Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A role to play

Remember me, the guy who has a blog? Is there anyone out there, reading this...

OK, I don't blame you for loosing interest. I wonder sometimes if I myself am loosing interest in blogging, but honestly it's (again) a matter of time and what I want to write about. And write I shall. The big story of my life this year has been, of course, fatherhood, and my struggle to be the Dad to a child with FASD that I need to be. Yes it has been challenging, but there have also been a lot of tender, happy moments. Looking back I have fond memories of our trip to Jasper (Parks Canada's cabin tents is an adventure in luxury camping!), our stay in Revelstoke, our five year adoption anniversary (where DID the time go?) and one of the most wonderful Christmases we have ever enjoyed. I'm also looking forward new memories like my upcoming daddy/daughter date this Friday. We had given Jess the gift of hockey for Christmas this year, which included 2 tickets to a game that Jess decided I should take her to. I'm looking forward to a fun night with Daddy's girl.

It was a special Christmas for Jess this year in that it's the first one she got to spend with her birth mom since we adopted her. Until this last fall, when Jess decided to initiate contact with her biological family, the only communication she had with them was by letters. But Jess felt she needed more than that, and it's been a healing experience for both Jess and her birth mom, whom we have developed a friendship with. Family can be complicated thing for a lot of people, but because there's respect for us as Jess' adoptive parents and respect for Jess' birth mom it all works well for everyone. Jess has the best of both worlds, and in the end she's the one who wins.

As I think back over a year of growing in my Christian faith I remember how this time last year I was still enduring a crisis of faith, which didn't make my Christmas all that enjoyable. But I came to a place where I saw that I'd rather struggle and suffer with God than without Him. And when I did things began to change in me. Peace and contentment went up, anxiety and depression went down. That didn't mean that life or how I saw life became perfect, but it does mean I'm a lot happier. And it also helped me find the courage to do something I hadn't done in years: preach a sermon in my home church. It took a year and a half from the time I felt an inner prompting from God to the time when I actually stood before the congregation, and once I did I hoped I had gotten it out of my system. But wouldn't you know it, God didn't let me off the hook. Oh no, this wasn't just a dip my toe in the water one time thing - I'm going to be back at it again as early as February of next year. So stay tuned for further developments...

I hope that the opportunities to preach again will be ones where I get to share my growing faith journey. I hope to share how my struggles as a parent create an awareness of my own neediness, brokenness and self-righteousness, and how they drive me to God. I hope to share the little things I've learned, like in my recent study of the prophet Isaiah. I gleaned from his writing a few things I never picked up before; like while we may wonder where God is while we call on Him to act, God is also wondering where we are and calls on us to do good in the world. Another thing I picked up was that while we are called to fight a spiritual battle God fights alongside us with the same weapons we are called to use. Isaiah writes that God wears salvation like a helmet and righteousness like body armor, which means that the fight will be fought and won by the Good News of God's love and His good character, which we also possess and apply in our daily struggle against evil. Isaiah also talks about the need to work for justice as a part of that spiritual struggle, which is just as important as the need to pray.

So with a new sense of the need to pray and work for justice in the world around me, I'm encouraged going into 2015 knowing that I'm not doing these things alone. Whether pushing for access to resources & programs for Jess, trying to be a blessing to our neighborhood, my coworkers, friends and family or preparing new sermons, I know I have a role to play in the world. I also know that God will do His part in me and through me, and that His ability to get things done starts where mine ends. I hope the same can be said for you as well. May the New Year be full of hope, joy and blessing for you and your family, and that the God of hope, joy and blessing be with you.

Cheers,
Hendrick

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The pipe dream

As I'm typing this I am up in the mountains north of Revelstoke, B.C. It's a hot day with a lot of white fluffy clouds rolling in; a hazy view of the mountains provides a backdrop for a peaceful lake view and an abundance of trees. We're staying with family for a week, which provides us with a much needed get-away from the stresses of every day life. We had a similar get-away last month in Jasper, where we stayed in one of Parks Canada's cabin-tents (a shelter with wood floors, frame, windows and door with canvas walls and roof). We find that nature provides us with a tranquillity that's hard to come by in the city, where you live simply and slow down. There's that joke where camping is when you spend lots of money to live like a poor person, but it's the only holiday we can afford (and it's not much of a step downward on the poverty scale for us).

Getting away from the city and communing with nature does something else for me other than recharging my batteries, it also fuels my imagination. You see, I have this silly little fantasy, a pipe dream, where I have a cabin and live off the land. I guess I've had this notion stuck in my head ever since I was a little boy. I've always been fascinated with tales like Swiss Family Robinson, or Robinson Crusoe, tales of survival using whatever provisions you've been left with. Growing up on a wooded acreage, with trails and a tree house, did nothing to feed into this fantasy of course. And neither did tenting in the back yard during the summer, nor hitching up the family trailer and heading to the mountains for that matter. We'd stop at all these outdoor museums and take in all the history of the homesteaders who pioneered the west. They were always a gold mine of ideas for how to carve out a living on the frontier.

What the scenario looks like in my head has different variations. Sometimes it's just little old me, sometimes it's with the family, and sometimes there's a group of us homesteading together. You'd farm, fish and hunt to fill your belly and keep busy with chores, but there's always leisure time for things like books, music, games or exploring your surroundings. It's a place where you can focus on feeding your body and your soul in an environment that can be just as unforgiving as it is beautiful. I guess it's the challenge of getting back to basics, stretching yourself, doing without and maybe realizing what's truly important that appeals to me. And although it runs counter to the living by myself scenario (for the times when I crave some solitude) it also appeals to my need for connection and community. Plus I'm really not cut out for stuff like hunting, so I would need to live with someone who has the bravado to bag and skin the odd moose now and then. I even brought this very point up in a couple of sermons I preached on living in community, where I used my pipe dream as an example of how we need to live relationally with others who have different skill sets in order to make it through life.

So while my fantasy may have some real world value it is, in the end, just a pipe dream. The closest I could probably come to realizing it is by coming into a large sum of money, buy or lease some land and build a summer holiday cabin. Nothing fancy like the place that only exists in my mind, just a roof, four walls and maybe a table, chairs and a couple of beds. But if I get enough land then we could invite the family there for our annual camp-out that we've been doing for the past few years. And maybe during one of those camp outs a solar flare knocks out the power for good and we'd all be stuck at the cabin. And we'd have to plant a garden and catch rabbits and at night we'd tell stories and sing songs, do family devotions and... OK, I'm getting silly here, but you can see how it doesn't take much for my imagination to tilt towards a certain direction. But it also doesn't help when my own daughter asks me, after seeing the cabin-tent for the first time, if we can buy some land and build one of our own.

 Maybe pipe dreams run in the family. One can only hope.