Not too long ago, on our way back from a wedding in Montreal, we decided to do the unusual thing and get off the fastest, most boring way from point A to point B, and slow down a bit and enjoy the journey. More often than not, the opportunity to enjoy the journey is snatched away because of the incessant urgency to arrive at point B. But once in a while, life trumps everything else, particularly when it is just me and Sheewee in the car together.
So, after we had left Montreal and travelled past Cornwall, we jumped off the 401 and made our way over to historic Highway 2, which follows the shores of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Lake Ontario. Not long after getting onto Highway 2, we saw a sign for Upper Canada Village. Now I have heard about Upper Canada Village all my life, but I’ve never been to it. In fact, I didn’t even know where it was, so the discovery was one of the surprises you encounter when you make it a point to enjoy the journey.
We stopped for a while to look around. Just outside of the village is an outdoor area surrounded by walls bearing the name, “Pioneer Memorial” (see the photo). As I walked into the area, I saw that the interior of the walls were embedded with old tombstones. Old tombstones and I get along REAL well. So I spent a few minutes going through the memorial. Each wall had a different cemetery name on it and most of the gravestones went from the late 1700’s to the 1860’s and beyond.
How would you like to go from being last to being first?
For Christians that is kind of a tricky question because Jesus messes with our minds on this subject. We know that Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last.” (Mark 9:35). So before we answer the first and last question, we need to know: are you talking about going from last to first in the sense that since I am last, I will be first? Or are you saying that if I say I want to be first, then that will make me last? Are we talking about a hard and fast first here? Is this a legit first? Well, stop overthinking it would ya? Christians, sheesh! It is a simple question: How would you like to go from being last to being first?
Last week Samoa went from being last to first by skipping Friday. For Samoans, Friday December 30th never happened. They went to sleep on Thursday evening and woke up on Saturday morning—all without the aid of Frat party!
Christmas concerts. What would Christmas be without them? You can take the grinchiest-cold-hearted, anti-Christmas commando and put him or her in the audience of a Sunday School Christmas pageant and their hearts will melt. Guaranteed!
Last Sunday we had our Sunday School Concert. It was called “the Great Christmas Giveaway” and it was truly excellent and full of many wonderful and surprisingly good performances. The story involve some students shopping at a mall for their teachers’ Christmas present and how, through their interaction with some of the store owners in the mall, they learn the true meaning of Christmas. Wouldn’t you just love that to be true? What would it be like if shopping in the mall, and interacting with sales staff ended up being a spiritual experience that pointed us to the truth of Christ? It’s a bit hard to believe such a
thing would happen, isn’t it?
Well, I don’t think so because shopping in the mall is always a spiritual experience for me, because throughout the process, I spend a lot of time in repentance for the thoughts I am having about the crowds and the line ups and the store owners. Then I am always deeply in prayer so that I can find my car in the parking lot! I need my own personal Christmas Star to lead me to my car. Do you have any idea how many tan Honda Accords there are in any given parking lot? I seem to have digressed, let’s get back to the Christmas Concert.
One of the problems with being a preacher is that you are always in evaluation mode. This is particularly true when you visit other churches while on holiday!
What is the worship like? Are there songs to take back home? What was the greeting like? Are they friendly enough? Are they welcoming enough? How comfortable am I in this particularly church culture? How weird do I feel? That last question isn’t my everyday general open-ended question that always seems appropriate to me. This is more of a ‘How weird does being here make me feel?’ question.
Then there is the preaching. Just as doctors make the worst patients, preachers make the worst preachees. We often get wrapped up more in critiquing than in listening to God’s speaking. Though, I have to say that I think I am better than many of my preacher friends in this regard—at least that’s my critique.
One of the things I hate with a passion is having someone stand behind me and look over my shoulder. This is the case whether the person is the love of my life or a total stranger. They could be coming in for a kiss or the kill—it doesn’t matter because it pretty much affects me the same way and I pretty much react the same way.
It isn’t something that I admire about myself. It isn’t something I even fully understand. I think it goes to a much more basic and primordial level than I am able to access. Perhaps it is a protective instinct that God gave us so that we know when an enemy is creeping up on us? Maybe it has something to do with being a preacher and living next to an elder when I first entered the ministry? Maybe it is something to do with having three sons and only one computer for the majority of their lives growing up? Maybe this is just one of those areas in which I am able to exercise my unvarnished jerkiness? Because, believe me, I can be a big jerk if you stand behind me for any length of time!
What would it be like to look over God’s shoulder and watch Him work? Would you be able to follow the billions of things that He is able to juggle all at once? I don’t think so! Would you want to point to out a few things you would like Him to do differently, or faster? Probably! After all, that is part of the jerkiness of the human heart (Yes the word of the day is ‘jerkiness,’ but you may not want to use it in a sentence too often today!).
Maybe it’s just that I am getting older, but I feel like I am starting to have a hard time processing change.
To be honest, I haven’t been able to keep up for a long time now, but I am just publicly admitting it now. In fact, the first crack in my “hip-with-it” armour started sometime in the 1990s. That’s when I first became aware that I no longer knew every musical group on the charts. At the time I sloughed it off to the fact that Sheila and I had three baby boys. Who can keep up with anything when you have three kids in diapers? Then I blamed it on the fact that I lived in Prince Edward Island, a world then-dominated by country music.
Then there is the obvious, behind the times ‘tell,’ which is that I still don’t carry a cell phone with me on a regular basis. Sheila and I share one and use it mostly for emergencies and for keeping connected to the kids. I don’t want one on principle really, at least that is what I tell myself. Presently we are without one since the last phone slipped into the dishwater and thus became permanently washed up.
Now you might think: “Perfect opportunity, Grant, to get into the cell game: time to pick up a smart phone of some kind, particularly when it was your wife that destroyed the last phone, time to cash in on that guilt and get something really sweet!”
True, I could justify doing that, but the truth is that I don’t want a smart phone. Dumb phones were hard enough for me to work, why would I want something that only makes me feel dumber? Did you know that smart phones are called smart phones for that very reason: their smartness is inversely proportional to how dumb they make you feel? John, my oldest, just the other day said, “Dad, Nokia makes a phone with big buttons and no features: that would be good for you!” That was the equivalent of him saying, “Dad, maybe you need a first response pager just in case you fall over and need to call for help. You might want to start thinking about a walker while you’re at it!”