Friday, March 30, 2018

A Purpose Driven Life - Chapter 29

A Purpose Driven Life Chapter 29 - Shaped for Serving God

Chapter Overview:  Rick makes the point that there are no more or less important people in gods service with an analogy about light fixtures. He wrote that the most important light in his house isn't the grand chandelier in the dining room but the small night light that keeps him from stubbing his foot at night.

2011 (40 years old)

Why should we have the desire and goal to be transformed into the image of Jesus? So we can love and serve people as he did.  I read a chapter like that and I start getting 'extreme' ideas about how I could serve. Playing guitar and singing during lunch in the +15 in downtown Calgary, for example. Then I remember Rom 12:2 'be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will know (and/or can prove) what is the good and acceptable will of God' and how does one renew their mind? Wash it with the water of the word - I don't remember the reference for that one. I had a dream last night that someone wanted to sell me 1000 acres of land for 92k. I jumped at it in my dream. But really, money and possessions are meaningless to God when he has unlimited resources. They are more tools that he uses to help us grow.

2016 (45 years old)

Chandelier - big light, but not nearly as useful or used as a night light
Accepting your assignment. You were put on the earth to make a contribution. Service is not optional. 'For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do. Eph. 2:10. What is holding me back from God's call to serve him?  This is a great question. One I have to be careful how I answer. My initial knee-jerk reaction is to answer 'my wife and family'. But then that would ignore a purpose of God that Rick doesn't really talk about in this book - we were created to have a wife, kids, and raise a healthy family. 'Be fruitful and multiply'.  That is part of my service to God. I do not believe it is all about the church as he sees it (or at least as it seems to come across in this chapter). In the back of my mind all through reading this chapter are the discussions I've had with Ewa about involvement with the church, playing in a band, playing at the school, playing at the hospital, doing the small group, etc. Every one of them not easy. In particular right now is the gig I turned down with Grace Revolution this weekend. It's easy to feel like I missed God when I declined that offer after reading this chapter. But there needs to be a balance, and I don't see much of that in this chapter. I liked his quote from Mother Theresa: 'Holy living consists of doing God's work with a smile'. Also the comparison of the chandelier vs. the night light.  Small vs. big... but the night light tends to be used much more often and have more value. I think the story of the two seas is relevant as well - the Sea of Galilee has life because it has water flowing in and out. The Dead Sea has no life because water just flows in.

For background on what these 'Purpose Driven Life' posts are about, click this link.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

I Will Follow You - Trusting God

I've rediscovered a song recently that I hadn't heard in a couple of decades.  Its called 'I Will Follow You', by Maranatha Singers. (listen below)  When I first heard the song I was travelling in Poland in 1993, staying with my future wife and her family.  She had the album, and I had some down time. It was a time in my life where I was intensely searching, trying to determine and discover what God's will and direction for my life was.  Big decisions were in front of me: marriage, career, family, and where we'd live.  I was trying to listen for God's direction and guidance on these concerns every day. As a result, the lyrics song ended up feeling like an extension of my heart at that time.

Fast forward 25 years.

I don't recall what prompted me to look for the song recently, but something jogged my memory and I went looking for it and found it on Spotify.  Hearing the lyrics and the minimalistic (but so dramatic and melancholic) riffs and refrains took my mind right back to the searching questions I had so long ago.  What an amazing reference for me!

There's two passages from the Bible that have been 'highlighted' lately for me lately by God:
  • Romans 12:1-2  ' view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.'
  • James 4:6-8  'But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud
    but shows favour to the humble."  Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you.'
These past 25 years I've been on a journey of learning to trust God.  At times my expectations and
Trusting God.  I will follow Him.  Put my hand in His hand
ambitions got in the way.  Life is messy.  I'm not perfect.  I've compared myself to others and fallen into a trap.  God wants me to look to Him, and trust Him - with the big decisions and the small things.  And when I do trust Him, there's rest, peace, hope.

Trusting for me lately means:

  • Saying what I believe God wants me to say, ignoring how I think I sound, and trusting that God will let people to hear what He wants them to hear.
  • Doing what I believe God wants me to do with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength - believing that in He will accomplish everything He wants to through me in His time.
  • Living in the 'now.'  Stop being distracted with regrets, and 'my plan' for the future.  Being completely open and submitted to God today, in the next 5 minutes, etc.  
  • Letting go of my reputation (what I think people are thinking about me).  Resting in my identity in God. I'm a valued son.

I knew much of this stuff 'in my head' back in 1993.  I didn't have a lot of life experience.  Its interesting how time and experience come together to provide perspective.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A Purpose Driven Life - Chapter 28

A Purpose Driven Life Chapter 28 - It Takes Time

Chapter Overview:  Rick says we are slow learners. He wrote about how habits make our character. We can't say we're kind unless we are habitually kind.

2011 (40 years old)

This chapter also went well with what we talked about in small group last night. Transformation takes time - we need to be patient with ourselves. When it comes to making chains like this it doesn't come naturally to us.  Similar to the whole idea we are tossing around in small group about how you can't tackle something big with exercising/practicing first. In other words, you can't run marathon without any training or play a Bach fugue without any practice. Same goes for our Christian walk. Small steps/moves Ellie (from the movie Contact). We need to be patient with ourselves and trust that God is doing a work in us even when we don't see or feel it.
It takes time to mature - closeup of a clock

2016 (45 years old)

There are no shortcuts to maturity. 'He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it'. Phil 1:6. In what area of my spiritual growth do I need to be more patient and persistent? Prayer.  Trust. My day to day, minute to minute attitude.  This chapter was full of grace for me. While God may have high expectations, he also has lots of time. I liked the story about the tomatoes - I don't recall reading that before.  They taste much better when they've ripened slowly and naturally rather than artificially with C02. Also a good story about how God softens us up to learning something new 'behold I stand at the door and bomb' - like the allies taking an island in the pacific in WW2. Comparison doesn't serve much good purpose in the Christian walk.

For background on what these 'Purpose Driven Life' posts are about, click this link.

Monday, March 26, 2018

A Purpose Driven Life - Chapter 27

A Purpose Driven Life Chapter 27 - Defeating Temptation

Chapter Overview:  Rick talks about to defeat temptation resistance is futile. It's like a self defeating prophecy.  The best thing to to do is run.  The bible says resist the devil not temptation.

2011 (40 years old)

Defeating temptation - respecting my bride - image of a bride's dress and flowersHaving a couple of days to think about this chapter I think I've realized that the temptations I've been dealing with are more subtle than I thought. One reared it's head at small group last night again - I only realized that it was an issue last night. I don't honour Ewa in how I talk about her. And I need to if I'm being transformed into the image if Christ. The church is his bride and I can't see him making comments like I did when she isn't present. I need to honour her on my thoughts too. That's where it all starts.
I also get tempted with the get rich scheme of lotto max - winning the lottery. If God is my provider, why is that a temptation? And finally, the last one that kind of hit home with me was the question in small group - is there a good thing getting in the way of a better thing? - and I thought about all this extra software work that I do in the evenings.  Is it really what God wants me to do with my evenings and weekends? Am I getting my sense of self worth out of the work I do, or how much I make, or who I am in God?

2016 (45 years old)

There is always a way out. 'God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it. When you are tempted he will show you a way out so that you will not give into it' 1 Cor. 10:13. Who could I ask to become a spiritual partner to help me defeat a persistent temptation by praying for me?  Ewa. Four steps to defeating temptation:
1. Refocus your mind on something else. Spiritually you mind is your most vulnerable organ. I need to be conscious of my thoughts. Defeat bad thoughts with good, thankful thought - the principal of replacement.
2. Reveal you struggle to a Godly friend or support group. Find accountability.
3. Resist the devil. Defy him. Best do this with scripture like Jesus did. Don't argue. Just say no and use scripture for your why.
4. Realize your vulnerability. Be humble - the heart is deceitful above all things. Be vigilant.

For background on what these 'Purpose Driven Life' posts are about, click this link.

Friday, March 23, 2018

A Purpose Driven Life - Chapter 26

A Purpose Driven Life Chapter 26 - Transformed by Temptation

Chapter Overview:  Rick walks through the four stages (or the progression of temptation to transgression).  He also points out that it's important to know where and when your weaknesses are.

2011 (40 years old)

Probably the most interesting thing I got out of this chapter was how Rick spun temptation in a positive light. Every successful resistance to temptation is a win. Even being tempted is good as it give you an opportunity to grow and know that you mist be doing something good to get tempted. In my case, when I'm alone, demoralized, and/or tired.
Transformed by temptation - I'm weak when I'm tired

2016 (45 years old)

Growing through temptation. Every temptation is an opportunity to do good. What Christlike character quality can I develop by defeating my most common temptation?  Love and Joy I think.  If I am growing in the character of Christ when I resist temptation, I think love and joy are the fruit of the spirit that I let get taken from me the most frequently.  The path of temptation:

  1. Desire. Temptation always starts within you - not from outside circumstances. Thoughts and shortcuts. 'You deserve it'. 
  2. Doubt. Is that really what God meant?  Is it really wrong?  Often a question. 
  3. Deception. The half truths that you use to justify the action. Or the Satan used to encourage you to do it. 
  4. Disobedience. The act. 

Recognize patterns and situations where you are more easily tempted - tired, depressed and doubt, when you see others do it (tv and movies). Call for help!  God has a 24 hot line.  When people are tempted and still continue strong, they should be happy

For background on what these 'Purpose Driven Life' posts are about, click this link.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The First God-Wink (miracle) I Can Remember

Head-On Collision

The very first time I could say that God moved in a miraculous way in my life would have been before I was even old enough to write it down.  I was about 4 and a half, and my brother was a year younger.  Our grandpa had taken us fishing in the morning about a 45 minute drive away from the house.  He liked to speed, and back then seat-belts weren't required to be worn by law - never mind booster seats for kids or anything like that.  The road to the lake was single lane all the way, with passing lanes where it was safe.

At around the time that we were beginning our trip home, my mom, back at home, felt a pressing
My first car accident - police car with lights on
need to pray for our safety, so she did.  Coming home, my brother and I were super interested in playing with our matchbox cars in the back seat on the floor behind the front seats.  It seemed (I don't know the exact details for sure) that Grandpa pulled out to pass a slower car where it perhaps wasn't so safe to do so and we were involved in a head-on collision at full speed.  He was seriously hurt in the collision - he wasn't wearing a seat-belt either.  We didn't really know what had happened, but because we were playing on the floor behind the front seats, we were completely protected and unharmed in the accident - other than the fact that we had both wet our pants.

I believe my Mom's prayer put God's angels into action to move my brother and I into that safe spot in the car so we'd be safe in the wreck.  The ambulance attendants said that if we hadn't been there, it would have been a completely different outcome for us.  God's hand was on us even back then.

I feel strongly that situations like these need to be remembered. We need to realize and be thankful for the times that God has been with us, guarding and protecting us.  I don't want to forget the good things that God has done for my family and I.

Click here for more true stories of God working in my life

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Purpose Driven Life - Chapter 25

A Purpose Driven Life Chapter 25 - Transformed by Trouble

Chapter Overview:  Rick writes that god uses our circumstances even more than the bible to change us. He points out that Moses, Job, Joseph, and David were all changed this way. And he spent a good part of the chapter focussed on the verse 'God works all things together for good for them who love him and are called according to his purpose.' He also suggested to watch how we pray about our trials.

2011 (40 years old) 

Philip Yancey has a new book out that I read a review on a little while ago. In it he compares how believers in North America pray about their trials versus how believers in China do. North Americans say please take the problem away where the Chinese believers don't ask for it to be taken away - rather they ask for help to learn whatever it is that God wants them to learn through the situation.  'to know Christ and the fellowship of his sufferings...'   'Jesus learned obedience through suffering...'

2016 (45 years old)

Transformed by trouble and trials. There is purpose behind every problem. Romans 8:28. 'We know that all things work together for good for those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose'.  What problem in my life has caused the greatest growth in me?  I don't know if I'd call it a problem - challenge my that be a better term... But I'd say my marriage. This chapter has been kind of echoing the thoughts I've had for the past couple of days about seeing Gods hand in circumstances - that they are all coming through a 'father-filter'.  Even other people's criticism, lack of support and encouragement and attitude.  He's ok'ed it and ready to use it if we recognize it. The thing I got out of this chapter this morning is how I am supposed to respond - remember God is good. Rejoice and give thanks. Refuse to give up.

For background on what these 'Purpose Driven Life' posts are about, click this link.

Transformed by trouble and trials.  Image of single arm raise from dark background

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

My Growth as a Keyboardist

One of the questions asked in the Keyboard Workshop at the Fire and Fragrance conference last weekend was from a fellow wondering if I could go through my 'evolution/growth' as a keyboard player.  I was thinking about that again yesterday and thought it would make an interesting blog post.  (ha, I guess y'all can tell me if you think its interesting or not)
Practising the piano - learning as a keyboardist

I took lessons growing up, following the Royal Conservatory of Music curriculum for the most part.  As a result, I learned to read notes.  Teachers had a major impact on my progress and development - most negative, and one in particular mostly positive.  To read more about that experience, check this post out in my other blog.

Betty-Anne, the teacher who had the best influence on me, encouraged me to learn songs by ear, rather than using notes.  I began playing in church at around 13, and played most songs by ear there - first picking out the melody a note at a time with my right hand, and then adding simple chords with my left hand as I gained more confidence.  Back then (mid-80's) we were in a small church.  My Dad led worship, my Mom played the organ, and I played the piano.  There wasn't much thought given to arrangements or parts.

Around the end of high school I was still playing in church and getting better.  I was learning other songs by ear (lots of Keith Green) and I was trying to implement some of his style and riffs into my church playing.  This meant I played 3 note chords in my right hand (trying to ensure that the highest note followed the melody of the song) and octave bass notes in my left hand with it providing more of the rhythm.

Right after high school I did one year as a music major at Summit Pacific College (called Western Pentecostal Bible College back then).  I continued to get more comfortable with adding licks and riffs to my playing with following the 3 note RH and octave LH paradigm.  I also started to learn song and key transitions as well as playing free worship music - something I enjoy and feels natural to me.

After one year of college I went to Texas to Last Days Ministries (the one founded by Keith Green and his wife Melody) and lived there for almost 4 years.  I worked in the Print Shop there, and played keys with the Last Days Ministries Band.  Playing with the band was my start in learning to play less - keeping things more simple.  While I was there I also played in a small local church as the only instrumentalist they had (piano).  This was exclusively hymns.

I spent the next 15 years playing in churches off and on, balancing family responsibilities.  Sometimes I'd play piano in church, sometimes drums, but thinking that I was accomplished enough to not worry about practicing much (lazy attitude, with some pride thrown in).  I got to a point where I felt like I was stuck in a rut - God wasn't moving me forward in my music ministry the way I felt like He should based on the 'giftings' that I felt I had.  I was getting frustrated.  God let me stew for a while.

Several things happened fairly close together (within a year or two) at this point in my life.

  • We got rid of the acoustic piano I learned on and I bought a Roland RD700GX.  This allowed me to practice with earphones on while the kids were sleeping.  I also didn't have to worry about tuning the piano anymore (or playing an out of tune piano).
  • I felt God convicting/encouraging me to start to get serious about playing in church.  To get engaged, practice, and prepare for the sets to the best of my ability with the time that I had.  To bring my heart, soul, mind, and strength with me when I play in church.  Within a year of doing that, other doors started to open....
I discovered the Alberta Children's Hospital had a beautiful grand piano in their cafeteria that they
Playing the piano at ACH
I'm playing the piano at ACH (in the background)
were inviting people to play.  I totally felt God nudging me to get involved there.  I got my security clearance and started working up a repetoire.  That has been a really good exercise for me, because it forces me to play songs alone...   Through that continued experience (I still play there), I've learned to listen as I play.  Hear what others are hearing, and in doing I've realized its not how busy and complex I can play, but am I feeling the piece?  Is it grabbing my emotions?  If I can feel the piece as I play it, and its getting a hold of my emotions, other people tune into that.  Its been quite interesting to see and hear the different responses as I play there.  My wife has encouraged me to write some blog posts about some of those experiences, so hopefully I'll get to those soon.

Another door that opened was I was asked to lead a student worship band at one of the local Christian schools.  I've been doing that for 5 years now, and that experience forces me to constantly think about how to simplify and communicate keyboard playing in the context of a band.

Currently when I play keys, I do several things:

  • I look for open space to fill with simple, ear-catching riffs
  • I try and find repetitive patterns to use in songs as a simple background/rhythm 
  • I enjoy using an organ patch on fast songs that are guitar driven (that can be a lot of fun)
  • I try and stay out of the guitar register(s) if I can
  • I'm conscious of what the bass guitar is playing and I try not to clobber it with my left hand.
  • I find (right hand) octaves are great for getting loud dynamically and for playing riffs with a big band.

Monday, March 19, 2018

A Purpose Driven Life - Chapter 24

A Purpose Driven Life Chapter 24 - Transformed By Truth

Chapter Overview:  This chapter in growing to be like Christ was about seeing and accepting God's Word as truth - as it is, complete and infallible - and acting on it.  Rick also suggested that the reader try and get into a daily/yearly habit of reading through the bible.

Transformed by truth - hipster holding bible leaning on brick wall

2011 (40 years old)

What would you do if you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Bible was the end all source of God's truth? Apparently Billy Graham had questions about certain passages in the bible. One night he laid them before the lord and decided to accept the bible as a whole as gods truth and after that his ministry had more power and anointing.

I gotta say this is one of the things I struggle with. It's interesting, actually, since one of the things Rick mentions in his introduction where he talks about all the different versions of the Bible he uses in the book is that he uses many short quotes/phrases from scripture following how scripture was quoted on the bible by Jesus and the apostles - sort of leaving the context out. God help me get to the place You want me to be.... figuring out the place for the Bible in my life.

2016 (45 years old)

The Truth transforms me. 'If you continue in my word, the you are my disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free'. What has God already told me in his Word that I haven't started doing yet?  Speaking the truth in love - being more confrontational in situations where I know something is not right.... choosing to ignore the situation is wrong. Essentially this chapter was the first one that focussed on the Bible and how important it is to the Christian walk and discipleship.

For background on what these 'Purpose Driven Life' posts are about, click this link.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Jonathan - The Prince by Francine Rivers

I finished reading The Prince by Francine Rivers this weekend.  This book is written as a novella - a story that follows Jonathan's life based on what we know from the Bible.
This was a timely book for me for a couple of reasons:

  1. It was a good encouragement that my attitude and posture in life is on the right track.  Being called to serve doesn't mean you'll get the limelight.  People won't always understand you or the decisions you make.  I could totally relate to several situations that Francine put Jonathan into in this book that were along those lines.  It was encouraging for me to realize that I don't have to be understood.  I just have to live with my decision and belief that I'm doing what I believe God has called me to do, when and where He's called me to do it, and not worry about what other people might think.
  2. I've had some situations at work this week that made me feel unsupported and discouraged.  Yes I made a mistake, but why do people have to escalate the situation behind my back?  Why can't we just talk about it face to face instead of putting me down in emails to my superiors?  I could relate to how Jonathan (and David) felt as characters in this book, and that was comforting.  God is still with me.  Circumstances and what I see physically do not comprise my whole life (or they shouldn't).  
As a novella, this book is a pretty quick read.  Included at the end are studies for small groups with questions.  Its a fantastic resource for spiritual growth.  And it turns out there's a whole series of them.  Francine did 5 of these books focusing on men, and five looking at the lives of women in the bible.  I've only just begun!  

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Purpose Driven Life - Chapter 23

A Purpose Driven Life Chapter 23 - Transformed by Thought

Chapter Overview:  Getting the mind of Christ? If I recall correctly, the point that Rick was trying to get across in this chapter was that we can't start to act like Jesus until we change how we think. He used the example of a boat on autopilot - if it's programmer to go east and you try and turn it to go west, you can succeed for a while but its going to take effort to resist going east and as soon as you let go it's going turn back to going east again. The autopilot needs to be reset.

2011 (40 years old)

Just like us - we need our minds reset as willpower will only get us so far in transformation. Like Romans says 'be transformed by the renewing of your mind.'. After making that point Rick wrote about how he believed that a big part of having the mind of Christ was being aware and thinking of others first. A sign of growth and maturity is not being self centred in our thoughts, but putting god at the centre of them.

Transformed by thought - image of cruise ship at sea with mountains behind

2016 (45 years old)

How we grow. It's never too late to start growing. What is one area where I need to stop thinking my way and start thinking Gods way?  Finances?  Being a dad?  I like how he talked about growth as a combined effort between us and God - we work things out and He works on us. The whole autopilot analogy was good as well. So important to set our minds above, but hard to do when in my work (Information Technology) I have to use my mind 8 hours a day. Its rather cerebral. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  I think what I said in my Aug 30 journal entry goes along with this well.  How much should I let my emotions and attitude be dictated by how I physically feel or look?  Probably not much, but it's truly a mental battle.

Journal entry... Aug 30, 2016
Doing the first meetup today at the central library. We'll see who shows up and how it goes. I've been feeling tired. Read that verse again in Col. 1 about 'having the strength that God gives'.  How much should I let my emotions and attitude be dictated by how I physically feel?  Probably not much.

Note on my journal entry above:  I wanted to start a 'Meet Up' in downtown Calgary where people interested in talking about the Purpose Driven Life could meet over lunch and discuss it.  I rented a room in the public library and waited.  Several people had indicated that they were interested in coming and had RSVP'ed, however when the time came, no one actually showed up.  It was a bit discouraging, but a learning experience on several levels at the same time.

For background on what these 'Purpose Driven Life' posts are about, click this link.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Purpose Driven Life - Chapter 22

A Purpose Driven Life Chapter 22 - Transformed to be Like Christ

Chapter Overview:  It was interesting how much this cypher paralleled our small group on Sunday evening.  It was about being transformed. Rick actually mentions some of the examples and passages that we discussed.  In this chapter probably his main point was that life here on earth is all about character development - God wants to develop our character and make us more like Jesus - it's an on-going work.  People who expect life to be an easy ride once they are a Christian are mistaken.

2011 (40 years old)

One thing that I had considered during Sunday evening that this chapter reminded me of was about how God makes up for our weakness. He had a phrase that was kind of inspiring - 'We can't wait until we are perfect before we let God use us.' God wants to use us now no matter what - in our weakness he is strong.
Graham and  Susan showed a couple of videos at small group on Sunday. One of them was Going Through the Motions by Matthew West.  In it a fellow makes a change in his life (based on diary entries that can be read) from going through the motions to praying for someone during his day at work. It was a good reminder for me to be daily asking for gods help and guidance.  The video below is the same song - I couldn't  find the exact video from way back then

2016 (45 years old)

I was created to become like Christ. In what area do I need to ask for the Spirit's power to be like Christ today?  There were three things I needed to do:

  1. Let go of the old ways of acting. 
  2. Change the way I think.
  3. Put on the character of Christ.  
In doing these things we cooperate with the Spirit's work in our lives. And I need to remember that this is a long process and not compare myself to others.  God is more interested in building character in us than anything else.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Me and Prayer

Riding on the bus to work - my daily commuteFor the last few years, I've been catching an express bus to work in downtown Calgary.  Its about a
30-40 minute commute depending on the weather and traffic.  My routine on this commute up until about 4 months ago was to write in my journal (on my phone), and then relax.

But with some encouragement from church, small group, and just life in general, I've taken to spending the rest of my commute praying after I've finished writing in my journal.  I honestly didn't think I could fill up the rest of that time praying, but as I continue to do it, the easier it is to pray the whole trip.

I wanted to document a general outline of what I pray for a couple of reasons:
  1.  So I don't forget it.  I've seen a lot of positive things happen, and I don't want to 'drop the ball' so to speak.
  2. To encourage others with a morning prayer routine, and give them ideas of what they can pray about if its a struggle to find things to pray about.
I try to insert as much scripture as I can remember when praying.  I also try and include my family and significant others in my prayers.  I make a point of thinking and even picturing everything and every person I pray about.  I don't want it to become mindless verbiage if I can help it.
First I try and remember to pray pertinent parts the Lord's Prayer (there's some alliteration for you) by asking God to:
  • Let His kingdom come and His will be done in our lives on earth as it is in heaven, today
  • Forgive us our trespasses today as we forgive those who trespass against us.
  • Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
 Then I ask God to fill us with His Spirit:
  • Its not by might, not by power, by by His Spirit that we'll accomplish anything for His kingdom, so I pray that He'd live large inside of us for the day.
  • That He's help us exude the fruits of the Spirit today in everything we do:  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
I pray that God would open our eyes and open our ears to:
  • See ourselves and the people around us from His perspective.  To see beyond the external. To see the path He's laid out of us today and that we be obedient to walk in it.
  • Hear His words of encouragement and exhortation for the day.  Hear what people are really saying instead of what we think or assume they are saying.  Hear His direction and guidance for the day.
Then I ask God to put His Armour on us.  I ask Him to remind each one I'm praying for that:
  • The battle is not ours, but it belongs to Him
  •  The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds
  • Our battle is not against flesh and blood (people), but against principalities, powers, rulers, and authorities of this earth, and against evil spirits in the heavenly realms.
Putting on the armour of God - ready to fight the good fight
Here's come individual pieces:
  • The gospel of peace on our feet.   I pray that He would: 
    • Make us salt and light in the world today.  
    • Help us remember that we're His ambassadors - His hands, His feet, His eyes, His ears to people.  
    • Remind us today that its His good news.  And its good news of Peace - not of fear, because He didn't give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.  
    • Help us remember there shouldn't be anything anxious about the gospel - that we'd be anxious for nothing, but in everything, through prayer and supplication, make our requests known to Him, because He's the God of peace that passes all understanding. 
    • Guard our hearts and minds as we leave our cares in His hands.
  • The helmet of salvation on our heads.  I ask God to:
    • Remind us to take everything thought captive and make it obedient to, and line up with Him.
    • Help us be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we can test and prove what His good and perfect will is
    • Let us remember to set out hearts and minds on the things above, and not on the things of this earth.  That we would think and dwell on what is good, pure, noble, of good report, praise-worthy, and honourable.
    • Meditate on His work day and night, that we'd be like trees planted beside streams of living water, bearing fruit in and out of season, with leaves that don't wither and crops that don't fade.
  • The belt of truth on our waists.  I pray that God would:
    • Remind us that Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life, and that no one comes to the Father, but through Him
    • Help us understand a live like Jesus did, as John said that Jesus came to the world 'full of grace and truth'.  I ask that God would help us understand how to live that way - to be able to balance grace and truth in our lives and not compromise.
    • Put a guard on our minds and our mouths, that we wouldn't think or speak slanderous, critical or over-exaggerated things.
    • Give us wisdom and discernment to know when the enemy is trying to put lying thoughts into our minds - that we'd resist him.  That God would help us to submit ourselves to Him and draw near to him, at the same time resisting the enemy so that he (and his lying untruths would flee).
  • The breastplate of righteousness on our torsos. I ask God to please:
    • Give us soft, humble hearts for the day.  That we'd be ready to be corrected and encouraged, and not let pride get in the way of what He wants to do in our lives
    • Make us be strong and courageous.  That we'd have a supernatural boldness to stand for Him and what we know is right
    • Remind us that when we're forgiven and washed clean, we can come boldly before His throne of grace without wavering or faltering.
    • Remind us that He has has began a good work in us, and that He is faithful to complete that work
  • The sword of the Spirit (His word).  I pray for God to:
    • Let His word not depart from our minds or our mouths
    • Remind us to resist the enemy with His word, like Jesus did when He was tempted by the Devil.  That when we think, read, speak or hear His word, it would be sharper than a double-edged sword to the piercing asunder of soul and spirit, bone and marrow for us, and that it would judge the thoughts and intents of our hearts.
    • Help us to get life and sustenance from His word for the day, because man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God
    • Guide and direct us with His word, and make His word a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path today.
    • Cleanse and wash us with the water of His word as we read, think, and hear it.
  • The shield of faith. I petition (isn't that a good word - sounds spiritual) God to:
    • Grow faith in us, because He is the author and finisher of our faith.
    • Open our ears and give us a desire to read His word because faith come by hearing, and hearing by the word of God
    • Remind us that without faith its impossible to please Him, and yet also help us to remember that all we need is faith as small as a mustard seed and we can do great things
    • Help us to remember those people in Hebrews 11 and like them, learn to 'speak of things that are not as though they were'.  That we'd also be reminded that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Things I need to work on and I continue to work all of this out in my relationship with God:
  • Not getting caught up in trying to remember all this stuff above and praying it 'right'.  I need to continually be conscious that prayer is a talk with God and part of my relationship with Him.  
  • Cultivate more thankfulness
  • Its not a shopping list.
  • Praying for leaders
  • Praying for the lost

Monday, March 12, 2018

A Purpose Driven Life - Chapter 21

A Purpose Driven Life Chapter 21 - Unity of the Church

Unity of the body of Christ is crucial - image of light streaming through church windowChapter Overview: Rick writes that the unity of the church and preserving that unity is crucial to
our life and growth as Christians - both individually and collectively. He calls the act of leaving one church for another 'divorcing' the church. And his church makes all members sign a commitment to preserve church unity (I don't remember exactly how it was worded). Rick also mentions that the unity of the church is one of the key themes of the New Testament with Jesus praying about it on the garden of Gethsemany and Paul spending a lot of time talking about it as well. Rick recalls the steps from the previous chapter about restoring fellowship.

2011 (40 years old)

It makes me think about what we did at harvest and how I felt about it. It also makes me consider the story Paul shared at small group last night in reference to Andrea staying that she feels ROVC was built especially for her  - how the church almost didn't get built and the leadership were told they needed to build starting by 2005 or risk losing it all.

2016 (45 years old)

It is my responsibility to protect the unity of my church. What am I doing personally to protect the unity in my church family right now?  I'm not listening to gossip or giving credence to thoughts that would try and criticize. I'm trying to support my pastors and elders. I need to focus on what we have in common, and encourage rather than criticize.

For background on what these 'Purpose Driven Life' posts are about, click this link.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

A Purpose Driven Life - Chapter 20

A Purpose Driven Life Chapter 20 - Restoring Broken Fellowship

Chapter Overview: Being a peacemaker is different than avoiding conflict. Sometimes confrontation is required for true and healthy fellowship.  But peacemaking is also not about appeasement (being a doormat).  Rick outlines 7 biblical steps to restoring broken fellowship
1. Talk to God first before talking to the person
2. Always take the initiative
3. Sympathize with their feelings (whether they are right or wrong doesn't matter - really listen to them)  ...

2011 (40 years old)

Sheldon spoke today on circles of influence and the passage he used was in Job - specifically around chapter 32 when Elihu the younger gets involved in the discussion.  He was the only one who actually listened to Job and responded specifically to what Job said.  Then in Luke 2 with Jesus in the temple as a 12 year old, it was the same thing, Jesus listened and asked questions.  Listening is key.
4. Confess your part of the conflict
5. Attack the problem, no the person
6. Cooperate as much as possible
7. Emphasize reconciliation, not resolution - reconciliation focuses on the relationship, resolution focuses on the problem.  I think sometimes at work, people don't realize how focusing on the relationship can really make a huge difference in getting a resolution to the problem.

2016 (45 years old)

Relationships are always worth restoring.  Who do I need to restore a broken relationship with today?  There was a lot of stuff I could work on in this chapter. Sigh. I've heard a lot about 'send Judah first' (worship first) but Jesus said that if you remember a neighbour who has a grudge against you, leave your sacrifice at the altar and get right with them.  Restoration before worship.  Blessed are the peacemakers... who make peace!  Not who love peace.  Not those who avoid conflict.  I don't like confrontations.

For background on what these 'Purpose Driven Life' posts are about, click this link.

Restoring broken fellowship - image of pink peace letters

Friday, March 9, 2018

A Purpose Driven Life - Chapter 19

A Purpose Driven Life Chapter 19 - Made for Community

Chapter Overview: This chapter goes hand in hand with the last chapter in outlining what Rick calls the 9 characteristics of biblical fellowship.  This chapter looked at:
  • Honesty - being able to speak the truth in love.  Sometimes this is something that has to be done.
  • Humility - being focused on serving and putting the needs of others first.
  • Courtesy - people are quirky.  But they are also part of our family, so they need to be accepted with their quirks.  Discovering their history helps understand who they are and why they are that way.
  • Confidentiality - preserving the trust in your group, while being sensitive to what needs to be said, and what it better left unsaid.
  • Frequency - true fellowship takes commitment. Community is not built on convenience.

2011 (40 years old)

It appears I had no thoughts on this chapter at 40 years old.  lol

2016 (45 years old)

Cultivating community. Community requires commitment. How can I help today cultivate the characteristics of a real community in my small group or church?  Certainly the biggest point in this chapter for me is honesty - I am fearful of confrontation and doing it correctly. How does that look?  Even telling the truth about my own situation.  Some lines that stuck out:  community has nothing to do with comparability. The basis for our fellowship is our relationship to God - we're all family.

For background on what these 'Purpose Driven Life' posts are about, click this link.

Made for community - several sets of hands working on colourful crafts together

Thursday, March 8, 2018

A Purpose Driven Life - Chapter 18

A Purpose Driven Life Chapter 18 - Life is Meant to be Shared

Chapter Overview: Rick began writing about what fellowship means - it's not just going to church or having dinner together. It's really sharing trials, struggles in our lives. He talks about the importance of the size of a group where true fellowship can happen. Any larger than 12 or so and people start getting left out. Rick talks about 4 different kinds of fellowship that we should be
Sharing life - two sets of hands holding a small bowl of tomatoes
involved in:

  1. Mutuality - truly sharing from our hearts
  2. Mercy - learning to forgive and extend mercy to each other. Nobody is perfect. We can't hold grudges whimsy each other if we want to participate in true fellowship. Love covers a multitude if sins...
  3. Sufferings - Rick wrote about the difference between empathy and sympathy. He felt sympathy was the better of the two. We need to be able to extend true sympathy to each other to share in sufferings
  4. I don't remember what Rick called this one - did it have something to do with being face to face or thoughtfully engaged, committed, or have something to do with intimacy? Anyway he did talk a lot about the phrase 'one to another' and how many times it is mentioned in the nt.  It was Authenticity.  Fellowship requires authenticity.

2011 (40 years old)

We had small group this evening and we talked about being transformed and transformation.  A number of testimonies were shared and it was really cool to see how God works - sometimes in a quicker transformation, and sometimes it a long, slow road - sort of like from peak to peak and we get pruned at each peak.  Some of us are caterpillars (quick transformation) and some of us are tadpoles (slower transformation).  Ewa said something interesting though - we are already transformed in God's eyes - we see our life's perspective and change through a dirty window, God sees through a clean one, washed by the blood of Jesus.

2016 (45 years old)

I need others in my life. Experiencing life together. What is one step I can take today to connect with another believer at a more genuine heart to heart level?  Ask Challan how her mom is doing.  I was going to say what's the matter with women, but I think many of us men have the same problem. We're all so busy and preoccupied. I found reading this chapter frustrating. I get the impression that Ewa thinks we have to 'have it all together' before we can lead a small group. Kind of like that outward appearance thing that makes us late for church on Sunday's.

For background on what these 'Purpose Driven Life' posts are about, click this link.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

A Purpose Driven Life - Chapter 17

A Purpose Driven Life Chapter 17 - You Belong

Chapter Overview:  God has a family and you belong to it. Rick wrote about the importance of belong to the local church as part of gods family. He basically made a very distinct correlation between consistent church attendance and the health of the believer.

2011 (40 years old)  

I think I agree with him. He talked about the least of these again and told a story about a Leper colony in Hawaii where a priest went to help and he would identify with them always saying 'us lepers'. Rick listed a bunch of reasons why he felt it was important to be a part of the local church and even said that the original use of the word 'member' had it's origin from that context or connotation in the bible (we are all members of one body). I'm reading Max Lucado's book One Life to Live also right now and I'm starting to confuse the two books a little bit. Max talks a lot about helping the poor and the chapter I read last night spoke of prejudice and getting off your high horse - he used the example of Peter and Cornelius. It's crosses over pretty well to Rick's Chapter 17 if you ask me.

I belong - group of guys having fun, busting a move outside

2016 (45 years old)

I am called to belong, not just believe. Does my level of involvement with my local church demonstrate that I am in love and committed to God's family?  I think so. Interesting thoughts from this chapter: Jesus did not promise to build your ministry; he promised to build his church. It seems easier to be holy when no one else is around, but that is a false untested holiness. It is easy to think we are mature when there is no one around to challenge us.

For background on what these 'Purpose Driven Life' posts are about, click this link.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Fire & Fragrance Calgary - 2018 My Thoughts

Fire & Fragrance Calgary 2018 - My Thoughts

Paul & Hanna McClure leading worship on Friday night at the Fire and Fragrance Conference in Calgary

It been a long time since I attended a full on conference of any kind.  I guess perhaps one reason I don't attend conferences very often is because I find I get discouraged afterwards comparing my life to the lives of the people who were leading/speaking.  And they make for a really busy weekend.

Some good things I'd forgotten about conferences though that pleasantly surprised me this weekend were:

  • Meeting a bunch of people with similar passions and desires as myself and being able to talk and share with them.
  • Getting challenged by good teaching - even though sometimes I do get discouraged, the 'wrestle' with God about what they said versus what I'm doing or where I am is, I believe, good.
I had been asked to teach a keyboard seminar at the conference this weekend, so I was actually involved in a way.  That was fun.  You can see/download my notes on that seminar/workshop here.

Here's my thoughts and feelings on what the speakers said...

Sean Feucht

I had never heard the vision behind 'The Burn' before.  The story about the inception of The Burn in Sean's college dorm room reminded me of something that happened after my first year of college, and made me wonder if I had missed an opportunity.  I got past that train of thought pretty quickly though.  

His whole talk on David was great - I hadn't heard it put quite like that before either.  His thoughts on 'What possessed the heart of David to say he wouldn't sleep until he found a home where God would feel welcome on the earth?'  and how David ended up transforming the nation by creating a 'government ministry and dedicating government resources - essentially taking money from the nation's economy' to fund full time worship to God were great.  The impact and influence of David was so great that people actually called Jesus 'the son of David' and he answered to that!

Paul & Hanna McClure

Paul serves as the worship pastor at Bethel.  They shared together on Saturday morning about their journey getting to Bethel and their path of growth while they've been there.  Two things have stuck in my mind from their talk:
  1. God doesn't waste anything.  ANYTHING.  He doesn't waste time in preparing us for what he has in store for us.  They really encouraged everything to be 'thankful and present' where we're currently at.  'Faithfulness in my current assignment is my greatest assignment'  
  2. All the 'creatives' at Bethel are unpaid (!!!)  I had heard this before, but not first-hand.  Knowing the expectations and effort that goes into a worship service at that caliber, the question that I'm sure came to everyone's mind that Paul addresses was 'How do you keep these creatives around and engaged?'  His answers:
    • Jenn Johnson always says 'Are you called to be here?'
    • They have a monthly team meeting that is mandatory where they do team building an encouragement.  I've seen meetings like this done in a patronizing way and I can't see how that would fly given the high expectations there, so it must be a good 'real' meeting.
    • Expectations are clear from the start.
    • Dealing with confrontation: honour people with brave communication.  They do debriefs after every service with personal feedback.  People can feel bad because they don't feel cared for.  How would love communicate and care in a difficult situation?
I'll be honest - Lately I can get stressed at our own church with the expectations there on the level of excellence for the worship service.  Some weeks where I wonder to myself if I really want to keep doing this.  Several times at the conference it was said that serving in the music ministry in the church should be considered 'a privilege'.  That almost came across as patronizing to me.

Maybe I'm getting older and tire out easier?  Maybe some of the situations (both good and bad) I've had are leaving me feeling like... my experience is ignored and/or not considered?  Its challenging to come to a new church with so many years of experience playing in bands and just serve.  I liked playing the drums in a church service and feeling that there was no other place in the world I would rather be in that moment - that I was in the centre of God's will for me at that time.  Now there are so many things to think about and to get right while I play, I feel like I'm starting to lose that 'centre'.  

This challenge has been good, because its driven me to do a lot more praying.  And the benefits of that have been amazing.  So, all in all, I've been experiencing a lot of growth lately, and I'm thankful for it.  I have to remember my big take-away from the weekend:  God doesn't waste anything!  I need to find Him and my purpose where I'm currently at and live in the present and not wish I was somewhere else, doing something else.

Monday, March 5, 2018

A Purpose Driven Life - Chapter 16

A Purpose Driven Life Chapter 16 - What Matters Most

Chapter Overview:   God is love and that is our most important priority - to be and show love to others. Rick said life is about relationships - 4 of the 10 commandments were about relationship with god; the other 6 were about relationship with others. He also wrote how dying people know what the proper priorities are - on their death bed they don't say 'I want to see this diploma or that award or the book I wrote'. They want to see their family. Rick also made a correlation between time and love. Particularly in the context of families and family life. Love is our first priority; time is our most valuable resource. Rick also spoke on the challenge of the church learning to love each other - they will know us by our love.  It's not love our doctrine first and them others. 

Relationships matter most - black and white image of big and small hands together touching

2011 (40 years old)

I had a good lesson/parable in this yesterday.  A bunch of us were going to lunch walking through the +15 and a blind man was trying to navigate through the hotel. The hotel on that floor is literally like a maze and so he had to go slow and was holding people up. How hard would it have been to ask if he wanted help through? I could have just caught up to the guys later. 'if you've done it unto the least of these you've done it unto me.'

2016 (45 years old)

Life is all about love.  Honestly are relationships my first priority? No. How can I ensure that they are?  Time, focus, effort. I certainly learned that this weekend with my big discussion with Ewa. Erik was like 'you guys talked for like 4 hours.'  It's wasn't pleasant talking either. But it ended up good. I realized I need to be more concerned and in tune with where she is at spiritually (and probably in general). It's NOT all about leaving behind a legacy of stuff. Like Rick said - people don't want their diplomas and money beside them when they die. Make right choices and spent time where and when it matters.

For background on what these 'Purpose Driven Life' posts are about, click this link.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

A Purpose Driven Life - Chapter 15

A Purpose Driven Life Chapter 15 - Part of God's Family

Chapter Overview:  Rick talks about how we are adopted onto God's family and what that means for us.  We belong. We have an inheritance. God is our daddy and everything is his. He talked about what baptism means in this context.  

2011 (40 years old) 

I had am interesting dream last night. It was the first night I've slept through in a long time. First we had David and Dana P. (from Texas) visiting us and there was water in the basement - but that seemed ok as we also had heat elements in the basement floor and we were cooking sausages for supper. Then we were on a bus with a bunch of people in the mountains and I kept telling the bus driver to go faster and he did. It was rather fun. Then he drove onto the ocean by Vancouver with waves and big rock cliffs. The bus floated and the bus driver loved it because he had never seen the sea before. Then we were eating at a restaurant in Vancouver and watching these divers. They were doing these tricks where they'd do a jump that looked like a dive but they'd land on another board and jump on that one too. It was pretty cool looking. We had a large tab at the restaurant but that was ok.  

Part of God's family - dream of being by the ocean
The point of it all was 'this is kind of what it's like' to love and enjoy life without fear. It was a most excellent feeling. We (I) live so much always considering the consequence of my decisions. This wasn't like that at all. There wasn't really a fear of anything. I wondered if there was supposed to be a correlation there to what it is supposed to be like as a child of God.

Thinking a bit about what it means to walk with God in confidence - that's totally some thing I can not do  I think those passages in Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1 are key to being able to do this.  Being able to walk in the wisdom of God and know what His good and perfect will is. Can you know and walk in confidence of that knowledge?  George Hill certainly seemed to be able to.

2016 (45 years old)

How can I start treating other believers like members of my own family?  Make them feel like they belong. Accept them.  Smile.  Remember, they might be intimidated by me as much as I feel intimidated by some of them.

For background on what these 'Purpose Driven Life' posts are about, click this link.

Friday, March 2, 2018

A Purpose Driven Life - Chapter 14

A Purpose Driven Life Chapter 14 - When God Isn't There

Chapter Overview:  Rick asks the question 'what do you do when you don't feel god?'  He says that most Christians go through this desert experience at least once.  He points to the examples of job and David in the Bible.   

2011 (40 years old)

I was reminded of one of my favourite John Dawson teachings on 'previous valleys'.  God hides or withdraws himself from us for a while - sort of the whole 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' kind of idea.
I've got to say, I'm not so sure that the book's title jives with me for as much of the book as I've read so far. It's more of a discipleship book to this point. It really is a good book with small bite sized chapters on major topics for Christians though. I'm interested to see if Rick helps the reader discover their purpose specific, individual purpose any more in the book.

2016 (40 years old)

God is real, no matter how I feel. How can I stay focused on Gods presence even when he feels distant?  The test of faith - one we all must face. Will I continue to love, trust, obey, and worship God, even when I have no sense of his presence or visible evidence in my life. Am I seeking an experience rather than seeking God?  To answer the first question above, I can be encouraged that God is beginning to trust me in our relationship. I can remember everything that he has done for me - my list of stories, and the work of Jesus on the cross. I can be honest and tell God how I feel.

For background on what these 'Purpose Driven Life' posts are about, click this link.

When God isn't there - small man in field on foggy day

Thursday, March 1, 2018

A Purpose Driven Life - Chapter 13

A Purpose Driven Life Chapter 13 - Worship That Pleases God

Chapter Overview:  Worship God in Spirit and in Truth.  You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Worship that pleases God - white water lily and lily pads

2011 (40 years old)

Another good chapter on what true worship is in the context of a Christian's life. (not just singing in church)
Rick says that the kind of worship that pleases God has four characteristics:
  1. It must be authentic (worship in spirit and in truth)
  2. It must be accurate.  He mentions a book by Gary Thomas called Sacred Pathways that talks about how people with different 'make-ups' worship God in different ways. (Naturalists, Traditionalists, Activists, Contemplates, Intellectuals, etc)
  3. It must be thoughtful. (..with all your mind..)  Would you say "I praise you!" to someone?  They would want to know details.  For what?!?  Use the names of God and/or fresh words like admire, respect, value, revere, appreciate, honor
  4. It must be practical (offer your bodies to God as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship)  ...with all your strength...   Passive worship is an oxymoron.  It should take effort and energy.
Had Dr. George Hill pray over me today to impart whatever God wanted to impart to me through him.  He mentioned 3 scripture passages:
Deut. 28:1-14
Col 1: 9-12
Eph. 1:17-22

2016 (45 years old)

God wants all of me.  What is more pleasing to God right now - my public worship or my private worship?  What should I do about this?  I know God wants more of me - more of my time and my focus - in private worship. However like the chapter says, it's not all about singing and songs.  There are different ways and types of worship. I'm definitely a naturalist to some degree. Nature draws me close to God and helps me see his greatness. I liked the line 'We can worship God imperfectly, but we cannot worship him insincerely.  So our worship must be accurate (true), authentic (sincere), thoughtful (specific and without thoughtless repetition ) and practical (with our bodies as living sacrifices).

For background on what these 'Purpose Driven Life' posts are about, click this link.

Career Change and Work in Calgary

Some Context... Ewa and I knew that I would not be in the printing business the rest of my life.  The job at Webco in Leduc, Alberta was shi...