Update on the Update

The last update intimated that today might be the day that we take possession of the building in downtown Winnipeg. Well, it seems that God wants to build more character in all of us as we will be waiting until next week Thursday, March 22.

That said, it’s a good waiting as there are some repairs being done that need to be inspected, ensuring they meet city codes. These are things that we would have had to do eventually and this way, the previous owner takes care of them before we take possession. So it’s good.

Apparently waiting builds character…

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Downtown campus update

A quick update for you…

Mid-February, we as a church decided to move ahead with a downtown campus, specifically at 188 Princess Street in Winnipeg.  Since that time, there have been a number of things happening – albeit mostly behind the scenes.  Most notably, we have been working on getting possession of the building and moving in there so that things can get up and running.  There is potential that will happen this week (fingers & toes crossed)!

The other thing that has been happening is we are beginning to work with and organise the list of people who have said they are interested in being part of this new endeavour. This is a very exciting part as we have over 60 people who have said they are ready to go! Its even more exciting when you consider that they don’t exactly know what they are saying YES to (!!!), but they have a sense that God is doing something here and they want to be a part of it. That’s a really cool thing. We’re not always good at recognising God-at-work in the world. If we’re honest, we are quite interested in what God can do for me and find it not too difficult to reflect on where God has been active in MY life. But when it comes to see God at work in the bigger picture – that can be hard. Yet there is this group that wants to join God in that work.

So its exciting to take that next step into the downtown and gather, talk about, and practise being a Christ-centered, invitational community that sojourns together towards transformation. Thanks for all your prayers on this.  We continue to covet them.

Here’s a link to the note on our Facebook page “Broken Halos.”  http://on.fb.me/xh2YMN  It gives an overview of the concept.

Peace.

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And God said…”Let there be Lent.”

“Tell me where the Bible talks about Lent,” she said to me, smugly crossing her arms in a perceived victory. “Because why should I do this Lent thing if the Bible doesn’t even mention it?”

And with that, she walked away. I am not a big fan of that debating technique and the more cynical side of me wanted to run after her and start asking her about her Christmas celebrations/traditions and where she finds support for those in the Bible, but that would have led us to a place that probably wasn’t very helpful.

Yet, she is correct.  Lent is not something that Jesus practised or implemented but does that mean that we should have nothing to do with it? There is a long history of the early church observing various kinds of fasts in preparation for Good Friday and Easter – as early as the 2nd/3rd centuries. When Constantine legalised Christianity in AD 313, Lent became a formal part of the church’s rhythm. The word itself simply comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning Spring or March, referring to the time of year in which Lent most often takes place. Typically, it is a very reflective time, a time to take stock of the fragility of our humanity, our need for a Saviour, and the cost at which our saving came. The idea of fasting or depriving yourself of something during the ’40 days’ of Lent is a way of identifying or, at the very least, having a more profound understanding of the suffering that Christ went through on our behalf.  It is a time in which we join Jesus in the wilderness, to be tested, tried, and readied for the road that is to come. A person will decide to “give something up” for the duration of Lent – from coffee, to video games, to Facebook – and use that time for reflection, meditation, prayer, etc..

I have been struck by the number of blogs, articles, and comments I have read this year that suggest that we need to get rid of this whole thing of “giving up something” for Lent. And its not just the people who feel Lent is “non-biblical” and therefore, not worth considering. Some of said that it feels trite to give up not eating sweets (for instance) as a way of identifying with the suffering of Christ. “Jesus died a brutal death for my sins and so I decide to not eat chocolate?” And, to be honest, I understand that perspective. How does my simple fast help me relate to what my Lord suffered for our sake? I think the closest I came was when I gave up coffee (& other caffeinated beverages) for 40 days. The headaches that came with withholding caffeine, cold-turkey, were suffering indeed. It might be fair to say that my wife suffered even more because she had to put up with me as I staggered around the house, hoping to breathe in a caffeine-fume, if such a thing exists. And don’t even talk to me about trying to pray while my head is pounding. But still, is it even fair to somehow equate that with Christ’s suffering? So the question of the effectiveness of fasting, amidst all our excess, is a valid one.

But when it comes down to it, that is the point, isn’t it? Isn’t the point that we live in a society in which we don’t hold back anything from ourselves? We want for nothing, living in such abundance that we never have to go without. Largely, we are a very undisciplined people. Never mind my ‘needs,’ I find it hard to think of something that I ‘want’ that I don’t already have.  Of course, if I dream, there are big, extravagantly expensive things that I can say I ‘want;’ things that when it comes right down to it, I would never buy even if I could. But the reality is that when I think “that would be nice to have,” that usually means I will go out and get it; if not immediately, then a few days/weeks down the road (such discipline!). I don’t think that is what the Psalmist meant when writing “The Lord is my Shepherd, I will not be in want…”

Living in a culture in which we withhold nothing from our selves has brought me to this point where I look at the season of Lent and it makes sense to me. Yes, withholding desserts is trite and in no way representative of the Passion of Christ, but it seems to me that the path to a disciplined life needs to start somewhere. We’ve got the excess thing down; let’s start withholding from ourselves. We need habits in our lives by which we deprive our flesh in order to free the work of the Spirit. Because we need the Spirit to be active in our lives so that we can understand what Jesus means when he says: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8.34).

So what are you giving up for Lent? I pray it will help you better understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and create room for the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. And to my anti-Lent friend, it seems to me that Lent has more of a Biblical foundation than does the gluttony of gifts that you buy at Christmas time…but that’s an argument for a few months down the road.

Peace.

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The Importance of Someone Else

My family and I were at friends’ place for supper the other day. It was good. After supper, one of our hosts, along with our kids, strapped on the skates and headed out to a nearby rink to skate and shoot a puck around a bit. I didn’t bring my skates but went anyway, choosing to clear away the snow from the ice surface. After clearing, I leaned up against that boards and watched the activity. My son was in his glory. Here was an older guy (but not as old as his dad), a cool guy (just about as cool as his dad) spending time with him – actually, not just spending time with him but focusing all his attention on him. They set up and ran plays, made impossible passes, scored the overtime winner in game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals (a few times). It was heavenly for my 8 year old (& pretty special for his dad). It caused me to reflect on my own growing up and remember the guys who played that kind of role in my life. Those guys who seemed to always have time for me and even though they were “a ton” older, it didn’t seem to matter. Those guys made a difference in my life and I reveled watching our friend pour value into the life of my son.

It brought to mind the importance of ‘someone else’ in our lives; that mentor, that coach, that person who takes time to spend time with you. Mentoring has become such technique these days with books and curriculum and such.  I lament that a little bit because it can overshadow the power of simply making the effort to be in a person’s life. “I’m not qualified,” is an excuse I often hear. Or “I have nothing to share!” I think we miss the point when we focus on those things. As I think back, I don’t remember anything that those guys said to me, I just remember that they took time for me; that they made me feel like I was more than ‘just a kid’ and that I had something to contribute as well. They gave me an optimism for what lay ahead in life, even if their lives weren’t always in order, which I only later figured out that they weren’t. A few them were even honest enough to challenge me on my actions and behaviours, which really made me stop and think.

The funny thing is that watching my friend play with my son made me really miss having that kind of person in my life and has prompted me to seek out someone. It seems that its not just kids who need someone to take time ‘just for them.’ We often hear that we should be willing to be a mentor to someone else – and we should because if you have lived, you meet the requirements to mentor someone else. But let me also say that we should be willing to seek out someone to be a mentor to us – to you. Because in doing so you recognise the value that someone else can add to your life – the richness of a different perspective, the inherent wisdom of life experience that they have to share, and the correction they can offer from where they see things. In a time where personal relationships have taken such a back seat to productivity and what it is that you can accomplish, I would like to see us reclaim the importance of someone else in our lives. When you stop and think, do you have those people (that person) in your life? Have you had that at some point?  What about finding someone again?

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Its a Conspiracy, I tell you!

About 5 years ago I heard about the Advent Conspiracy project (www.adventconspiracy.org) and immediately found that it scratched where I itched when it came to Christmas. Over the past two years, our church has been taking part in the conspiracy, doing its part to “take back” Christmas as an event that changed the world and continues to change the world today. The church has responded well and been generous in giving towards projects outside of ourselves. What I find interesting is that in there are people who are very uncomfortable with the word “conspiracy” and would like it removed. They feel it is too negative and does not fit the feeling of the season. So this year we are making an Advent appeal — which is fine…or I should say, was fine until I saw this picture taken a retail store somewhere.

wpid-realjoy-2011-12-12-16-20.jpg

You see, the issue is that, whether we like it or not, there is a conspiracy! There’s a conspiracy to take the ‘good news of great joy’ away from Jesus and make it about me. I am reminded of a scene in Lord of the Rings: Two Towers where Gandalf attempts to persuade Theoden, king of Rohan to take up arms and defend his kingdom. The king says he will not risk further death to his people by thrusting them into war, to which Gandalf replies that war is already upon them, whether they stand to defend or not! I believe that Christians find themselves in a similar place when it comes to the Christmas season. The conspiracy against Christmas has been going on for years — whether we have recognised it or not. Advent Conspiracy was birthed out of the reality that we need to conspire against some significant powers to reclaim what this season is about. I won’t go on about the commercialization of the season and all that; that is a familiar argument for many and you can go to the Advent Conspiracy website to get more insight on that.

The issue for me is that for years we have been subtly asked to replace Jesus as the focus of the season and place ourselves in the manger. The joy and peace of the season is found in us getting what we want — both in terms of gifts and experiences. We work hard to create the perfect environment for ourselves so that we have a season, or perhaps more realistically, a moment of peace. We try to create a ‘hallmark’ moment that exemplifies how we would like life to be, if we had a choice. Yet I am not sure that is what this season is about. I think it is less about me getting what I want and more about God getting what he wants. Christmas is not about me getting my way (finally) so that I will be happy and peaceful and joyous; its about God setting things in motion so that they will be the way he wants them to be. Of course, this doesn’t sell as well as saying that Jesus came to earth as a baby for you/me but when we use that kind of language, we turn Christmas into a passive event in which we simply sit back and wait for all the Christmassy goodness to come pouring into our lives without having to actually change anything or even make a decision.

I believe Christmas forces me to decide whether or not I want to embrace God’s way for the world and find peace, love, hope, and joy in God’s way. This means that I may have to give up what I want (even what I hope for?!) and give up all the things that tend to put ME front and centre — like many of our traditions do. And then choose to find real joy and peace in the in-breaking kingdom of God – a kingdom that most certainly turned and continues to turn things on its head! So Merry Christmas to you and I pray God will get everything he wants this festive season!

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