Thursday, July 30, 2009

Touching Base! Part 49

Helping People

This week I have been reminded of the great privilege we have of helping people. It is truly awesome to be able to come alongside someone and, whether through a conversation or some other tangible expression, be able to contribute to turning a life around.

In my experience as I attempt to help people, there are some valuable lessons I have learned that help me, especially since not everyone I help out will have a story-book ending. At times, helping someone can be draining, messy, unpredictable and full of surprises. Thus it is important to keep ourselves focused on our role and keep some guiding principles in mind. Here are a few I have been reminded of lately.

- I can’t always be the “go to” guy. Sometimes the best thing I can do in helping others is to not direct them to me but away from me. I realize that sometimes, someone else has a better skill set or more time to deal with the situation. The best way I can help, then, is to empower them to initiate relationships with some other key person that can walk with them. If I have a saviour complex or a need to be needed then I will fall into the trap of taking on everyone’s issues.

- I must be tuned into the voice of the Spirit. What I say, how much I say and when I say it, are crucial. Just because I may know the answer or have the solution, does not mean it is the right time to speak it. Words can hurt, bury someone or be confusing if I don’t speak timely words into someone’s life.

- I might just be a “one-lap guy”. People run many laps in life and my role in someone’s life does not mean “until death do us part.” I realize that God may bring me into a scenario for a period of time and then I must be willing to identify my time as finished and entrust God to hand the baton on to someone else. God may not use me in someone’s life to help them cross the finish line. If it’s a ten-lap race and I am involved in lap 4, I may not see the results I would like. I must realize I am part of a process, not necessarily from the start and not necessarily to the end.

- Sometimes the best thing we can do is ask questions. Often we think helping is counselling and offering up deep insight. Maybe so, but sometimes it’s the questions we ask, not the answers we give, that help the most. Questions help people understand themselves, their situation, and get perspective. Questions can be our way of helping people work toward a great solution.

As we learn to Serve Others Significantly, which is the second part of our purpose statement, the first part becomes even more important, “Loving God Passionately”. It is only as we stay connected with God, refreshed by His Spirit, counselled by His word that we can truly help people.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Touching Base! Part 48


A few weeks ago while there were riots over the election in Iran, saber-rattling by North Korea over nuclear weapons, the biggest story of the week, it turns out, was the story of President Obama swatting a fly.

“ ‘I got the sucker!’ Obama told CNBC correspondent John Harwood after killing a fly that had been buzzing around his head. Harwood laughed and the camera crew applauded. But the sight of the fly’s corpse lying on the White House rug was too much for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - and insects, apparently. They sent a letter to the Fly Swatter in Chief, expressing their disapproval.”1

I think the general public told PETA to buzz off!

Ever felt like that fly getting swatted? Ever felt like your buzz just got busted, your wings got clipped, your life got driven to the floor? Many have, many do and many will. Battles where we feel like we are getting swatted are part of everyone’s experience. Go up to any person and ask them this question, “What’s your battle?” Do you think they would have an answer? Would they have to search long and hard for an answer, or do you think most would have an answer right at the tip of their tongue? My guess is that they would have a novel for you - a trilogy actually - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Agree? Before reading any further why not answer that question yourself? “What’s your battle?”

All of us go through seasons where we may feel like we are trying to walk through quicksand or navigate through a snow storm. Every element known to mankind seems to be pressing against us, pushing us down, and attempting to unravel us. It may not be the president’s quick forehand that sends us into a nose dive, but a host of other sources can send our world spinning:

Addictions - Some are being swatted around by various addictions that are draining every ounce of their energy.

Emotions - Toxic emotions often take a swipe at us, seriously reducing our altitude. I know from being human and talking to other humans that occupy this planet that fear is one such toxic emotion for many. Fear of meeting people, stepping out, trying something new, disclosing, trusting, and fear of the future.

Relationships - Here is a battle zone that could fill a few novels for many. Children, spouses, bosses, friends, neighbors and fellow team members can all represent battle zones.

Belief - Some battle with unbelief. After years of following they are now flirting with unbelief. This is such a huge issue that we are going to address this issue in a fall series entitled Faith and Doubt.

Physical - Aging bodies or debilitating sicknesses make us weary as we face each day with the pain, the inconvenience, the medical appointments to manage or mend our bodies.

As I think of our battles I am reminded of two things. First, this theme of battle is an issue that connects us together with all those of have ever occupied space on this planet and all those who will. We are “battle buddies”, a company of warriors. Whether you are strong or weak, rich or poor, young or old - battles know no boundaries. And I think that as we learn to share our battle stories we deepen our relationships with one another. We discover just how much we have in common. Letting people in on our stories helps us get perspective and strength for the next leg of the journey.

Secondly, this theme of “battle” connects us with God. God throughout the Bible is described as one who battles for us. In the Old Testament the imagery is one of God fighting on behalf of the Israelites to help them conquer their enemies. Physical battles that took place in literal war zones. In the New Testament God sends His Son to face the ultimate battle with sin. Swords are lain down and a cross is taken up. God realizes that we live in a world at war and He comes to us ready to help us fight! Are you battle-weary? Lock arms with others and find strength and counsel in community. Most importantly reach out to God. Remember what David said to that big ugly guy?

“David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” (1 Sam 17:45)

David may have been the fly, and Goliath the giant, but God was (and is) the Lord Almighty! So who ended up being the fly?


1Charles Colson, BreakPoint commentary dated 24 Jun 09, available at

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Touching Base! Part 47

A Passion for Stamps

In a bid to give Mark’s aching typing hand a break from all these weekly missives (not to mention his brain… I can actually see smoke coming out of his ears from where I sit here in the office), I offered to write this week’s Touching Base.

Some of you know that in the past little while, I have returned to a childhood hobby of mine, stamp collecting. It simply fascinates me to learn about what events, things and people different countries honour with a stamp (and, quite frankly, just how bad the English can be on North Korean stamps. But I digress.)

Now, I don’t just take my stamps and put them in a stock album. No… I have an album called the World Phoenix Album, about 600 pages, which has black and white illustrations for some of the stamps. You match up the illustration with the stamp you have (but only some of them… the only album in the world that illustrates most stamps is 60 VOLUMES in size and costs $17,000! Somehow I don’t think my husband would go for that…!).

In other words, what I’ve got is a glorified sticker book for grown-ups.

And most of you who know me also know I don’t do things by half either… to get myself “going” again, I bought a bag of 5000 worldwide stamps, as well as an electronic version of the 6-volume Scott Stamp Catalogue (about 8400 pages, full colour - thank goodness for auctions on E-Bay!) and stamp inventorying software called EZStamp. Oh, and if my husband asks, you know nothing :)

So all that to say that I have spent many hours recently just sitting and cataloguing those 5000 stamps. I won’t bore you with the details, but getting a stamp from the bag into my album is not as simple as “take it out and stick it in”. It’s actually a 4- or 5-step process, and not unlike Sherlock Holmes trying to crack a case. That’s why I enjoy it so much, by the way. Oh, and with 5000 stamps to catalogue, it’s also why I’m going to be doing it for the rest of my life.

My aim was to start out with a general worldwide collection, but I’m slowly but surely going to specialize the collection into stamps of Canada, religious stamps, soccer stamps and, believe it or not, stamps about stamps (my husband’s reaction to that one was “they have stamps about stamps? I have now seen it all.”)

May I be honest thought? As much as I’ve enjoyed myself, as the time has passed, I have increasingly been… reminded…? …guilt-complexed…? …convicted by a nagging question (and we know Who convicts, don’t we?)
Hey Carmen, how about you pursue Me
the way you pursue those stamps?

Boy, there’s a question for the ages, and for all of us.

I’ve realized how easy it is for me to go off on an obsession and in so doing, give God, (you know…the Almighty Creator of the universe? My only Saviour?) the short shrift. And that does no one any good, least of all me, because in the long term, it can be outright sinful. You see, when God said, “you shall have no other gods before me”, He wasn’t only talking about little statues, folks.

Am I suggesting that hobbies and activities are wrong? That somehow we need to be like cloistered nuns? Of course not! But loving God passionately and serving others significantly (have you heard that somewhere before?) means living a balanced life, and in that balance, God must come first.

So this week, duly chastened, I am going to work on that. May I encourage all of you to take a moment to do a quick life inventory as well? Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you -

-Has God been Number One in my life lately?
-If no, what (or who) has come to be in the way? Has it really been beyond my control, or am I just using it as an excuse?
-What can I do to give God, and the rest of my activities, their proper place?

Well, I have to go now. I need to go catalogue some stspend some quality time with my Abba Father.


PS. A lady walks into the post office and says “May I have 15 Christmas stamps please?”
The clerk replies, “Sure! What denomination?”
The lady sighs and says, “Oh… has it really come to this? Okay... 8 Catholic… 5 Protestant… 2 Jewish.”


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Touching Base! Part 46

Seasons of Church Life

As you can tell Bethel has entered into the season of, “Where did everybody go?” People head out, hoping to enjoy some summer sun and down time. With Kingston being a popular tourist destination, we no doubt will see visitors to Kingston in several of our Sunday morning services. Personally, I love the summer season as it allows me some down time but also the summer months are great months of long-term planning and working with leadership to make sure we are ready for the fall rush, the jolt back into reality.

Now don’t misinterpret me, much ministry happens in the summer, but the rpm’s definitely slow down as many people check out. I think the summer represents an excellent time for new people at Bethel to get assimilated into the community. With one service, it is much easier to meet people and establish some key relationships that will be the doorway into deeper community as the Fall approaches. I would strongly encourage you to be looking out for new faces and using the summertime to help these new folks connect. We are all responsible for building community at Bethel.

I just wanted to update you briefly on some of the things on which we are working. You can pray about these issues as God brings them to mind.

Internship. Joanna Moon will be joining us this Fall for eight months. She will work at Bethel ten hours per week, ministering in the areas of compassion and justice. She is a graduate of Queen’s who is taking a year off to serve with us. We are excited about partnering with her and seeing her partner with various organizations in town.

Family Ministries. Jamie Stinson is the newest addition to our staff. As the Family Ministries Director she is busy building teams, painting rooms and settling into her new ministry at Bethel. If you attended her presentation on June 28th then you will know the vision that we are pursuing and praying towards.

Teaching Series. This Fall we are doing two series that I am very excited about, “Faith and Doubt” and “Letters To The Next Generation”. Faith and Doubt will run for three weeks and culminate on Oct 4 with Dr. Craig Evans, a leading apologist, who will address Biblical origins. Letters To The Next Generation will start after Thanksgiving and be a study in Deuteronomy, looking at important themes that Moses felt needed to be passed on to the next generation. Also this Fall, we will be continuing to raise the bar in our prayer focus on Sunday mornings and having people tell the stories of their “God journey”.

Leadership Culture. On September 13th (Sunday) in the evening, we will be running an event called Together for all who are involved in ministry at Bethel. We want this to be a kick-off event that celebrates our partnership in ministry.

Small Groups. It is our desire to see more people involved in some kind of small group outside of Sunday morning. We are putting together a team that will consist of some of the elders to help us grow this very significant ministry.

Building Community. On September 27th (Sunday) we will be having a Potluck dinner at the church for the new people at Bethel to connect with all of us who have been here for a while. We have found Potluck dinners to really help people get better connected. Also on that day for our newcomers, one hour before the Potluck, we will be running a quick class to familiarize new people to Bethel.

Many more things are happening but these are just a few that you can pray about and be aware of. Please also pray for Carmen our administrator as she continues to work on almost anything and everything so as to ensure that we are safe, sound and secure. Also pray for Fred our Youth Director as he is working up at IAWAH this summer. Our partnership with IAWAH continues to be an important one as we seek to make disciples not only of all nations but of all generations.

Please contact me either by email ( or by phone
(542-2990) or if you have questions. Your input helps contribute to our being a stronger team!


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Touching Base! Part 45

Getting Cracked

Ever had those days where you felt like something was out of alignment? Many are familiar with backs being out of alignment and the discomfort that can bring to the whole body. Some are constantly going to the chiropractor to get cracked back, or snapped back into shape. I always find it amazing when the chiropractor snaps my neck back into alignment. It sounds like someone just set off fireworks in my head. Getting older makes me realize just how much work and care needs to go into keeping this physical house in decent working order.

What is true physically is also true emotionally. There are days where the “tank” feels empty. Possibly the empty “tank” syndrome is because of running fast for a long period of time, or challenging situations that are very draining. Whatever the cause, it can result in waking to a new day and not being sure if you want to face the new day. There are times in my life where I realize I am out of alignment emotionally and I need to get “cracked back” into shape. This is why knowing what fills my tank is incredibly important in order to keep this area of my life aligned.

The most important area for guarding alignment issues is in the area of our walk with God. I find that I must constantly guard the value of being properly aligned with God on a daily basis. There are so many temptations, counterproductive thoughts, and challenging people, and if I let them, they will throw my spiritual alignment out of sync. All it takes is the littlest seed, the smallest word, the quickest glance, a momentary dwelling on a toxic thought to put us out of alignment with the Creator who not only made us but desires to be in fellowship with us. The text in Galatians 5:25 talks about being in alignment:

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Each one of us must take responsibility for this all-important area of alignment. If we know something is not right yet do nothing about it, we grieve God and no doubt will manifest a barbed spirit with those with whom we interact. Be sure to get “cracked back” into shape if you know you are not where you are suppose to be. It will save you much pain, heartache and guard you from complex situations that may be very difficult to “uncomplicate”!


Touching Base! Part 44

Scar Parties

Being wounded is part of life, right? Wounding others is also part of life. Not only do we sometimes find ourselves on the receiving end, sometimes we are the “bad guy”, the “bully”, the insensitive one. How much “road kill” have you caused by not thinking before speaking, not praying before acting, not processing before approaching? Anyone out there saying, “Not guilty!”? Doubt it… I really, really doubt it. And if in doubt, just look in your rear view mirror and see who is lying in the wake of your path.

Wounds are part of life. Not just wounds to our soul but to our bodies. I heard of an interesting party held once where attendees had to tell the story behind the scar(s) on their body. For me I have a scar on the inside of my wrist that reminds me that several years ago I attempted to use the glass in the glass door instead of the door knob to open the door. The result, a stitched up cut on my wrist and one 8-year-old feeling like a door knob! My other scar is on my bottom lip. It came at the hands of Glen Upton who, during a floor hockey game in grade 9, took a shot and I (pretending to be Börje Salming) took a puck in the mouth. Did he score? Can’t remember! Was I sore? Yes, the stitches reminded me of that!

I am not suggesting anyone have a scar party, but I am saying that (regardless of who you are) we all have wounds of various kinds and we all have wounded people in different ways. From physical wounds to deep wounds not visible to the human eye, we all possess, I am sure, at least one or two. One of the great truths of being a follower of Christ is that as we seek God together and live out His Kingdom truths, we can experience healing, restoration and strength in the areas of our deepest wounds. Some wounds God chooses to heal, others stay with us as a reminder that His grace is sufficient for our weakness. Others go unmentioned! We dare not speak about them to anybody, for fear of what they might think! How unfortunate to be bound by such a lie. God’s Kingdom here on earth means that together we seek the One who knows what it is like to be wounded. Think of the stories Christ would tell at a Scar Party! Hands, feet, head, side - all wounded! However, His wounds were not just physical but deeply embraced His entire being as He took on our sin.

Being part of the body of Christ means following the One who was wounded for us and because of us. Being part of the body of Christ means partnering with others who we may have hurt at times, and for who at times we can be a source of healing as we become wounded healers to each other.