Thursday, December 29, 2005

ice ice baby

one of my least favorite weather experiences here is freezing rain. it covers everything in a sheet of ice. last night's rain wasn't too heavy — only 4 mm — but it left a slippery layer of ice on vehicles, roadways, and sidewalks. we chip the ice off of the cars ourselves. if a road is well-travelled enough, it is salted and therefore passable. but the sidewalks are often neglected, especially in a residential neighborhood like ours. it can transform a two-minute walk to the bus stop into a ten-minute experience of slipping, sliding, falling and not getting to the bus at all.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

happy birthday to me!

well, i'm a little late. but every year, i celebrate the day i became a child of God — december 25th. the short version of the story is that i began a serious quest to sort out the truth about Jesus in the june after my first year at university, and was surprised to find (some time in late november/early december) that i actually believed. still, i knew that being a christian was more than a matter of correct opinion; it was a matter of allegiance. would i really entrust my life to God? after contemplating the decision for a couple of weeks, i came to the conclusion that there was really no escape. i knew what i knew, and there was no way to go back. but i elected to make the formal commitment on christmas day. why? i wanted to make sure that i wouldn't forget what day it happened. little did i know how memorable that day would be! the whole trajectory of my life changed on that day.

and every year since then, i've had the chance at christmas to reflect on my life as a child of God, to consider where i've grown and where i've regressed, to contemplate what God might have for me next. at times, that is a happy task; at others, it is sobering and even sorrowful.

this is my 24th christian birthday. a quick assessment reminds me of what i already know: i am not yet all that God intends, nor, perhaps, am i even as far along as i could reasonably expect to be. i still have a bad temper. my instinct is too often not to be kind or compassionate, especially with people whom i think should already know or understand something. i worry too much about money. i don't take risks of faith easily. i am easily distracted by work and worthless pursuits like television. my intimacy with God is uneven.

but this christmas, for all of my shortcomings, my heart is not sad. i know that God loves me. i know that he is faithful, and that i can count on him. i know that while i am not all that i ought to be, neither am i what i used to be. and i know that i am in the middle of a story that is bigger than i am, responding to a call that i do not understand, in a place where few know Jesus and few seem to want to know him. i am reaching out to and loving people who are a long way from home, welcoming strangers while living as a stranger myself. and my sense of hope and anticipation is alive. how will God provide for us? how will he work faithfully with my daughters? where will he lead me from here?

i believe that a key part of my calling is to be living proof that the promises of God are true. it's a calling that stretches me; a life of faith doesn't come naturally to me. as i've said many times, i'm so much better at walking by sight. but i'm learning.

and perhaps even more significantly, i am learning that everything depends on God. he is the end; he is the means. it really is all about him. maybe that's why my heart isn't sad. he will not fail.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


in this advent season, i’ve been struck by the manner of Jesus’ coming — that the creator of the universe, the one who sustains every living thing — came as a human baby. he lived our life; he suffered our sufferings; he became weak so that we could know God’s strength. though he was God, he made himself vulnerable to pain and loneliness and rejection, for the sake of loving us.

though Jesus was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. he made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form.
philippians 2:6, 7

theologians call it ‘incarnation.’ it’s just a fancy way of saying that Jesus didn’t wait for us to make our way to him; instead, he came to us, as one of us. he laid down his rights and depended on the Father, so that people could come into contact with God and be reconciled to him.

our calling to montreal is also a call to be incarnational, to live as displaced people — loving, serving, and being a witness to those who are studying far from home and all that is familiar. we have at least an inkling of what that experience is like. it’s ministry from a position of weakness —kind of like coming as a baby.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

piled higher and deeper

yes, this is our street. 41 cm of snow may not sound that deep (just over 16 inches), but once you start moving it out of peoples' driveways, off the walkways, and out of the centre of the street so people can drive, you get the mess you see here. those large piles of snow on the left are in the street; from street level, some of these piles are as tall as i am and as long as two car lengths! as you might imagine, parking and driving are difficult.

the snow removal was supposed to begin last night. but these piles were still here this morning when the photo was taken. it's been rescheduled for tonight, but i haven't seen any snow removal equipment yet. i think it will take over a week for the city to return to normal.

did i sign up for this? yes, i actually did. God knows what he's doing -- but i sure don't!

Friday, December 16, 2005

the joy of journaling

i have a new toy — an electronic journal, password protected and encrypted. that's a lot of security for... what exactly? well, i'm sure that i'll end up with some secret thoughts at some point, and it'll be nice that it's not so easy to crack. of course, if something sudden happens to me, no one will ever know about my hidden brilliance. so maybe i'll unprotect it at some point — or at least leave the password somewhere!

i can see a lot of use for something like this. for one thing, i write so much faster on a computer, and secondly, it's much more legible. it makes me sad to think about how much my handwriting has deteriorated, but that's another subject.

i hope that the journal will stretch me, not only in helping me to reflect on my life (which i need to do more), but also to dream, to pray, to get poetic. it'll also give me a chance to get some thoughts down about my wife and kids. i love them a great deal, and try to send e-cards and notes, but i don't really have a place where i've talked about just how precious they are to me. such things ought to be a bit more permanent.

the weather outside is frightful...

this morning, we had the biggest snow of the year, and of all of our time in montreal. the girls have been waiting for 16 months to be able to skip school because of snow, and we just figured that it never happens.

wrong. supposedly, we're getting 30cm of snow today, mostly before noon (it actually ended up being over 41cm, a record). i really had quite a task trying to dig out the car; i was thinking of going to the ymca later today, but the shoveling may be enough exercise all by itself. in one of those funny not-funny moments, i had almost finished digging around the van when a patrol of 3 small snowplows (the kind that usually do the sidewalk) came down the street and plowed me in again. i couldn't stop myself from crying out, "noooo!" but it was actually pretty humorous. it helped that i didn't really have to go anywhere.

check out the story here.

Monday, December 12, 2005

let it snow!

this is our second winter in montreal, but it still feels very new to us -- both wonderful and exasperating. we get a fair amount of snow here because the air is humid (remember that montreal is an island in the middle of the saint lawrence river). some days, the snow falls gently, yielding only a light dusting. but we can get some really big storms here as well, and then it's a rapid dumping of snow that blankets everything. remarkably, the city usually continues to function somewhat normally. we were amazed the first time we saw the snow removal here. they also use an unbelievable amount of salt on the roads; it's a wonder that anything still grows here. driving in montreal is an adventure any time of the year, but in a snow storm, it's especially exciting. thank God for winter tires (a gift from a church friends)!

the family blog?

this is the view from mount royal. what a beautiful city!

the girls have made it clear that they think this ought to be a family page and not just my personal blog. as is often the case, their desire has won the day. so here it is!