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!