Saturday, December 23, 2006

the delight and wonder of christmas

one of the treats of this particular christmas has been the chance to finally meet baby s, the newest member of our extended family. you may remember her from a previous post featuring her and big sister l. we've been looking forward to this encounter for a long time, and as time time drew nearer, our anticipation grew. on this past friday, we started the long trek to washington dc and 14 hours later (and after unplanned excursions through rural pennsylavnia and rural virginia), we arrived in the wee hours of the morning. by that time, she was asleep, of course.

the first photo here was from later that morning, just after i met her. conventional wisdom was that she would warm up to us a little slowly, as she has to nearly all of the new people in her life; she has, after all, had a lot to adjust to over the past few months — being brought into her new family and moving from china to germany to the us. but she has been so much fun, socializing and flirting with all of us, and generally captivating the room at every turn. what a delight!

there is something wonderful about having a direct connection to someone. it's not that we haven't known s at all; we've been reading about her, hearing the stories, talking to her on the phone, and even seeing photos and video online. but there's something qualitatively different about looking into her eyes and holding her in our arms. it's a direct encounter that no report or photo can ever approach. there's a certain ineffable quality to a genuine, unmediated relationship. and it was worth all of the effort that it took to make it happen, though i'm certain that she can't imagine what it has cost.

so much of this reminds me of how christians think about this time of year — the anticipation of finally meeting a long-awaited dear one, the many unexpected hardships along the way, the thrill of a face-to-face meeting that surpasses any report or simple factual knowledge. those of us who take the time to reflect during the season of advent often think of ourselves as the ones who are waiting, enduring in hope for the sake of an encounter with Jesus. and there's certainly some validity to looking at it that way.

but i think the wonder of christmas is all that God embraced to have an intimate connection with us. the amazing thing is not just that God loves us and wants to restore the sin-broken relationship with humanity, as astonishing as that might be; rather, it is that God would demonstrate that love by bridging the gap himself by coming in human form and making himself vulnerable to his own creation. it is not just that he would find a way to defeat sin and death so that we could live with him forever, but that he would do it by living our life, suffering our sufferings, experiencing our temptations, and eventually, dying our death. it is not just that God knows everything about our lives, but that he has experienced them from the inside. it is not just that Jesus came to make payment on an otherwise unpayable debt, but that he took on helplessness, pain, and hardship for the sake of a direct encounter with us — to look into our eyes and hold us in his arms, as it were.

that is the love that will not let us go, the love that is wooing me and you. will you open the door to him?
Jesus says, "behold, i stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, i will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with me." revelation 3:20

Thursday, December 14, 2006

news from abroad

one of the joys of the work we do is getting to have friends throughout the world. not surprisingly, God continues to work in their lives, and it's a privilege to continue to be a part of that. we get news all too infrequently for our taste, but when we do, it's a lot of fun:

german friend m just finished her bachelor's thesis and will head to mali in the spring for a mission project. she is completing her applications for graduate school in neuroscience, including the program at prestigious oxford. selfishly, we were rooting for something closer to us! :-)

australian friend s left us about six months ago and promptly got engaged! she and fiance d will be getting married in the 2nd half of 2007; not easy to mesh schedules when both of you are physicians. to our delight, the two of them will also be international student ministry volunteers next year in melbourne!

singaporean friend e has finally completed a busy semester in which he took five modules and worked as a teaching assistant. he'll be doing some travel — to india and possibly sri lanka on a work/research trip, then hong kong for an internship interview. he's also seen some exciting personal news, with one sister getting married and another having a little boy!

b also sent news from singapore, as she too has finished her semester. she just returned from thailand and will be headed next to malaysia. she's been seeing someone special for about 5 months, and plans to be baptized early in the new year.

from japan, t reports that she's been ultra-busy. when she's not working, she's been caring for her ailing mother and grandmother, and working on graduate school applications, though it sounds like she's still pondering how those will end up fitting together.

it's nice to know that when people leave montreal, the friendship doesn't have to stop. now, when we can get some money together, we have many places we'd like to visit!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


it seems that the prevailing sentiment of our day is that friends are people who treat you nicely and who accept you just as you are. i guess that's half true. but oscar wilde once said, "a true friend stabs you in the front," and that's certainly been my experience. it doesn't always feel nice. but a real friend is the kind of person who is willing to tell you the truth.

i actually had that experience on our recent trip to toronto. good friends sat down with me and asked about my approach to certain problems, and it became clear that i needed to address certain personal issues. to be honest, i wasn't thrilled. it's not that they weren't nice; they were very kind. but who wants to discover that there's something wrong? these are not really new issues — stuff like how i handle anxiety, a tendency to be over-reactive, and a long running battle with perfectionism — but Lord has successfully put them back on the front burner.

i've got good friends, the kind who love you the way that you are, but are committed enough to you that they wouldn't want to leave you that way. it's a micro-picture of the kind of love that God has for us.

Monday, November 27, 2006

road trip

we got our first look at toronto as a family, and enjoyed a quick tour of a large, diverse city — the university of toronto, one of the five chinatowns, kensington market, lake ontario, the canadian walk of fame, the royal york hotel, and various neighborhoods. we even snuck away for a brief look at the amazing niagara falls, though from the canadian side only.

being who we are as a family, the things we enjoyed most were people (hanging with a and his family, and being hosted by old friends g, d, and s) and food (lunch in chinatown, bubble tea, chinese pastries). we even celebrated a traditional american thanksgiving with turkey, stuffing, and succotash, and fulfilled a lifetime dream of n's by purchasing a (vegan!) hot dog from a street vendor.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

giving thanks

it's a strange thing to live as an american expatriate in quebec, a feeling that is heightened around this time of year. in the usa, thanksgiving is one of the biggest holidays of the year — a time when people travel long distances to celebrate with family, eat far too much, and where i'm from originally, watch way too much football. here in canada, thanksgiving is celebrated in mid-october; it's shorter and from my limited experience, generally lower key than its american cousin.

so we generally observe thanksgiving twice a year — once in october for the canadian thanksgiving, then again in november for the american version. it's a convenient reason to celebrate — for a family that loves to celebrate — and besides, we have so much to be thankful for:

we're thankful for our international student friends, and for the calling of God that gives us the opportunity to know them, to serve them, and to love them in Jesus' name.

we're thankful for the volunteers who have given beyond all reason, both of their possessions and of their time. to love internationals.

we're thankful for christian friends who have welcomed us to montreal and helped to make a sometimes difficult cross-cultural experience more enjoyable.

we're thankful for the scores of supporters who have provided for the ministry financially and interceded mightily on our behalf, in some cases for over two decades. the effective prayers of the righteous have availed much! these folks are more than donors (though that has certainly been appreciated); they are our true friends — the friends of a lifetime.

we're thankful for the encouragement and understanding of our families back in california, who have been gracious in dealing with our being so far from home.

most of all, we're thankful to belong to God and to begin to know the height and depth and breadth and length of his love in Jesus. he is beautiful, and for all of these things and more, we thank him.

Friday, November 10, 2006

speaking of Jesus

the mainstay of our ministry to international students is a weekly meeting where we enjoy a delicious lunch — provided by church volunteers — and a discussion on a passage of the bible. it's a place where people can receive food for their bodies and for their souls. currently, there are two of these meetings, one near mcgill, the other near concordia, with a total of 20-25 people meeting every week. it's a friendly environment for people from around the world and from a variety of spiritual perspectives to reflect on what place God might have in their lives.

about once a month, we have a wide-open question and answer time, where people can ask any question they have related to God, faith, other religions, ethics.
how do you know what you know about God?

is it really possible to have a relationhip with God? what is that like?

do you have to be a christian to do good things?

does God determine our fate?

why do christians believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven?
rather trying to answer everyone's questions ourselves, we organize people into small groups where they ask their questions and others in the group take a shot at answering them. we've had some lively discussions, as everyone has an opinion and as you might anticipate, not all of the opinions are compatible. hopefully, the process is a safe way for people to explore their questions and encourages them to think more deeply about what they believe and why, as well as to consider new possibilities.

Friday, November 03, 2006

to love and to cherish

m and i recently celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary. those of you who have known us a while are aware of what an amazing milestone that is — a testament to the grace and power of God. without Him, i don't know where we'd be, but i'm pretty sure that we wouldn't be celebrating much of anything together.

in that time, we've certainly had our share of ups and downs, of joy and pain, of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat (so to speak). i've learned more than i ever could've guessed from being a husband, including some not very nice things about myself. but i've also learned about receiving and extending forgiveness, about bouncing back from failure, and about the value and limitations of commitment.

that last was a surprise. there was a time when i believed that commitment was enough, and certainly, it's essential. it's just not sufficient. neither is love, if that means some combination of attraction, affection, and commitment. there comes a time, at least for some couples, when everything that you bring to a marriage isn't enough to keep it going. we've seen that time.

and it's at that point that a lot of marriages finally die. that could easily have happened to us, and knowing that has made me a lot more understanding and merciful towards those whose marriages have ended in divorce. but it's also at that point — when you're at the end of your own resources — that you can (re)discover that God really is there and that He is able.

our relationship is a concrete evidence of God's goodness and mercy, both directly and through the dozens of friends who have prayed, counselled, and encouraged us. our annivesary was as much a celebration of that generosity towards us as of the joyful fruit of our years together. it feels like a team victory, and a shared triumph is a sweet one!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

emerging leaders

i just got back from five days in toronto as part of a leadership training projecct called emerging leaders. inter-varsity has invited 30 of their staff to participate in a series of 4-5 weeklong modules, in the hopes of developing leaders and deploying them in new ways within the organization.

this last module was a lot of work. it was a slightly shorter version of a seminary course on lifelong leadership development, led by dr. shelley trebesch. we read a couple of books before the course, as well as preparing a five-page autobiography, then entered into a week of lectures and various assignments designed to help us reflect on how God had made us and ways He had led us and worked through us in the past. we considered the ministry activities that seemed attended by the special blessing of God, and recalled scripture and other words that we had been given. could we see the seeds of destiny that God had been sowing in our lives over many years, sometimes before we had even consciously entered into a life with Him? we studied a generalized pattern of a leader's development over a lifetime, and then constructed our own timelines, trying to discern how God might be working right now and in the near future.

the goal of all of this was to hear God afresh, especially in light of all that He's already done in our lives. it was a fascinating time, filled with insight and questions in probably equal measures. i laboured over my timeline, and finally got it to a place where i was satisfied, then wondered: what does all of this mean?

an exercise i especially appreciated was to list the destiny experiences from our past — events, words, people, experiences that we felt that God had used to guide us. i was amazed and reassured to find a very long list (i quit counting at 40), and grateful to realize how often and in how many ways God has led me in the past.

of course, the pregnant question leaving the weekend was: what will God do next? how will He lead me and my family? i came away from the time feeling encouraged, full of faith and expectation!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

early october

the first part of october was amazingly busy. we had a chance to join most of the montreal staff team for breakfast with donna dong, an old friend from california and now inter-varsity's director of multiethnic ministries. donna, who has always been a great teacher and a clear thinker, is also a cancer survivor and seems to have a fresh passion and drive for her work of promoting an inter-varsity ministry that reaches people of every background and sees them reconciled to God and one another through the gospel of Jesus. it was great to see her again.

later that week m and i had a hospital visit with a chinese friend who has had some severe and troubling medical issues. h and her son are relatively recent converts, and this time has tested her newfound faith. but it was a joy to see her in the hospital and find her spiritually stronger than ever, trying to reach out to her hospital roommates and the medical staff. we took her home later that week, and helped her to get re-established at home. it'll still be a long road to full health, and she is still facing the prospect of further complications that might force her to go back to china, where she assures us she can get better medical care than here. from what i've experienced of quebec's health system (where 29% of us cannot find a regular doctor), i can believe her.

beyond that, it was more of the same: lunch with a young couple that had a wild summer in ministry, learning to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in a fresh way; an evangelistic meeting in a downtown coffeehouse with some amazing music, great prizes, and a very attentive crowd for my message on finding success; m's regular meetings with a number of women (mostly students) that she is mentoring; a sermon at a local church from matthew 9 (the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few); dinner in chinatown with some international friends — and their friends!

a bit of family news:
  • b took her sats for the second time, and had an unusual amount of opposition which attended the day; still, she was relieved to have completed the exams. her sat ii's are scheduled for december.
  • m celebrated her 25th christian birthday, which also happens to be the same as n's baptism day. congratulations to m and n on all that God has done in their lives — the best is yet to come!

Friday, September 29, 2006

family news

it's been a while since we've posted a bit of family news, so here's the latest, in capsule form:
  • n has taken up ballet again, and is rapidly returning to form. she's also learning the lesson that it's sometimes hard to come back to something that you've let lapse (it's been a year since left her other ballet school). we've been proud of her mental discipline and perseverance in pushing through the early trials of restarting.
  • b was chosen as one of the outstanding science students from her school and rewarded with a trip to cornwall, ontario, where she participated in a special program called rotary adventures in the environment. and what an adventure it was — spelunking in a cave full of bats (including crawling through icy cold water), setting rock traps for invertebrates (including a ride on a motor boat, which stalled), seining (chasing fish down a stream into a net), and exploring a marsh — filled with leeches, bacteria that looked like dippin' dots, and spiders — in water up to her chest. she had a great time!
  • m celebrated her birthday last week, and continues her quest to upgrade her wardrobe. she's looking smart these days, according to some of our international student friends, and our family agrees!
  • i took a trip to st. louis, missouri for urbana teacher training. i'll be leading one of the 'small' manuscript studies of ephesians — about 260 participants (the 'big' groups will be well over 1000!). i can't remember a staff training that was quite so full; they really kept us busy. but it was productive, and studying scripture with 75 or so of inter-varsity's best teachers was a lot of fun!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

local terror

students keep asking: why?

most of you have probably heard about the gunman who terrorized dawson college in montreal last week. his rampage killed one, and left several others fighting for their lives. thousands of frightened students poured out of dawson and into the surrounding downtown streets, with chaos reigning for what seemed like hours. to read more about it, click here.

our kids go to westmount high school, just a couple of blocks away from dawson, so it isn't a surprise that a number of dawson students came running to westmount in search of a safe haven on the day of the shooting. not knowing how many gunmen might still be at large (early reports had anywhere from 2-4 shooters) and hunting for students, the administration locked the students inside. it was an upsetting and sobering day for students and teachers, and n and b were no exception.

the city was visibly shaken for about a week, and will probably feel the effects of the shootings for months, even years to come. this isn't the first time that something like this has happened in montreal, which saw universities shot up by lone gunmen in 1989 (ecole polytechnique) and 1992 (concordia university), and the recent shootings have brought back all of that pain, angry, and confusion.

montreal's inter-varsity staff team convened to pray and sort out how we might respond to the tragedy with compassion and service, and decided to offer to be on campus every day for the first week back, to meet with students, offer a listening ear, give spiritual counsel, and pray. m and i were able to be out at dawson this past friday, and while it is clear that life is getting back to normal there, we were able to meet, befriend, and pray with a number of students. we're hoping to continue in friendship with several of them.someone asked me why God allows these things to happen. i think what they think they're looking for is an explanation, some wise words that will make such an event 'okay.' i told them that there is no such explanation. yes, God is in control, and He has purposes that we don't understand. but that doesn't satisfy the longing for a reason in most peoples' hearts, nor does it overcome their confusion and fear. the answer that satisfies and heals isn't an explanation, but a Person — and people need to know the Person.

please remember to pray for a, our staff partner at dawson, and for the loving, welcoming students of dawson christian fellowship. they not only have to get past their own dread as they walk the halls at school; they also feel a burden to love and serve their classmates into a relationship with the One who is the answer. that's going to take a hope and courage that will not fail.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

exceeding abundantly beyond

the apostle paul had many outstanding attributes, among them, the ability to stack up adjectives! in ephesians 3:20, he is not content to say that God is able to go beyond all that we could ask or even abundantly beyond what we could ask , but exceeding abundantly beyond all that we could ask or even imagine!

our recent international student welcome dinner is a good example. we did our best with publicity this year, posting flyers over at concordia and mcgill, and making sure our airport pickup drivers had some invitations to share. still, it's hard to know what the response is going to be. on the day of the dinner, m instructed me to set up for 40 (that's about how many we had last year), but i ended up setting up for about 30. i guess i think it's always better to give the impression that we're full and need to set up more tables and chairs, than to risk looking like we had a low turn out.

that may or may not be a good strategy, but it also says something about the smallness of my faith. one might think that after all of these years of ministry, i might believe for more!
about 20 minutes before we were supposed to start, students began arriving — and they just kept coming. we had a small team of volunteers preparing food with m in the kitchen, which left me alone out front, trying to greet everyone, making sure they had nametags, getting their contact information, and introducing them to one another. i realized quickly that i should have set up for 40 (duh!); shortly after that, we were set for 60+ and had used every chair we could find in the basement of peoples church, including a couple of little chairs from the children's sunday school room and a piano bench! every last seat was taken. thankfully, some people left as others arrived, so we were able to keep everyone seated.

students came from around the globe — singapore, thailand, france, china, hong kong, germany, italy, japan, iran, korea, colombia, india, mexico, and more! the noise level was high, as people were busily meeting each other and enjoying the dinner that the volunteers had donated and prepared. the team jumped right in, meeting students, getting to know them, and in some cases, personally inviting them to visit their homes. long-time volunteer a (who is also a gideon) gave out bibles and new testaments to a number of interested students, most of them in their heart languages. though our program finished around 19:30, people stayed and talked for over an hour, until we began to clean up.

i don't get tired of being surpised by God or seeing Him work!

the LORD of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain;
a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow,
and refined, aged wine.

and on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples,
even the veil which is stretched over all nations.
He will swallow up death for all time,
and the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces,
and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth;
for the LORD has spoken.

and it will be said in that day,
“behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us.
this is the LORD for whom we have waited;
let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”

isaiah 25:6-9

Thursday, August 31, 2006


for most of this month, a team of wonderful team of church volunteers has been picking up international students at the airport, being the welcoming face of montreal to dozens of concordia and mcgill students who are in canada for the first time. because the unpredictable time of processing at immigration, students often took an hour or two to emerge, yet they still found a smiling, hospitable volunteer waiting to ferry them to their dorm or other arranged housing. more than once, students were delivered to the designated address, only to discover that no one was home or there was no way to get into their apartment, and the volunteers would wait with them or take them home for dinner. they have gone further than the proverbial extra mile to demonstrate the love of God to the newcomer in our midst.

Jesus said that the greatest among us would be those who serve — and by that measure, this group of servants has been great indeed.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

playing in the ivy league

with b applying to university this fall, we thought it would be worthwhile to take a short trip down the east coast to take a look at some of the schools she is considering. so we packed up the van (and cousin t!) and we got to sit in on the academic information sessions and take the campus tours at harvard, brown, yale, and princeton. some impressions:
  • the sense of history and the beauty of the architecture (especially at yale) were notable at these institutions; there's simply nothing comparable in california.
  • while exceedingly expensive — on the order of $45,000 USD per year — these schools have a remarkable commitment to financial aid. at least they say they do (maybe we'll get to test that!).
  • the communities surrounding the schools were very different. cambridge was people-dense and in our experience, somewhat rude. providence (at least the part we were in) was beautiful, but had a homey feel about it. new haven was urban and gritty. princeton was suburban and off the beaten track.
  • we met students at each of the four schools, and while we realize it was quite a small sampling, it made a big impression. without naming names (of universities or individuals!), it was clear that some of these folks were very bright, but not terribly well-socialized. others seemed to be classic 'legacy' admissions; we had one student tour guide who talked and talked but just didn't make a lot of sense! finally, we met a few folks who were very impressive — obviously smart but also very good with people.
  • as expected, all of these institutions are extremely selective, with admission rates of 8-10%. nothing like aiming high!
as a result of the trip, one of the four schools became a major favourite (i won't ruin the surprise by telling which — if you want to get the details, e-mail b!), and two schools suffered a bit, though i think b knows better than to base her whole opinion on one brief visit. her research continues, as do her preparations for the standardized tests and for turning in her applications.

she also expects to apply to some schools in california, though the list changes from time to time. as i recall, cal poly - san luis obispo, ucla, uc berkeley, and stanford were in the running.

n got to take a look around as well, and while it was probably a bit early for her (some of those academic information sessions got a little, well, boring for her), i think she and cousin t still had a good time on the trip. getting to watch some movies and eating brushetta chicken pasta and the occasional plate of chili fries helped to make the experience more palatable!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

visiting california

some of you are already aware that we spent a couple of weeks in california in the second half of july. it was a fun time, seeing family and friends and favourite restaurants and places, but for our girls, it wasn't nearly long enough. i find that the trip is a mixed experience for them. on the one hand, it's a major joy to be 'home,' in a place that feels welcoming and familiar; on the other, it's a two-week reminder of all that they struggle with here in montreal: the weather (major humidity and thunderstorms during the summer), the animosity towards americans, even the absence of certain foods (notably, good mexican food and favourites like chili cheese fries). they talk to old friends about their school experiences in berkeley, knowing that if things had fallen differently, that might have been their own school experience. processing those feelings is still a significant part of our walk with Jesus here in montreal.

we flew from montreal to los angeles, and after visiting with friends and family for a day, took our rental car (a jeep cherokee) up to northern california. the experience of driving an suv for a couple of weeks made me wonder why anyone would want to own one; it wasn't that big inside, and the gas mileage (with gas hovering around $3.50usd/gallon) was just awful. it did, however, get us to where we wanted to go — from los angeles to san jose, in 40C/100F+ heat all the way! surprisingly, we found the heat quite comfortable compared to montreal, as it was very dry.

once we got to san jose, we settled in at a guest home (provided by generous church friends, who make it available to visiting missionaries) and embarked on our busy schedule of visiting family and friends. to be honest, we were over-scheduled by about 50%. we're finally realizing that we need to host large get-togethers in 3-4 venues when we visit, and have people come to us; otherwise, we spend the entire vacation driving from friend to friend, and still only see a small slice of the folks we want to see. of course, we didn't come to that realization until just before we left, so while we had multiple meeting locations (one in san jose, one in berkeley, one in santa rosa), the planning and invitations were later than we wanted. even so, we still enjoyed visiting with friends in all three locations, and had the chance to hang out with b's family on several occasions as well. one other memorable day was a visit to stanford university where b may apply this fall.

the southern california portion of the trip was a bit more sane in terms of pace. we got in some restful days at the beach (the photo above is from zuma beach, just north of malibu), visited with m's family (including grandma p, who is a perennial favourite) and a few friends. at the end of the week, we drove up to santa maria for the wedding of a, a former student from the ssu intervarsity group. she's a terrific, beautiful woman and probably had other opportunities to get married, but waited until she felt the confirmation from God that this was the right one and the right time, which i really respect. it was a joy to be able to celebrate with her and her groom, as well as to connect with so many former ssu and srjc students (see group photo), and to see them married, having children, and starting the process of passing on their faith to the next generation. God has been so faithful for so long to so many!

Saturday, July 08, 2006


b commemorated her sweet sixteen this weekend with a great two-day celebration. on friday, she and a couple of friends made their way to la ronde (the big amusement park just off the island of montreal) for a full day of thrill rides and junk food. they returned at about 11pm, tired but happy. day two of the party was a bit less extravagant — one friend came for a day-long fest of games, food (tacos and arepas homemade by m — yum!), and even a bit of world cup soccer. other than a minor incident in which we had to evacuate the girls due to a house full of smoke, everything went smoothly!

at 16, b is coming into her own. she's become a top student, always near the top of her class. she's a two-sport athlete, competing in soccer and track, and challenging herself at the gym on her 'off' days. she serves as a prefect at westmount high and a leader in her youth group. she talks about, thinks about, and prepares for university on a daily basis. i worry sometimes that she's too driven and too hard on herself (don't know where that comes from), but it's hard not to be impressed with her work ethic and ambition.

i wrote an entire blog entry on her spiritual life a while back, so i won't repeat all of that. i will say that she impresses me pretty much every day with her depth and honesty in wrestling with hard questions about God, faith, and real life. and she too lives up to her name: strong, virtuous, honourable.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

advanced placement

the college board's advanced placement program is an opportunity for motivated students to take on an academic challenge — to complete the equivalent of a year's study in a given subject at the university — and to pass an examination for university credit. these exams are aimed at gifted students in their final two years of high school and are standard fare for students applying to elite universities. but here in quebec, very few schools offer the program — and only one public school in the entire province. thankfully, that happens to be westmount high, the school the girls transferred to this past fall.

this year, b got her first taste of the ap world, taking a pre-ap class in math (roughly the first half of 1st year calculus) and sitting in with the ap english literature students at a lunchtime meeting every week. as a 10th grader (secondary iv here in quebec), she wasn't expected to actually write an exam this year. but the ap english instructor thought that she had a good chance to pass and encouraged her to take a run at it. so she got up early one morning in may and competed with a group of mostly older, high-calibre students.

the exam was a difficult one. she felt pretty confident about the multiple choice, but less so about the essays, especially the poetry question. she left the exam exhausted but relieved, but she didn't have much breathing room as the sat was just around the corner, followed by final exams.

but when all of that ended about a week ago, her thoughts turned to the results of the exam, which were to be made available on july 1. so early saturday morning (just after midnight), we made the call. the result? she passed! after a delicious souvlaki celebration lunch, she has already started considering next year's ap exam strategy (calculus, psychology, or both?!!).

take a bow, b— you've earned it!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

all God's children got a place in the choir

this is our family — at least a part of it. in it, i see the beauty and creativity of the one who made us all. the bible teaches that all of humanity is descended from one set of parents, made in the image of God. and one day, people from all over the world will join together in a great chorus of praise, united in heart but expressing for all
eternity the full range of diversity of ethnicity, language, and culture to the glory of God!

after these things i looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

revelation 7:9-10

Sunday, June 25, 2006

my delight

friday was n's birthday. at 14, she's taller and more stylish than ever, a connoisseur of many kinds of foods (and beginning to show an adventurous streak there?), and a lover of jewels and other beautiful things. her taste in music has grown eclectic, adding a strong dose of r&b and even latin rock (¡viva carlos santana!) to her considerable attachment to classical. spiritually, she seems increasingly concerned about witness, often inviting others to join her in praying for friends. after all of these years and so many changes, she continues to live up to her name — 'my delight.'

after joining some friends at youth group on friday evening — a pool party at pastor m's — a smaller group returned to our place for the all-night birthday celebration. after pizza and cake and a couple of short openers (original little rascals episodes), the movie (shaolin soccer) started at about 1am. mom and dad dropped out at about 2:45, and the girls finally went to sleep at 5:30. i think everyone had a good time, but there were some tired faces when it was time to get up at 9:30.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

a warm welcome

one of the family traditions that m instituted since our move to quebec is the warm welcome — a snack that she prepares as a way of rolling out the red carpet for the girls after a long day at school. this seemed especially crucial our first year here, when most school days were awful and the girls came home tired and discouraged. but even during this past school year, it was a tangible expression of a love that has them in mind all day, even when they're not here.

the school year finally ended today, with b's final exam, but tangible expressions of love have not. during the month-long party we call the world cup, we've been enjoying a special treat every day — most often, m's signature world cup nachos. but today, we also had a beautiful apple oven pancake as part of the end of the school year celebration!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

father's day

i've never been especially comfortable with days that celebrate me (birthday, father's day, graduation day, and the like), but i think i'm getting over it. i certainly had a pleasant time this past sunday for father's day; i've come to appreciate the time to rejoice together, to reflect on what it has meant for me to be a father, and to look to the future. and this year, i got to do it over all-you-can-eat sushi, which was a special treat!

i find it amazing (and not a little disconcerting) how quickly the time passes. the photo is from 10 years ago; as you can see, b and n were little girls back then. 10 years from now, they'll probably both be out of university and might even be married (m and i were at about that age). it's not inconceivable that they could already have children of their own! the thought gives me a bit of vertigo — i think i'm having a father of the bride moment…

still, it's a treat to watch them grow up and to be a daily part of their lives for a little bit longer. i don't honestly know how i'll deal with their moving on to university (though i may get to find out sooner than i'd like with b), but i'm treasuring the days. it's like a chocolate bar — or a sushi dinner — that's so good that you try to make it last as long as you can.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

a month's worth of craziness

okay, so it's not such a great idea to have a blog if you're only going to update it once a month. sorry about that. as you can imagine, the last month has been full and demanding; here are some of the highlights:

m and the girls joined me for the all-church retreat of lighthouse christian church, which was held out in auburn, wa (near seattle). the trip out was one of the worst in our family's history: delayed in montreal (due to bad weather in chicago), missed the connection (the final flight to seattle for that night), spent the night in o'hare airport, flew to st. louis (that's right, missouri) early the next morning, and then finally proceeded to seattle — where all four pieces of our luggage were lost. after waiting in line, then filing the appropriate report, our bags were miraculously discovered in the airport, and brought to us before we left the airport, some 90 minutes later. in the process, we missed a couple of long-anticipated appointments with old friends (and what was sure to be a memorable lunch at daniel's broiler, on the 21st floor, great view of the mountains and lake washington, and so on).

of course, all of that trouble (i.e. spiritual warfare) could only mean that the retreat was intended by God to be a good one, and he didn't disappoint. entitled the life God blesses, i spent the weekend working out of john 15 and focusing on a life of abiding in Jesus. the worship was wonderful and the messages warmly received. in between, we enjoyed renewing old friendships and starting new ones. the beauty and aliveness of the area (it seemed everything was green!) were refreshing to my soul. we closed out a great weekend with a terrific thai dinner with pastor w and his family, and n, a missionary friend on temporary assignment in the area. the return trip was, thankfully, uneventful.

b and n have been busy bees. n has just finished her exams, and is happily done with school for the year. she has played the violin in three performances in the past month — a couple with the youth orchestra and a recital with other students, at which she played both solo and with a chamber music group. at the latter, one older gent kept insisting that she was the best performer in the house, and who would i be to disagree with an elder?!! b is still in exams for almost two weeks (!) and is studying hard. she took the sat for the first time earlier this month, and has begun downloading university admission applications off of the internet. her soccer season has started, and the team is 2-0-2; she hasn't said a lot about it, but i'm sure it's fun to win a bit after last year's train-wreck of a season.

cmds at mcgill finished out its year with a bang, first by hosting the spring version of dinner with doctors, then with a goodbye potluck at the end of may. we have already started to put together our plans for the fall and the new class of medical and dental students.

i spent a week in toronto at nvest, a staff training event for inter-varsity's staff ministering to university undergraduates. i wouldn't normally get to go, as the international student staff typically have their own training, but in this case, an exception was made so that i could prepare for my role at urbana 2006 — teaching a large manuscript study in ephesisans. it was a terrific time in the scriptures, and we even found some time to enjoy the delights of toronto (including some amazing meals and shopping in one of to's five chinatowns). and you haven't really watched the stanley cup finals until you've done it with a group of canadian hockey fans. these people take their hockey very seriously…

and last but not least, the world cup has begun. i would say that gives us a reason to cheer, but given the results of the first american match (a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of the 2nd ranked czech republic), that seems a bit overstated. next up: italy. here's hoping the us side bounces back!