I might be biased but he's a pretty sweet little guy.
With all the concern related to Covid - 19, and because some of you have asked, I'm posting a few pics of our grandson! (Let me assure you this will not be on-going but given the gravity of the current situation around the globe, maybe some pictures will bring you a smile.)
I might be biased but he's a pretty sweet little guy.
It was the news we had been waiting to hear; four words that brought to me a measure of great joy...'you have a grandson'. There was a sense of relief in knowing the baby was healthy and that his mom was recovering well after a caesarian birth -- and that dad was okay! We were thrilled for Scott and Tiffany, excited to see pictures and to Skype with them and across the miles to share in their joy. We have been blessed by so many that have shared in this joy with us, including our church family at Valley.
It doesn't seem that long ago that we welcomed our son into the world. To watch him grow into the man he has become has been one of my greatest joys as a dad. Seeing him now holding his son is indescribable -- truly this is has to be one of our proudest moments as parents.
Janice and I have been so blessed to be the mom and dad of three incredible children; we have watched them grow, launch out on their own and pursue their dreams. We have shared in all the significant moments of their lives, we have walked with them through the hard times and celebrate their accomplishments -- I think that's what God had in mind when He gave them to us!
That we would be entrusted to help shape their lives is truly a sacred responsibility. The greatest investment of our time and resources has been given to our kids; it's a choice for which have absolutely no regrets. For me as a dad, I have always needed to know 'my kids are okay'; that God is watching over them, particularly as we have faced the challenges of having great distances between us. God has been so good, so faithful to us as a mom and dad; as we often sing, 'what a good God You've been, what a faithful God You've been, what a loving God You've been to me'.
I think back to a number of times when I said from the pulpit, 'we only have them for a season and that season passes so quickly'. I often wonder, 'where has the time gone'? It seems only yesterday they were carefree, playing in the yard, enjoying their childhood. We have some wonderful memories of their growing up years! When they were young, some friends, who were ahead of us as parents, gave us some of the best advice we have ever received...'enjoy every season with them'. Every season has brought us great joy!
And now we are into a new season and I can't wait to see what God has in store for them and for us! That which gives me great confidence as we continue this journey is the assurance that our good God will continue to guide and direct their lives; that the One who has been so faithful will continue to pour out His grace and favor upon them and now upon the next generation. In this, I claim the promise of God to His people...The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs...you will find your joy in the Lord. (Isaiah 58:11,14)
To Lisa, Scott & Tiffany and Riley, Andrea and Jason, these are the words I pray into your lives...may you always know His guidance, may You be satisfied in Him and may your lives be marked with same joy your mom and I have found in living a life of faith.
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. (Psalm 28:7)
Recently I found myself making an unplanned trip back to Grande Prairie. The Elders graciously allowed me to make last minute plans to go to help our oldest daughter prepare to make a move to the Okanagan. After spending the last 8 years in northern Alberta, Lisa has accepted a new position in the library at the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus in Kelowna. While she had done a good job of packing and getting her things ready to be loaded on the truck, I think she appreciated the last minute assist from dad.
This experience reminded me again that you never stop being a parent. Even though the last move left Janice and I saying, 'never again', when the call came, I was compelled to respond; it's what a dad does.
At some point in our journey there will come a role reversal, when our children take on more of the caregiver role and we as parents are called to graciously allow them to help provide such care. I wonder, does that mean I get to behave like a child again!
At Valley we have been blessed to share our journey with friends who are ahead of us on the pathway. We have been able to interact and learn from those have walked through this life for a longer period of time, who are more seasoned as parents and grandparents -- this has been for us a tremendous encouragement. As I thought about all the ways you have built into our lives I realized again this another blessing of being in community together.
The Bible tells us to 'instruct one another' (Romans 15:14), to 'teach and admonish one another' (Colossians 3:16) and to 'encourage one another' (2 Corinthians 13:1). The church is more than just a place where we gather for worship and service to our Lord; it is a place where we do life together -- where we support and build up and encourage one another. In the church we are 'devoted to one another' (Romans 12:10); it is a place where we 'honor one another' (Romans 12;10).
We understand, we don't always do this perfectly for we are fallen, fallible human beings, but the friendship we share at Valley really is a gift to one another. So, in this season of our lives I want to encourage you to nurture the friendships God has given us, to continue to build into each others lives and support one another.
One of the most Christ-honoring things we can do for one another is simply to walk with each other through this season of our lives -- may we be faithful in doing just that!
Let me encourage you again to consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)
It happened again just recently; it's happening more frequently! While away a server casually mentioned, "we have a senior's discount". I usually have my line ready, "don't let the grey hair fool you" or "define 'senior'". I'm learning, if they want to give me a discount for being grey / older -- just accept it!
This little episode made me think about the many ways I have been addressed over the years; the labels we use to categorize one another. When a child is born, we speak about him or her as an infant, as they grow we refer to them as toddlers, then children, adolescents / teens, young adults, adults, parents, seniors and grandparents.
My parents named me 'Kenneth Murray' after my grandfathers. My great aunt called me 'Kenny'; she's the only one who could do that! My older sister called me a brat; I've been called worse! On the first day of High School, while reading of the list of students in his class, my gym teacher, read 'Clarke, Ken' and immediately called me 'Superman'; not very original, but a nickname that stuck with me through my High School years. My manager at Dominion Stores called me 'KC' and my teammates called me 'Clarkey'. For the past 30+ years I have been called 'Pastor' or 'Pastor Ken' and more recently I've been getting more 'Sir' or 'Mr. Clarke'; that's when you know you're getting older!
Of all the ways I've been addressed there is one name that is most meaningful to me, 'Dad'. One of the greatest joys in my life is to be the father of Lisa, Scott and Andrea, to share life together with them. Our journey has changed through the ages but the somewhat irrational and powerful bond that started the day I held each of them in my arms continues to grow stronger with the passing of the years.
I think of the concerts, the hockey and volleyball games and school events we attended to watch one of our kids, the times I would pick them up and surprise them by taking them out to lunch, the walks along the beach, the countless number of papers I have edited over the years and the phone calls and text messages that continue to keep us connected. I think of times I have simply listened or challenged their thinking or offered words of encouragement and the many times we have prayed for our children. I think of the 'big events' we have shared but also the more ordinary, everyday times that are perhaps more meaningful.
Last year, on her wedding day, Andrea gave to me a card and note that I have cherished. I asked her if I could share just a few sentences from it and so I have her permission to share the following words; words that capture how blessed I am to be called 'Dad'.
Saying thank you will never be enough to express how thankful I am to have you as my father. You have always been a strong, guiding presence throughout my life. A father's unconditional love is truly a blessing. I am so glad God has blessed me with a wonderful childhood and two loving parents. Dad, you have always been there for me no matter what...you have made me a better person. I carry a bit of your stubbornness but also your incredible strength and intelligence. You have taught me everything from finances to living a life of faith...thank you, dad for being my teacher and mentor...you have given me a strong foundation to live my life. You have always pushed me to finish what I start and be the best I can be. Thank you Dad!
I don't know if there are any other words more encouraging...thank you Dad.
As I think of my on-going role as a dad and what it is I want my life to be about in the time that I have left on this planet, I cycle back to one of my stated purposes for this season of my life; to bless those closest to me.
To paraphrase the words of Genesis 48:15-16, where Jacob blessed Joseph and his sons, May the God... who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, bless my firstborn daughter, Lisa, my only son, Scott and my youngest daughter, Andrea. Dads, may we find great joy as we seek to be a blessing to our families all the days of our life.
As I reflect on all this, I am reminded again that I have a heavenly Father who cares for me. I may not always get it right as a dad, but there is One who is always caring and ever faithful, ready and willing to respond to me as His child. If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11)
It's been a few days now, since I have returned from a trip 'back east'; a trip that included three days in Boston with Scott and Lisa and a couple of days in Chatham with my mom. Since returning, I've been asked several times, 'how was your trip?' So, here's a report, 'by the numbers'.
2:18 a.m. -- my trip began very early on Friday morning, February 8th. If you remember that was the morning we had a snowstorm in the valley and the Highway 97 was closed. I made my way to Kelowna via Rock Creek and Highway 33 -- arriving at the airport at 5:46 a.m.
10,400 km -- the distance travelled from Oliver to Kelowna, to Toronto, Boston, back to Buffalo -- from there to Hamilton and then Chatham -- back to Hamilton, then Toronto, Calgary, Kelowna and finally home!
1:15 minutes -- the length of time we stood in line to pass through customs in Toronto
15 -- the number of transit tickets needed to get around Boston -- the city has a great transit system
1000 -- we were on hand when the Bruins honored Patrice Bergeron for playing in his 1000th NHL game , all as member of the Bruins.
5-4 -- an overtime victory by the Bruins on Saturday afternoon against the L.A. Kings -- Bergeron scored the overtime winner!
Row BB, seats 5,6 and 7 -- Scott was able to secure Club Seats that enabled us to take a 'behind-the-scenes' tour on the executive suite levels -- display after display of Boston sports memorabilia! We even met former Bruin player and current President Cam Neely.
2-1 -- another overtime victory on Sunday afternoon against the Colorado Avalanche -- we had a perfect view of the winning goal!
4:41 a.m. -- a fire alarm served as an early wake up call our last morning in Boston!
2cm -- the thickness of ice I had to scrape from the car after a winter storm in southwestern Ontario.
3:42 a.m. -- another early morning to get to the airport in Toronto -- another wintery drive!
6 hours -- the length of time our flights were delayed!
As we talk this Sunday about keeping 'one eye on eternity', we all realize there are matters significantly more important than travel plans and hockey games but the Bible tells us, God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (1 Timothy 6:17) This same verse instructs us not put our hope, our trust in wealth, in the things of this world, but it's okay to enjoy what God has given. For me this includes a love of the game of hockey, an opportunity to bless my kids and to spend time with people I care about -- it was a blessing and I celebrate HIs kindness to me; a kindness that is in part shared through you as you faithfully supply for my needs as your pastor. Thank you for allowing me to share in this blessing!
Lisa captured the overtime goals!
I've been thinking lately about the power of our words; to build up or tear down. Proverbs 18:21 tells us, the tongue has the power of life and death. It sounds so incredibly simple, but we do have within us the ability to bless and encourage others simply by what we say and how we say it. But, too often I find that is easier said than done. Not surprisingly, the Bible says...no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. (James 3:8-10)
To live by faith requires making choices; in this case, the choice to use our words for good, to speak hope and life into another. The soothing tongue is a tree of life. (Proverbs 15:4) Everyday we have the opportunity to speak kind words, gentle words, hope-filled words; words the express appreciation and words that heal and inspire.
Recently I was watching television program in which the main character had a mantra that guided his leadership, 'how can I help'? There are so many of these kinds of words / phrases that, when spoken, have a powerful and lasting impact on those who receive them. As I thought about this, several words and phrases came to mind:
"I'm praying for you"
"You can do it"
"Is there anything you need?"
"I'm here for you"
"I'll be there"
"You can count on me"
Words of common courtesy like "please" and "thank you"
Around Valley we often say "we'll make it work"
"We serve as a team"
"I love you"
In all of this I am reminded again of God's words to me: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine...you are precious and honored in my sight...I love you. (Isaiah 43:1,4) How precious are the words of God to us!
As you think about the power of our words, I wonder, what are those words / phrases that you have spoken or heard that have blessed and encouraged your and inspired others. Please use the comment section below or send an email to pass along those words / phrases that we might encourage one another as we continue to do life together and spur one another on to love and good deeds.
The following is a poem written by a friend of mine, David Thwaites. David and I served together on the leadership team at Covenant Community Church in Orangeville. During my time there I connected with David's son Bryan; a teenager at the time who has spend the better part of his teenage years and now his entire adult life battling addiction, mental health issues and the abuse of living on the streets.
In David's words, I hope this poem...gives you pause the next time you see a homeless person, not because this guilts you but because you have the potential to be the person who makes a difference in that person's life. Thanks for reading.
I stumbled as I crossed the street, my belongings in a bag
I slept upon the darkened park bench, the wind and cold set in my bones
I curled upon the street vent with an empty bottle as my pillow
I sat with vacant eyes dulled by thoughts that were all random
Who do you see when you look at me, refuse in a corner?
Do you see the voices screeching within my mind?
Do you see the pain of my abuse and the anger burning within me?
Do you see my brain melted by the calming drugs both the illicit and the legal?
Do you see my scrambled mind from beatings that left me disabled?
Who do you see when you look at me?
Who do you see when you look at me, a life whose worth is long forgotten?
Do you see my inward pain struggling for release?
Do you see my rejection as the doors of help are shut on me, my resources all depleted?
Do you see the loss of hope etched in the dirt and smell about me?
Do you see the loss of pride, my shoulders and eyes despairing?
Who do you see when you look at me?
Who do you see when you look at me, a man without a past?
Do you see the little boy who ran with joy abounded?
Do you see the child who raced on skates and scored the goals with hope galore?
Do you see the young man who had the potential to serve those in need?
Do you see someone’s son, gone missing in action?
Who do you see when you look at me?
Who do you see when you look at me?
Do you see a child of God with potential to love and serve?
Who do you see when you look at me?
Please see the child I am
As I begin to write this Father’s Day posting I am sitting in the airport in Grand Prairie; waiting to return home. I made the 12-hour drive back with Lisa the day before, so that she would not have to make that long trip on her own; it’s a journey I have made several times over the past few years. The ‘good-bye’ is never easy.
As I sat there, my mind reflected back on the past few days; our kids were all together for the first time in two years as we celebrated the wedding of our youngest. I thought about how blessed I have been as a dad. As I thought about this, three simple images came to mind that in many ways have defined me as a father.
As strange as it may sound, the first image comes from a moment in a grocery store. I went with Lisa as she replenished her fridge. Her list consisted of a few dairy products and fresh fruits and vegetables, but typical of her dad, I kept asking,’ do you need...’, and a few more items went into the cart. At one point she picked up a bottle of grape juice; there’s nothing special about the juice but in that moment, I had thought to myself, if this was Janice and me in the store, I would look at the juice and look at the price and put it back on the shelf and wait until it went on sale. But, for my daughter this is was a small thing I could do to bless her, so into the cart it went. I love doing little things for her / for my kids.
The second image was from a few days ago, when I sat on the edge of our bed and read a note Andrea had written to me; a thank you note for sharing in her wedding, but more than that, a note to her dad. It is a message from my daughter that I will cherish the rest of my life. I thought about that moment when we walked down the aisle last Saturday and then a hundred other moments passed quickly in my mind, moments we had shared together, and I realized again, how blessed I am to be her dad.
The third image that crossed my mind was from earlier this year when I stood at the top level of the TD Gardens in Boston; my son Scott was standing below and behind him I could see the ‘spoked B’ at centre ice. We had arrived early for the game, there were very few other fans around and for just that moment, it felt like just me and my son. That I was able to share in this trip with him brought to me a measure of joy as his dad.
Over the years, Janice and I have given to our kids a selfless, sacrificial love; we have never had a lot, but have always sought to be generous with what we have been given. I think of the trips we made to Myrtle Beach when the kids where younger; dinner at the Dutch Valley Restaurant in Sugar Creek, Ohio, apple fitters at the Dutch Panty when we crossed the state line into Virginia, a round of mini-golf with a ‘two-for-one coupon’ and the early bird special at the Filling Station, an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. I think of the times I would surprise one of them by picking them up at school and taking them for lunch at Pizza Hut or stopping at the drive-thru at McDonalds with Scott after a road game. I remember selling some of my hockey cards to purchase goalie equipment for him and somehow scraping together the funds to help Lisa take a school trip to Europe. I think of all the flights we have booked to get our kids home, the gifts cards tucked in an ‘I miss you’ note or the many times we have helped with gas or groceries just to make things a bit easier for them. I think about all the sacrifices we have made and wouldn’t change a thing!
As I thought about all this, the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount came to mind: If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11) My Heavenly Father is outrageously generous and gracious to me; I am blessed to His child.
I thought about all the ways God has surprised and blessed me over the years; about the selfless, sacrificial love that He has poured into my life. Maybe, just maybe, the heart that I have as father is simply a reflection, an imperfect reflection, of the heart of my Father. I have seen this heart in the fathers and mothers at Valley, so I know you will join in celebrating and giving thanks for the privilege and joy that is ours to be a parent!
Happy Father’s Day to all our dads!
The following is the text of the Words of Encouragement I shared with Andrea and Jason at their wedding ceremony; words not just from a pastor, officiating this ceremony but words of a dad to his daughter and son-in-law.
When Andrea was younger, I used to call her my ‘littlest one’ and I would tell her, you will always be my ‘littlest one’ and her face would light up. Today my ‘littlest one’ is getting married and I have the privilege of being the father of the bride and the one officiating this ceremony.
As an officiant I have stood with numerous couples in moments just like this and have shared with them some words of encouragement. My thoughts have always centered around two basic truths: keep the joy factor high in your marriage and build it on a foundation of faith. As I said to Scott and Tiffany four years ago…you can make it a lot more complicated than that but do these two things well and you will have a strong marriage.
Jason and Andrea, each of you brings your own strengths, your unique abilities and talents to this marriage; you bring all of who you are to this marriage.
One of my favorite stories about Andrea goes back to the time we lived in Hamilton. Andrea has always been…how do I say this…determined – she has a mind of her own. On this day she was riding her bike and I had told her stay on our street, don’t go around the corner (where I could not see her). Off she went…around the corner. She came back, I told her again…don’t go around the corner or I’ll have to spank you. She looked at me with an expression that said, ‘spank me now, because I’m going around the corner’!
Andrea, that determined spirit has in many ways served you well--in part you are who you are today because of you have followed your dreams and stayed resolute; you have worked hard and we are so very proud of you. We have watched as you and Jason have begun to build a live together.
Jason, I have watched you care for and treat my daughter with love and respect – no dad could ask for anything more from a son-in-law. That you are hard-working, with a willing spirit to help others only magnifies the appreciation Janice and I have for you. We see how happy you are together and we celebrate that with you today.
We share, as family and friends in the joy of a wedding because there is something in all of us that wants for a bride and groom to simply be happy. So of course, as a dad, that would be my desire for you as you become husband and wife.
But, and I know it’s going to sound strange, especially in this context, but, I would wish for you as well some challenges along the way. Because, it is through such challenges, when the hard times come and the path is not clear, that our character is strengthened and our faith grows. Your marriage will be stronger when you walk that path together; and your mom and I want that for you—a strong, enduring marriage.
We want you to be blessed, to have all that you need to enjoy live to the fullest. But I also wish for you a measure of want; that you might know what it to go without. Because those times give to us a greater appreciation for what we do have; they remind us how very blessed we are – and we want that for you – that you would have a both measure of humility and gratitude and not a sense of entitlement – that you would be generous with what you’ve been given; that you would be a blessing to others.
I encourage you to build into each other and to bring out the best in each other – to live in and face whatever life brings you with a united strength. But I also wish for those times when your own strength is not enough. Because it’s then that we realize there is a God in heaven who wants to be part of our lives, our homes and marriages.
I believe to the core of my being that living of life of faith is the best way for any of us to journey through our days on earth. More than anything else we want for you to know the fullness of God’s blessing in your lives and in your marriage.
Andrea, I want you to know, I love you, I am so very happy for you, you are still and will always be my ‘littlest one’. Jason, we are so pleased that you have come into Andrea’s life and ours; we look forward to sharing the next chapter of your stories – two stories that today are being united into one.
Before you share your vows with one another and we make this official, I want to pray for you, not as a pastor but as a dad.
My friends at Valley, please join Janice and me in asking God to bless, to lead and direct Jason and Andrea.
As I write this blog entry it is 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 13th, exactly 7 days since the horrific bus crash that claimed the lives of 16 members of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team and shattered the lives of many others. Like many of you I have watched the images and listened to the stories that have touched our nation and the world; the devastation is heart-wrenching. Like many of you we have placed a stick by our front door to honor the lives lost and remember the community of Humboldt. Like many of you we have prayed for God's grace and comfort to touch those who have been deeply wounded.
Last Saturday evening, I stood with my son in the Boston Gardens as we shared a moment of silence to remember those who have been touched deeply by this tragedy. I was able to put my arm around my son, to hold him. I couldn't help but think of the moms and dads who would love to hold their son one more time; the sense of loss is almost unimaginable, it really is every parent's worst nightmare.
Over the past few days I thought about the many times we travelled the back roads of Dufferin county, sharing hours in the van as we travelled to hockey rinks in small towns and in larger centres. I thought about the number of times I stood in the corner of the rink, my sight line directed at the goal crease; Scott always seemed to know exactly where I was in the rink. I loved that season we shared together. We too have put our son on the bus to play the game he loves. The game of hockey really is part of our country's identity. The hockey community is a tight-knit group; the out pouring of support from across our nation does not surprise me; we are united both in our love for the game and in our grief.
On my return trip I spoke with an airline crew member, a young man who himself was a hockey player; he was travelling to Calgary where he would then make his way to his hometown, a small community which is also the hometown of one of the Broncos players who did not survive the crash. He said, 'everyone in the town will be a there' (at the memorial service). Such stories are being multiplied across the prairies and across our nation.
For the Christian community, our hearts ache with the people of Humboldt; there is a sadness that touches us all. Humboldt is the place where sorrow and grace have collided; it is the place where our God can bring hope and healing in a time of darkness and despair. Pray for Humboldt.
As the Broncos chaplain said, 'we need to hear from God'. Thankfully God has revealed Himself as the God who sees and the God who cares; who meets us in the dark and scary places of life; in the very valley of the shadow of death and leads us to the green pastures and quiets waters--to a place of rest and peace. (Psalm 23)
Each of has people in our lives who need to hear from God; from the One who is our refuge and strength. (Psalm 46:1) As we pray for the people of this small community in Saskatchewan, may we be reminded to pray for our loved ones that God would speak into their lives.
On the evening before my return flight, I had dinner with Scott and Tiffany; after I put my arms around them and prayed for them and we said goodbye. The events of last Friday have reminded us that life is fragile; live it fully, embrace the ones you love, let them hear the words, 'I love you'.
Thanks for letting this hockey dad share a bit of my heart with you.
At the age of 40 I began my journey back to the Father. It was a long journey as I had left my relationship with Jesus about the age of twelve to pursue my goal of popularity and acceptance by my peers. Clothes, hair length, dancing, dates, shows, etc. beckoned me with an allure I couldn't resist. I slowly slipped away recognizing I just was too weak and selfish to die to self and live for Christ. I decided I would walk away from the church and just be a "good person."
Twenty-eight years later I came to the end of myself. I wasn't good, for no man is good. I felt desperate for my life was falling apart. I had reached the apex of my career, education degree and acting principal at my school but my marriage was falling apart, Divorce loomed on the horizon and that was something I just couldn't face. I was attending a self -help group that told us we should pray to the God of our understanding. I would cry out, "But God, I Don't understand you!' I had a friend who prayed me into the kingdom. No matter what excuse or protest I used she would counter with love and grace. When I told her I couldn't be a Christian because I couldn't even quit smoking she would just laugh and say, when we get to Heaven Jesus will just call out, “Smokers over here!”
Actually I felt like an Essau who had sold his birthright for a bowl of stew only I had rejected my salvation in the pursuit of pleasure. My guilt separated me from peace with God and I wondered if I could be forgiven for despising the precious gift of life. I had no excuse for I knew the truth and had rejected his love. The journey back took about a year of seeking, praying, reading and relearning the love and grace of God through friends who lived out their faith before me.
Finally on Easter morning at 2:00 a.m. in 1980 I surrendered myself to the Father. I was empty of self, no answers or solutions and I was right where God wanted so He could begin my restoration. “I can’t be a Christian but if you want me anyway I’m yours!” You’ve heard the expression Heaven came down and glory filled my soul…I experienced the awesome presence of Almighty God that changed me in an instant to a totally forgiven, rejuvenated child of the King.
I was loved, accepted and made new without any requirement put on me to change or do. I couldn’t be a Christian but by God’s Grace I was!
When I became aware of my surroundings again I looked across the room where Ken was reading a book, totally unaware of the earth-shaking happening that I had just experienced. I looked at my soon-to-be-divorced husband and with child-like honesty I asked God, “What do I do with that thing in my life?”
The answer came with startling clarity. The light was shining over Ken’s shoulder and the side in the light was all the things that I loved and had attracted me; I was to thank God for them. The side of him in the darkness, those things I hated and feared where none of my business…let God deal with it. Yes! I could do that. The simplicity of being thankful or conversely reminding myself it was none of my business, if I would obey God in this He would heal my marriage!
Thus I received my first promise from God which He faithfully carried out in response to my obedience of thanking him or giving the moment over to him. It’s been 36 years since that experience and our marriage is rich in love. We owe it all to Him who receives us in our weakness where His strength is made perfect. I discovered that my relationship was not a matter of keeping to the rules and regulations that man requires but was walking in obedience and in step with the King of Kings. That early Easter morning I knelt down by Ken and asked forgiveness for the times I had wounded him and assured him that all things were changing I just didn’t know how.
It's a picture that will be etched in my mind for a long time. Janice embraced Andrea as we connected for lunch; tears were welling up in Andrea's eyes...we had missed her graduation ceremony. The feeling can only be described as a deep sense of sadness and disappointment.
The day began with the promise of joy and celebration; our youngest was graduating university! She had worked hard for the past four years to earn her degree in nursing (Bachelor of Science, Nursing from the University of British Columbia, Okanagan) and we left from Oliver to share in the graduation ceremony and celebrate with her. As we approached Peachland traffic came to a stand still and word came down the line of a fatal crash. An hour into our wait, we knew we'd miss the ceremony. Bob and Lia were ahead of in line; they too missed the ceremony, but were able to catch up with Bryenna on campus afterwards.
It's a moment in time, a wonderful moment that we can never re-capture. My mind kept telling me, there is nothing you can do, it was just 'one of those things'. I also realized in a heartbeat a life had ended unexpectedly; that today a family is in mourning--a truth that seemed only to add to the sense of sadness. I know what my theology teaches but in the moment each of has to wrestle through what it means to walk by faith in the face of disappointment. In life, our joy often comes in spite of disappointment and sadness. No wonder there is within us a longing for that day when God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:4) No more disappointment!
The good news is we were able to connect with Andrea over lunch to celebrate her accomplishment. In the end, I held her close and reminded her of just how very proud we are of her. We shared the gift that friends at Valley had given her; I can't tell you how much that raised her spirits and blessed us as parents. In the midst of our disappointment we still found a way to celebrate and enter in the joy of the day. (In this I thought about our Lord who enters into our joy, even amidst our sadness and pain.) And, there is another gathering tomorrow for the nursing class; another opportunity to celebrate!
We all have stories of disappointment; may God meet you in those times and provide strength and grace to see you through the sense of sadness and loneliness and fear, and bring you to a place of rest and joy in Him.
The joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)
What do you do when your dream dies; when the circumstances of life do not work out the way you might have imagined? What do you when all your well made plans come crashing down around you? Beyond the disappointment or the sense of failure or fear we may experience, there is often a deeper sense of loneliness or rejection that can leave us feeling isolated in our pain and disappointment.
We were created to live in community; to be in deep, significant relationships with others. There is a longing inside all of us to be accepted; to be at home with the people that matter most to us, our family and friends and ultimately at home with the One who created this yearning within us.
There is within all of us a desire to be valued and accepted; to know and be known, to celebrate and be celebrated, to serve and be served and to love and be loved. The Bible says, We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19) We are able to enter into meaningful relationships because we all have within in us the capacity for love; this ability to share in loving relationship is for each of us a gift beyond expression.
I grew up in the 70’s; a time when a whole generation was searching for meaning and acceptance. When I was younger I wanted what every kid wants and needs; a sense of being loved and a sense of belonging, from my parents, my family and friends. I wanted to be accepted a school; to belong to a circle of friends. I wanted to be received by my teammates each time a new season began. In every work situation, I wanted the same kind of approval.
For reasons I cannot fully explain, I have spent a good part of my life, searching; struggling at times with my self-esteem, often wondering, why anyone would want to ‘hang out’ with me. It’s something I’m still trying to figure out but I have come to realize just how wonderful life can be when that circle of family and friends is in place.
I have a wife that loves me, three wonderful kids that we have had the joy of watching grow up in a way that fills us with pride and joy. I don’t need to impress them or win them over; home is a place of acceptance and belonging because we’re family.
I have a leadership team around me at Valley; they are part of my circle. They are friends in the Lord who care about me and support and encourage me not just because of what I do as the Pastor at Valley but because we are in that circle together. My Small Group is part of my circle, as well as friends at Valley with whom I worship and serve.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. (Proverbs 17:7)
Life is a wonderful gift; a gift we were meant to share with one another. When the path gets hard, when disappointment threatens to overwhelm us, when we feel let down, rejected and alone, having that circle of friends gives us encouragement, strength and hope. It is a wonderful gift.
But sometimes even those closest to us are not able to provide for the deep longings of our heart; ultimately it is God alone who can satisfy that longing. When we are in a right relationship with Him and have that circle of friends around us, we are indeed richly blessed! Then we can truly say “I feel at home”!
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 34:7)
Is anyone else asking, 'where did the summer go'?
I knew the run from March to June would be more demanding and I was looking forward to a slower pace in July and August and some time off, which did happen, but the time from Canada Day to Labor Day certainly passed quickly!
As I think reflect on my summer experience, if was for me much like a roller-coaster ride; one that began with the privilege of sharing with the Barisoff family as they said 'goodbye' to Bill's mom and ended with another 'goodbye', our friend Guy Deschatelets. In between there were several visits, too many visits, to the hospital to seek to encourage a lady in Palliative Care and to connect with some friends at Valley.
As I thought about these experiences, I was reminded again just how uncertain life can be. I read Mitch Albom's 'The Time Keeper', a story abut the meaning of time and the cry of mankind for more time. I am reminded of the truth of Scripture: As no one has power over the wind to contain it, so no one has power over the time of their death. (Ecclesiastes 8:8) All of our days are indeed ordained by God (Psalm 139:16). The words of the Psalmist echo in my heart: Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)
I am also reminded of the importance of having / nurturing our faith, so that we do not fade 'down the stretch'; so that we may journey with confidence through all our days here on earth and approach the finish line with a strong faith and the full assurance of the hope of heaven. There is something within me that wants to call out to you, my friends at Valley, to stay faithful, to stay in community, to keep worshipping and serving and giving as along as God gives us health and strength, so that we might live well during our remaining days and finish well to the honor and glory of our Savior!
I have also been reflecting on the incredible blessing of 'doing life together'. We had the joy of sharing in Scott and Tiffany's wedding in Ontario. I enjoyed the drive cross-country, although I wouldn't recommend making the 40+ hour trip in four days! Thank you again, for the way you entered into our joy and for the many ways you blessed and encouraged Scott and Tiffany!
It was wonderful to connect with family and friends at the wedding; all of the cousins, my sister's boys and brother's son were able to connect for the first time in years; we shared a dinner together at my mom's; we were able to connect with some good friends we had not seen in some time and I was able to reconnect with a friend and fellow Bruin fan; Mike was my best man at our wedding 32 years ago!
Beyond the joy of reconnecting with past friends we also shared life with you, our friends at Valley. I've watch and celebrated as you have ministered and supported and cared for one another in recent weeks. You have modelled what it is for the church to be the church to one another. In all of this I am reminded again that there is nothing like the local church, when the local church is functioning the way Jesus dreamed it would! The Church of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world! And we get to be part of it!
Thank you for sharing the journey with us!
It was a scene we had shared before; we stood with our oldest daughter Lisa and prayed with her before saying ‘goodbye’ and leaving her in Beaverlodge, Alberta to begin a new adventure. Just a few days earlier we shared a similar moment with our son, Scott as he boarded a plane to return to Ontario, and then once more a few days later the scene would repeat itself again as Andrea headed to Kelowna to begin her second year of nursing at UBCO.
From the first moments of their lives, they went straight into my arms and an instant and irrational bond of love has kept them close through all of their growing up years. There is part of me that wants to hold on tightly but I know we have to let go. Though we have been down this path several times before…it’s still hard to say ‘goodbye’.
Christian singer / song writer, Michael W. Smith has written a song that captures what these moments are like for a mom and dad.
Tell me when the time we had slipped away
Tomorrow turned to yesterday and I don't know how
Tell me what can stop this river of tears
It's been building up for years for this moment now
Here I stand, arms open wide
I've held you close, kept you safe, till you could fly
Tell me why, why does following your dreams
Take you far away from me; and I knew that it would
Tell me how to fill the space you left behind
And how to laugh instead of cry and how to say goodbye
Ken Clarke has been the Pastor at Valley since 2007. He lives in the Oliver area