cases, I comforted myself with the thought that I was only their guide for 40 minutes. After that, the tour would end, I would let them go and their whereabouts would no longer be my responsibility. My fellow guides and I enjoyed laughing and exchanging stories about the “annoying visitors” who had sent our tours lurching on a hundred more hiccups than we would have liked.

It was that summer that I read Psalm 48:14 with fresh eyes: “For this is our God forever and ever, He will be our guide even to the end.”

How many times have I turned a deaf ear to God’s instructions, wandering off the road He wants me on because I thought another one was better? How many times have I protested in times of waiting, craning my neck to get a sneak peek at what’s ahead before He reveals it to me? How many times have I shown my lack of trust in Him by worrying whether my studies, career or relationships were headed in the right direction—when He alone holds the best road map? In my walk with Christ, I have been more impatient and wayward than any of my visitors were in the Parliament Buildings. Yet He promises: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He promises to lead me “even to the end” of life’s route—which takes a lot longer than 40 minutes to traverse. Talk about a patient guide!

How can we give thanks to the good Shepherd who “guides [us] on paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3) and promises to never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6), no matter how many detours and wrong steps we take?

You were Beautifully Made for Relationship.

I read today that most Canadians consider marriage to be passé. At best, it’s a social event on a calendar designed to last as long as two people want it to. More than half of our country are not in a marriage relationship. Is it cost, culture, community or confusion which is pushing this trend?

Relationships all over the world are interrupted by guilt, fear and shame. The issues on the surface, which we think are driving us apart, are really covers for what is happening deep underneath. In our culture, fear of “not being enough” or of “being too much” are entry points for discussions about the heart of a struggle.

Gary Smalley, (The DNA of Relationships, p. 21) lists a wide diversity of core fears we might feel in relationship. Some of them include feeling ‘helpless, powerless, impotent, controlled, rejected, isolated, alienated, abandoned, left behind, disconnected, failure, unloved, defective, inadequate, pained, hypocritical, inferior, cheated, taken advantage of, invalidated, ignored, devalued, unfulfilled, dissatisfied, humiliated, lack of dignity, disrespected, manipulated or deceived.’ Identifying the core fear is an important part of understanding what is happening inside. If you had to circle two or three core fears which ones would you choose?

Jeremiah 17:9 states that “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? ”We may not understand ourselves as much as we think.

Smalley identifies a “Fear Dance” that we can easily get into in our relationships. A relational crisis might start when I feel hurt. I then want something. I fear the loss of relationship. I react in an effort to change the other person. Now they hurt. They want something. They fear the loss of relationship. They react so that I now hurt – around and around we go.

We can easily see the other person as the source of the problem and the source of the solution. We expect them to change so they can satisfy our needs or wants.

Smalley (p. 27) combines our core wants and fears when he says:

We want acceptance so we fear rejection; we want grace so we fear judgment; we want connection so we fear disconnection; we want companionship so we fear loneliness; we want success so we fear failure; we want self-determination so we fear powerlessness; we want understanding so fear being misunderstood; (see the rest of the list at the end)

You get the point. When we put the pressure onto someone else to deliver what we want we set up a tension which will ultimately get us dancing in circles with those we care about. The reason for this is that human beings in themselves are not able to deliver all we hope for on their own and this taps into their own fears.

A church is a body of believers all with their own wants and fears. If you’ve been in a church for very long you know that people you come to lean on will not always meet your wants and this will tap into your own fears. In addition, when you have others leaning on you then you will realize you are inadequate to meet their wants and this will tap into their fears. The easy solution tried by many is to run to another church and to replay this scenario over time – or just to isolate yourself and never reach out to anyone to avoid unmet expectations.

If we’re going to be one then honesty is key. What ‘wants’ are at the core of your life and what ‘fears’ do you seeing being played out in you and in the lives of those around you?

(The rest of the list)

  • we want love so we fear being scorned
  • We want validation so we fear being invalidated
  • We want competence so we fear feeling defective
  • we want respect so we fear inferiority
  • We want worth so we fear worthlessness
  • We want honor so we fear feeling devalued
  • We want dignity so we fear humiliation
  • we want commitment so we fear abandonment
  • We want significance so we fear feeling unimportant
  • We want attention so we fear feeling ignored
  • We want support so we fear neglect
  • We want approval so we fear condemnation
  • We want to be wanted so we fear feeling unwanted
  • We want safety so we fear danger
  • We want affection so we fear being disliked
  • We want trust so we fear mistrust
  • We want hope so we fear despair
  • We want joy so we fear unhappiness.