Monday, December 23, 2013

My Christmas thought.

Christmas is a lot of things.

We all know about the commercial aspect of it.  We complain, poke and prod it every year.  We criticize it until the criticism it no longer lines up with our shopping sprees.  Our list.  The deals we'll get and the bargains we'll use to justify our role in it all.

Christmas is a rush.  I told Barbara that it felt like Christmas was already over.  I told her this a few weeks ago.  The schedule gets packed pretty tightly on Christmas.  We go out to parties, we plan events, we find baby sitters so that we can participate in celebrating with the people that we know and the people we care about.

Add it all up and you've got New Years breathing down your neck.  It's a hectic pace.  The eating, the drinking.  The late night car rides in the storms.  I feel bloated.  I need to lose weight.  I need to exercise.  Do I get up in the morning or stay up late at night?  Either way, I am exercising in pitch darkness.  I am jogging in freezing temperatures.  I am going over to so and so's house to eat a pile of bird and trimmings.  My 3rd this year.

Christmas is music.  The generic noise of whatever "It's Christmas time" song happens to be playing this hour.  Next hour we're going to hear the same song, but this time it will be Reggae and we'll all have a good laugh because it's funny to imagine all of the fake snow on a beach somewhere.  The sentimental tone of each and every knock-off Christmas song is enough to drive someone insane.  Sort of a Christmas spirit overdose.

And then you hear a song that floats down on you like soft, clean snow.  Making the whole sham new again.  Restoring your hope in authenticity and openness.

Christmas is family.  Family is great.  It's you.  My family is me.  It's acceptance and eating together.  It's kids running around with new things.  Kids fighting over their new toys.  It's just so great and real.

There are plenty other things that go into Christmas, but for now I would like to focus on just one more.

Christmas is something about no fear.  Remember those t-shirts?  We were so tough back then, weren't we?  Not scared of nothin' or nobody.

When I think of it at Christmas time I think of Charlie Brown walking around all worried and depressed.  He gets the directors gig and still he screws it up.  As if a little community play could dig himself out of the ashes.

I can relate to our friend, Charlie.  He's depressed.  He's probably pretty upset that he's so bald, too.  Charlie wants something.  His dog decides to go out and just crush everyone in the Christmas Light contest.  Lucy is making bank at her booth.  Even the smelly kid feels good about himself.  Charlie wants a little bit of what everyone else has.  He wants to fear not.

Then Charlie goes out with Linus to look for a Christmas tree.




The line that gets me.

"This little green one here seems to need a home."

Charlie still fighting the good fight.  Confused, scared, insecure, yet something in him sees the good in Christmas.  Right there in the middle of all that titanium and aluminum.

What will the others say?  What kind of director's decision is this?  Career suicide?

Fear not.  This tree is the one.  This tree will bring everyone together in the end, Charlie Brown.

Later on we hear Linus' speech.  He reads from the Bible.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people.

Linus drops his security blanket and announces that we are not to fear.

Good News, great joy, for all the people.

I think that Christmas means we don't need to be afraid.  We don't need to be afraid of life.  We don't need to be afraid when things shine with the glory of God.  The shepherds' instinct is to be afraid of God?  And the Angel tells them not to fear.  This God, they say.  He need not be feared.

Don't be afraid.  God is good.  This is good news.  Great joy.  For all.

It's right there in the passage.

Jesus is born.  He's going to grow up and teach us new things.  He's going to be the friend of sinners.  He's going to dine with us.  He's going to show us that God is for us.  He is going to be one of us, and he is going to show us that we don't need to be afraid.

I worry about a lot of things.  I am afraid of a lot of things.  I know a lot of people who live in constant fear, and sometimes I can understand why.  We are floating on a rock.  The science of it all makes me nauseous.  Suspended on a string, we are.

And yet, every year we come around to Christmas.  The shopping, the rush, the jingle bells and the families that we share it all with.  How will we pay off the bills this year?  How fat will I get this winter?  What will the future hold?  Which ones will be with us next year and what will become of the ones that are gone?

Fear not.  I bring you good news.  Great Joy.  For all people.



Repent at Christmas



The problem, Leonard, is that you are a genius.  Everyone should be asking themselves the same thing.

Repent!

Repent!!!

(Holding a sign on the street that says "repent!")

Are you scared yet?  That's what saying the word "repent" really loud and with a whole bunch of exclamation marks will do to a person.

For most of us, repent has always meant what we know it means.  It means to ask for forgiveness.  It means to say sorry, on your knees, with tears in your eyes.  The words plead and beg come to mind.

The only problem with that is that, when we talk about all those times in the Bible where people tell other people to repent, it doesn't mean anything close to what we think it means.

Okay, maybe I am stepping over the line a bit.  I am not a theologian, nor do I claim to be.  I am just a normal person.  But I bet most of you are just normal people too, right?

So I'll say that there probably are a lot of times in the Bible where repent means to turn away from sin and to ask for forgiveness.  In fact, I can think of a time when God was telling people to repent and stop worshipping idols.  There.  I said it.  I am not going to try to redefine the word for you.

But...

I am going to add a little bit and say that it means so much more than what we think it means.

So here I go.

In the new Testament, repent is translated from a Greek word that reads "Metanoeo" which means "to change your mind, or change your way of thinking."

To me, that definition is plenty different than the ask for forgiveness definition.  Different enough to wonder why I'd never heard it that way before.

What does this mean?  I've got my theories.  Could it mean that we need to change our way of thinking about life?  About God?

At Christmas time I am reminded to "fear not".  That's a great example of changing my way of thinking.

The Shepherds were terrified when the Angel came to them to tell them Good News.  The Angel told them not to be afraid.  Those Shepherds needed to change their way of thinking about God.  They did not need to be afraid of God.

It seems that Jesus was always trying to correct our ideas about Religion.  A religious scholar would come in and question him and Jesus would respond in some new and radical way.

Jesus was all about changing our way of thinking.  Repent!

The big lesson here is that I am pretty ignorant about what the Bible actually says and means a lot of the time.  I should take it more seriously.  It's an ancient group of books and letters written to people that lived way the heck on the other side of the world a bazgillion years ago.  And we print off bibles for kids.

"Here, kid.  Take this ancient text and apply it to your life.  Inside it says don't steal and listen to your mom and dad.  Oh and there are two sheep and two elephants on the Ark along with a bunch of other furry friends."

What this realization does to me is it automatically makes me humbler.

I don't know it all.  I have to believe that the greatest Christian theologians don't know it all either.  The scribes and scholars of Jesus' day didn't know anything about love; which, I believe, is the main theme of the whole collection of works.  How could they miss it?  Turns out they needed some repentance.

So if I don't know it all and my pastor doesn't know it all and if Mr. Famous Preacher doesn't know it all either, then the truth is that we should stop saying to everyone  that we know it all.

I've lived with the Bible for 32 years.  I am 32 years old.  I have been to Sunday school and missionary school and mission trips, and a pastors son my whole life.  And yet, I have a minimal amount of knowledge and understanding of the Bible.

Of course, I should find ways to learn more about how to study it.  But the main lesson for me, and for probably most other Christians is to stop being such know it alls.  And the truth is that being called "a know it all" is probably a nice way of putting it.

For Leonard, the future isn't pretty.  In order to help bring God's kingdom on Earth.  In order to proclaim a Christmas time of Peace we need to change our way of thinking.

Repent!

I close with this verse.  It's from Micah.  May it encourage us to attempt to do our best to do exactly what it says.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.


 

Friday, December 20, 2013

The storm

I was once in a city of skinny people and lights that shown pretty.

You were there, the rain in the clouds, brooding, like a cranky kettle.

The flashes tapped and danced in the distances of space that span out far beyond you and me.

The electric tension was deafening.

A hush... and then...

A crick splinter of a banging sound broke my ears into pieces before I had time to figure out why.

Then you melted like wax through the clouds.  Froze up like a million drops of dead batteries.

Your army marching to gravity's orders.  Left, right, left.

The glamour of the night dimmed as you fell into it's arms.

A slim man teetered on the walkway, slithering in his wingtips.  Your poison clanked and pinged off of a tall drink of milk.  Her hair made of steel and shaped like a sports car.

All around me was chaos.  Chaos raced up Panic Street, hung a left on Braceyourself.  The flowers on the lamp posts split apart like shards of ice.

I stood in it all.  Arms raised.  Eyes open to the daggers of you.  I let you dig in to my soul, dig in with your ways.  

My clothes, the sheltered parts of me, burned off in the fumes.

I was naked.

I was reborn.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thought for the day

Life is busy.  It's too busy for most people, and most of the things that we busy ourselves with are a waste of time; like video games, TV, the Internet, and blogs;)

Often times, instead of downsizing, we say that we should find time to take a break from the busyness of life.  I have heard it many times recently: find time to take a break or you will burn out.

Well, I agree.  Let's do that.

But also, let's de-clutter things and invest our relatively small amount of hours, minutes and seconds into the things that matter to us.

My kids have grown up.  No longer babies.  I miss that.  There will never be enough moments for me to look back on to say that, "Yup, definitely hung out with baby Miles and Jonas enough."

But what do you do when you are busy with things that matter to you?  What do you do when you don't have enough time to take a break because you want to play Lego with your kids instead?

I think that there is room in the business to find peace and rest.  While you are working, and the stresses of the job, coworkers, bosses, deadlines, etc. climb all over you.  I think that it's possible to let it all melt away and remind yourself that you are, in fact, alive.

You are alive.  You exist.  You are living.  Doesn't that invigorate you?!

I am reminded of a great line from Bill Fay, who put our a great album last year.  Here's the song:




I love the line:
The never ending happening of what's to be and what has been.  Just to be a part of it, is astonishing to me.  

It's very common of us to forget that we are alive.  We do it every day.  We forget almost as soon as we remember.  How stupid is that?


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Kids



Firstly, there is a window in marriage.  Its where people will bug you and bug you about not having kids yet.  It probably lasts about a year after your married until you cave in and have kids.  These people don't really know what they're saying.  In fact, they're likely just joking around.  I don't think its funny.

So, for us, it started around 2003.  We were in YWAM and one of our students, a middle aged man with 2 or 3 kids of his own, kept bugging me because we didn't have any kids yet.  Actually, it was more than just bugging.  He seemed to think that it was his mission to pester me about it.  He seemed disappointed in me, which was weird.

4 years later and we had a kid.  In between those years were some of the best years of our lives.  We travelled, we went out late, and we pretty much did whatever we wanted to do.  It was great.

My kids are great.  I am enjoying the challenge and joy of seeing them grow up into stubborn, hyper, gifted little boys. I love them and I am thankful for the gifts that they are.

Yet, I am thankful for those year where it was just the 2 of us.  

Don't let people get to you.  For some reason, having kids is the upmost important thing to haggle younger couples about.  I'm not sure why people find it important to pry into other peoples lives.

Not to mention the complications that come with having kids.  Namely, the fact that a lot of people have complications when trying to have kids.  

How awful it would be to hear those words "why don't you have kids" when having kids might be the very thing you dream about.  The very thing you long for every day, every doctor, every prayer.

Or what if you don't want kids?  I think that a lot of people have a hard time trying to grasp the idea of not wanting kids.  The simple solution is to mind your business. 

There are single people, childless people, people with 1 kid, people with 10 kids.  Fat people, ugly people, bald people, sexy people, independent people, needy people.  

We're all just people.

We all do things that other people don't understand.  We have things about us that other people don't understand.

What needs to happen is we need to stop expecting everyone else to do as we would do.

So if you're young and in love, have some kids if you want.  It will definitely be awesome.  Or not.  Or Wait.  Or don't have them at all.

All I can say is that I enjoyed not having kids for a while.  Take it or leave it, but for goodness sake, let's all take our foot off the gas and just let people make these decisions for themselves.

Now, the other thing.  But first I must say that the following applies to me as well.  I am learning just as you all with kids should learn.

  If you have kids, please don't ram them down other peoples throats.  As my kids get older I am learning that not everyone thinks that they're the most amazing things in the world.  Crazy, right?

I think it has to do with growing in maturity as a parent.  The newness of everying seems so interesting that you think everyone wants to know about your new double stroller or the latest thing your kid did that was just the cutest thing in the word.

Share these stories, but in moderation.  Throw a filter on it.  It's amazing as to how many people you know who are already over everything you have to say about your child.

Oh, they love your child, and probably enjoy having them around.  But tone down the baby talk, the blogs, the Facebook albums.  

I'm not saying we Should cut it all out all at once.  But man, do we like advertising our kids.

No wonder society keeps bugging young couples about it.

Love you , Miles and Jonas!



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

These words

Another thought for the day.

I am completely overwhelmed with how much wisdom and advice I am exposed to every day on the Internet.

Quotes from famous people, links to good articles, and other thoughts.  Most of it is good, great stuff.

It's easy to scan and read dozens of these things in one sitting.  Learn about injustices in Africa, how to burn body fat, which band you should be listening to, which corporations you should avoid, and so on.

And just like most things these days, I usually treat all of these often rich and nutritious things like fast food for my mind and soul instead of allowing them to be the deep sinking treasures that they are.

And besides sharing them on Facebook or Twitter, I don't really interact with anyone about them.  I read, I react, and then I move on.

For the past few months I have been trying to focus in one one thing.  One little golden nugget of wisdom from the Internet.

It's a few words of meditation from Frank Schaeffer.  I have memorized them, thought about the 3 groups of words individually and as a whole, and often say the words under my breath at different times of the day.

They are the simple words that I have printed on my desktop photo of my beautiful niece Katie.

Here they are.


That's it.  Simple words that are often very complicated and difficult to live out.

Letting them soak has helped.  I read other things, other pieces of wisdom, but I keep coming back to these words.

What have I learned so far?  That it's pretty much impossible to make the first two happen without the third.

Though, it seems that the third doesn't happen without the first two either.

And I go about my day with these words in my mind.  I forget about them at times and remember them again.

I think of these old words so often that they become new again.


Thought for the day

One thing I notice more and more in my life.  If I am annoyed and frustrated with someone it often has a lot to do with the things that I do to annoy and frustrate others.  The attributes we don't like in others are often just reflections of the things we don't like about ourselves.

We're all just a bunch of people.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Christian Habit of Self-Deprecation


 A few months ago while I was visiting a friends’ church the pastor led off his sermon with a prayer prefaced with the phrase “may I fade into the background”.   You’ve probably heard something like that before.  Though his intention was likely just a simple request for humility, what I am questioning is who did this pastor expect to benefit from his request to become insignificant?  I’m wondering why we have to smear ourselves so deep down into the dirt all of the time.     Why are we so polite when it comes to working with God?  Why are we so afraid to, dare I say, take a little bit of the credit? 

Perhaps we think it’s a necessary thing.  Our churches are bigger, brighter, with more “entertainment value” than ever before.  Maybe we think that we need our self-flagellation to clarify things.  Maybe we want to make sure that the people in the seats know that behind the big, bright show, God is at work. 

It could also be possible that we’re just being polite.  There’s great value in meekness, but perhaps we take it too far when, for example, a friend acknowledges our deeds with the compliment of “good work” and we respond by saying “really, it was all God”, as if we had nothing to do with it at all.

As the Church, we love to squish ourselves low while we’re lifting Him up.  This can happen to us during worship services.  We start singing along, and by the end of the song we can feel horrible about ourselves.  And why shouldn’t we?  We sing about “having nothing to lay at his feet”.  We wonder how “ He could be mindful of us” while proclaiming that His glory is nothing that we deserve.  If worshipping God is to commune and give praise to him, how can we do that when we can’t get over how awful we are? 

I don’t know how many times have I heard the sermon about how all of our deeds are like filthy rags compared to God.  Some pastors like to dig out the historical and literal interpretation of “filthy rags”.  You can look it up if you’d like.  It’s not very pleasant, but we sure do like to remind each other of it.  Again, what benefit is there in telling ourselves that, compared to the creator of the universe, we really aren’t all that much?  No wonder so many Christians suffer from depression. 

To be constantly reminded that you don’t measure up are not words of encouragement and edification, but more like the words of an abusive parent.  If my son keeps reminding himself, and everyone around him, that his dad is so much better than him I would have to take him aside to have a good chat.  These comparisons miss the whole point of our relationship.  I would remind him of what he already knows.  He knows that I’m his dad and that I love him.  I love playing soccer with him and building Lego with him.  He knows that I am overjoyed when I see him happy in the middle of an ordinary day.  His smile is a mood changer for me.  So, for him to walk around exclaiming his uselessness as a way of giving me honor would be as silly as it sounds.  

We go to church to get away from this stuff, not to be fed with it.  The world outside is often a measuring stick telling us that we’re not good enough, that we’re not smart enough, and basically that we a just plain not enough.  We need The Church to be a sanctuary from all of this negativity.  With God, our deeds are the deeds of beautiful feet and of the hands of God himself.  The body needs to proclaim this in order to build itself up.

With Jonas at the climbing wall


Here we are, loved by the very definition of the word.  We are loved by God, who thinks so highly of us that he took on skin and bones to tell us about it.  He wants us to know that he’s not only okay with us, but that he’s completely enamoured with us.  Talk about a crazy one, this God fellow, isn’t He?  And here we are, telling each other that we’re not as good as Him.  We sure are weird.

Is God up there pacing back and forth waiting for us to feed his ego?  Does He crave our self-deprecation as praise?  Absolutely not.  In fact, He talks a lot about a new covenant in which our sins and our stains will be remembered no more. (Hebrews 8 :12)  Can we believe that kind of talk?  That He’s forgotten about how awful we are?  That He might even be proud of us?

I must clarify that I agree that humility is highly virtuous.  God has saved us from death.  He deserves all of the glory He’s due.  Humility is walking in that knowledge.  Yet, the bible talks about how if we humble ourselves, God will lift us up.  Lift us up to what?  Well, I like to think that when we give God glory, the part of it that He really savours is when He sees us seeing value in ourselves.

In John 14:12 Jesus talks about the works of His Father.  He tells his friends that he is all about the work of his Father, and that everything he does is within that relationship.  Jesus loves to talk about his Father.  He loves to talk about the work they had been doing together on earth.  It’s a beautiful reminder of how relational God is.  The punch in the gut is when he tells his disciples that they will do “greater works than these”.  Wow!  That’s a few levels up on that whole “filthy rags” business now, isn’t it?  Is it too much to say that the way He feels about his Father is the same way he feels about us?  Can we believe that we will do greater things than God?

The words of Jesus in John 12 have a lot to do with God’s passion for unity and relationship.  God really doesn’t do a whole lot on his own.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that God does nothing on his own.  God is a community.  When the Earth was created, the Father, Son and Spirit were there, working things out together in perfect unity.  It has been that way since the beginning.  And for us, there’s always been an open invitation to join in.  We need not fade into the background when we can step forward and take part in things.

Think of what you did today.  Would it have gotten done without you?  Think of the good things in your life and the time and effort you put into them to help them grow.  Does the pastor’s sermon get written when he “fades into the background”?    

We need to get away from saying that God is “using” us.  If someone is abused, they say that they were “used” by someone, or that someone “had their way” with them.  It’s strange that we use the same words to talk about how God works with us.  We can do better than that.  We are His children, His friends, and His partners in making this world a better place.

If we look at ourselves as just the tools or the mediums through which God can achieve his will, then we are proclaiming a faint shadow of who our God really is.  God works with us and alongside us, and our personalities and creativities weave with his character.  The fact that God set things up this way is itself a testament to his goodness and glory.  We proclaim this when we are brave enough to walk along side him. 

We need to remind ourselves more of what God thinks of us and less about what we think God thinks of us.  Often times, they are two very different things.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

The season of Sleeping At Last

This past week has been beautiful.  I can't remember better weather for a whole week like this.  I think that for 3 days there, there literally wasn't a cloud in the sky.  Unbelievable.  What a nice week in Alberta.

Today was a nice day too, but the Autumn season has it's way of crawling in.  On the drive home we could see the colours on the trees beginning to fade.  On the edge of the road lay huddles of leaves, swishing and swaying.  The early birds.  Their friends will join them soon.

I love the changing of the seasons.  Alberta is a great place to be for all 4 of them.  I splashed in the water with my family on the Pembina river today, and I know that I could be shovelling a pile of snow in a week or two.  Come what may.

Like a lot of people, I look at my life as a series of seasons.  We just got through an amazing one that lasted 7 years in China.  Looking back, it all seems like it never happened.  It's a blur in my mind that comes into focus from time to time.  We enjoyed our time there, but I would say that we left at just the right time.  The leaves were falling and we knew that it was time to change seasons.

In that time, which spans well back into early 2012 up until this very evening, I have had the pleasure of enjoying some great "transition music".  The soundtrack of this season of Brett has been the music of Sleeping At Last.

Sleeping At Last is Ryan O'Neal.  He writes beautiful music and then he sings it and I listen to it.  That's how it works.

The man is a creative that seems to do things his own way for the sake of creating beauty.  In the past has has released a ton of music that is available here.  A few years ago he released 3 new songs every month for the entire year.  It is called Yearbook.  Get it.  Get it now!

This year his project is called Atlas.  He's been periodically been releasing EPs since January.  Once again, go to his site and check it out.  You sign up for the music, he makes it,  then he sends it to you.  It's a great deal considering the large amount of insane music you are getting.

The other day, when Ryan's Space1 was released, I realized that I have been listening to his stuff almost every time I listen to music, and that's been going on since we arrived back in Canada in November after moving back from China.

Barbara's dad was dying of cancer.  It was nearing the Christmas season and I listened to the song Snow over and over again when no one was looking.  Some people get annoyed when you listen to the same song over and over again.  Ron passed away just before Christmas and that song will always remind me of him.

And I would listen to the song Emphasis to make me feel sad.  It was a sad time and I wanted to feel sad.  This song helped me get there.  Sometimes feeling sad is the thing you need to feel.  I am thankful for it.

The words.  The words of his songs are fresh and pure.  They catch you in your current state and stop you for a bit.

Even after everything we've seen, we've barely caught a glimpse of what it means.  In the architecture of the soul, the universe began with our eyes closed.

We live and we die, like fireworks we pull apart the dark.  Compete against the stars with all of our hearts.  'Til our temporary brilliance turns to ash, we pull apart the dark while we can.

With golden strings our universe was clothed with light.  Pulling at the seams, our once barren world now brims with life.

I guess space and time, takes violent things, angry things and makes them kind.

The sweetest thing I ever heard is that I don't have to have the answers, just a little light to call my own.  Though it pales in comparison to the overarching shadows, a speak of light can reignite the sun and swallow darkness whole.

With all of tough things the last year has scarred us with, there is a lot of hope in it all as well.  I am thankful for these songs and the words that help bring healing and clarity to the fuzz and noise.  I recommend that many, many people should go out and get this music.  Put your headphones on and take it in.  It's good for broken hearts, hearts moving into new seasons and ones that are trying to make sense of the old.

Listen to the Christmas album in December and every other month for that matter.

Let's face it, summer is over.  Sweep it away and move into Autumn with hope, patience, love, and all of that good stuff.  Oh!  And go get some Sleeping at Last  to help you through.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

And God Said, "Billy" a review of Frank Schaeffer's new novel

Though I am usually a slower reader, I quickly flew through this book in less than a week. The pace of Billy's journey through life kept me glued to my tiny iPhone screen whenever I had the chance.

I would say that there are a lot of funny moments. I did not expect this book to be as funny as it was, but I noticed that I laughed aloud quite a few times, often stopping to give my wife an explanation for my outburst. Though I would usually fail with my explanation and end up just wanting to say, "You'll just have to read it yourself".

Billy goes through quite a bit. I would say that Frank Schaeffer does a great job of giving the reader a relatable character, even though there isn't always a lot to relate to, if that makes sense.  To me, is is just very, very familiar.

In fact, I think that there is a little bit of Billy in everyone, and I saw myself more than a few times in this book. As time went on, and as Billy's made up structures of his relationship with God began to crumble, I started to see a real, genuine attempt at making a connection. Billy was mad at God, especially at the times when he wasn't sure if he was even there. He struggled to build up a new system that would make him feel secure, which didn't work either. Challenged by numerous obstacles, Billy's faith churned and boiled over again and again. He became unsettled and it really bothered him. The voices in his head didn't make sense anymore.

In the film production (which itself was full of hilarious characters I hope to see on film some day), Billy continued to struggle with survival. Determined to succeed, Billy pressed forward and was eventually freed from his "Calling" by the whole situation with Vandermeer and the Monk.  

I must say that I loved the Vandermeer character.  Very interesting, intense, and rich character.  Wow!

Billy found healing in the monastery. His character grew throughout the book, and the monks helped give him peace in his new self. His trials exposed his seemingly solid rock faith for what it really was; something like a habit of religion. The monks spoke into his life through stories, and telling Billy of the traditions of their way.  It's refreshing to read through this time of healing for Billy.  Through his time there, Billy became a real person.

Anyways, not much of a reviewer, but I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the humour of intense fundamental evangelicalism.  At times, it really needs to be laughed at.  I laughed a lot in this book. 

I also teared up at one point, from the story of the two boys bullying the other boy in school. The Headmaster of the school is such a great model of love. Very touching.

A great read. Read it and tell me what you think.

Monday, September 9, 2013

An Education

This week, interesting comments from Barbara.

Barbara is currently studying hard to achieve her diploma in early childhood development.  At the same time, she is beginning another year of teaching a preschool class.  After a year of running a Kindergarten in China, we came back to Canada and she is at it again, this time with Canadian children and no language barriers to jump.

Barbara challenged the first year of her diploma by paying for and writing a pretty intense test.  She bought the books and studied them for months and then took the test in July.  In the end, she got a pretty decent mark that allowed her to skip a bunch of courses, thus saving her time and us money.

Though Barbara couldn't help but feel a little off about the whole process.  She felt that she would have had a better grade on the multiple choice test if it wasn't for all of the sneaky wording in the questions. It seems that the test was purposely trying to trick her into picking the wrong answer.  So she left feeling confused and uncertain and in the end and it was not the score that she had hoped for (though it was a very good score).

Maybe this isn't a surprise for you college people.  Perhaps it's just the way things work.  For us, we've been away from school for quite some time and it seemed odd (and frustrating) to us that this school would use the test as a money grab.  I mean, the lower her mark is, the more courses she will have to pay for, so I guess good for them for finding a way to make some cash.

And I don't mean to brag too much here, but when it comes to teaching children, Barbara knows her stuff.  I would say that she is properly equipped to teach in a Kindergarten right now.  The problem is that the degrees and the diplomas are what people see.  They are the hoops that Barbara must jump through.  She will continue to go through the motions, but I just thought it worth pointing out the fact that there is a dollar to be made in every area.  People want to teach you, but they need to do it their way so that you pay enough money to them to make it worth their while to teach you.  If Barbara would have aced the test (She got a solid B, which isn't bad at all) then they would miss out on all of the fees she would have not had to pay for the courses she had already challenged and passed.  Tricky little system.

The other interesting note is that Barbara is learning about new systems of teaching kids.  The systems are designed to help kids learn and grow through playing, interacting with their classmates, isolating and encouraging growth in their specific abilities, and basically staying active and involved in the class.  They are trying to move away from the traditional way of educating kids, like when kids have to sit all day long in their desks and then fill out the answers in their books.  So logically, one could say that the system is trying new things because the old ways just aren't good enough anymore.

The ironic thing in all of this, as Barbara pointed out, is that they are using the old, traditional system to teach her the ways of the new system.  She sits and reads and then fills out her books. It's funny that they are teaching her new ways of learning through the old method.  I guess these things take time. It's a system and systems are called systems for a reason.

This all reminded me that it takes time for change.  Systems, and people for that matter, are pretty stubborn things.  It takes patience to mould and make them into something new.  I would say that there are a lot of systems in the world that are in need of reformation.  In fact, I think that it would be a good thing for everyone to seek out a system, something that needs "a new paint job" so to speak, and give some effort into help shaping it into something new.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Compact Disks in the Matrix

A few months back, Barbara and I  decided that it would be cool to have CDs in our car. Remember those? We got a few from a friend and a couple more from a garage sale. They are themselves an activity.

And I'm not talking about having a CD case in there. I'm talking about having a stack of CDs in their original cases piled neatly between the seats. We choose one, click it out of its little clasp, and the player munches it up.

"What's this song called?"

Barbara grabs the case, flips it over and reads off track #8.



The boys in the back get to contribute.

"Dad, is this rock and roll?"

"No, Miles. This one is Jazz."

"What's Jazz?"

"It's got soft drums and a lot of horns. Not too much singing."

The best part about the whole thing is that the player doesn't work very well. It grabs the disk and spins with it continuously. The only way to get it to break out of its funk is to slam your hand on the dash overtop of it. Amazing, right? Just like Biff Tannon back in the 50's.

Slam it once or twice and you've got tunes!

In conclusion, I am promoting this practice.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The punching bag of Faith

Donald Miller has always been someone that I pay attention too.  His books are thinkers, leading the reader to struggle with questions rather than being presented with 12 easy steps to the answers.  If we're honest, life is a struggle.  Walking through each day, trying to be good, trying to walk humbly each moment, is a complete struggle.

In this way, I have appreciated his honesty.  Some sort of disgruntled fan once asked him how he would feel if his biggest struggles and temptations were made known to the world.  I can't quite remember the context, but the person seemed to be embarrassed by something Miller has said.  The fan tried to turn the tables on Miller.  How would that make him feel?  Well, Miller responded by mentioning that they are all in his books, and for good measure, he named his biggest temptations all right there on Twitter for all to see.  I liked the way he defused the situation with honesty.

This past week I came across this blog post

It's a good read.  It touches on an issue I've been thinking about for quite some time.  Truth is a complex thing, and it is the trump card for a lot of arguments and disagreements.  The final say seems to be just saying "Truth", and noting that it's with a capital "T" seems to help a lot as well.

Of course, what comes into question at the same time is doubt.  A lot of people hate the word.  It is often referred to as a stumbling block for seekers, and a heretical backslide for Christian believers.

Someone once said that the opposite of Faith isn't doubt, it's certainty.  Doubt goes along with Faith.  If I don't doubt anything, then I am certain of it and, by definition, I don't have to have Faith in it at all.

Then there is this Ricky Gervais tweet response.



I like the guy.  He's hilarious, and I like that he's not afraid to punch it out with Christians that try so hard to defend their own Faith.  They feel threatened by him, and I think that's what he's going for.  The critic tries to corner him and Gervais' response is genius, not to mention in line with what he's been arguing all along:  I can't prove God's real, so I don't believe in him.

Christians have been trying for a long, long time to prove that God exists.  There are a lot of scientific/detective books that have come out that like to try to have the final say.  But, is that what God is all about?  Is he just waiting for us to spell it all out for everyone?  Is the mystery solved?  Game over?

Is the whole truth of God in the Bible?  If we just look hard enough?  As Miller suggests, it would be pretty sad if we knew all there is to know about it already.  It is mysterious, and the dark glass is still pretty darn dark.  Is that okay?  I think so.

We can call God a father, but he's not a man.  He's God.  Jesus is a man and God, which is another mysterious truth in itself.  Is Heaven paved with gold or is gold the closest word we have to describe the beauty of eternity?  I tend to believe that God has stooped down into our human terms so that we could somehow grasp at some sort of meaning of describing him.  He probably thinks it's cute.

Both Miller and Gervais come at the issue of Truth with the same thing; honesty.  It's a trait that screams truth.  If you struggle with something, be honest about it.  Hiding behind "because the bible says so" isn't strengthening your Faith.  Doubt strengthens Faith because it gives it something to wrestle with.  In a way, it's like a punching bag in Faith's gym.  It's good for you.

Too cheesy?  Sorry about that.

I know that most Christians have doubts, but they are too scared to talk about them.  At the very least, they know that they don't have it all figured out yet, but it's too convenient to answer with "Truth".  In many cases, honesty will speak love because it makes you vulnerable.  Vulnerability is great because it is genuine, real, and true.  It opens you up to others, and in turn opens them up to you.  For most people, this is where the conversation will start.  Yet, getting to the start is often the hardest thing to do.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Summer Sizzle pt. 2

Firstly, my boys are having a great month of development.  Jonas is confident with his less than perfect English, which is a joy for all around to hear.  He is also taking swimming lessons for 2 weeks and he is making "great strides" in that area.  I am told that he can hold his head under water and even jump off of the low diving board.  Jonas is also able to do this!



Miles is also swimming.  Witnesses have told me that he his able to swim under water for 2 meters at a time.  Miles has also been riding his bike around the camp, but seems to me more interested in this:


Barbara has also done some nice things.  She challenged the first year exam for her Early Childhood Development diploma.  She achieved a high enough score to by-pass 18 courses and will start on the remaining 6 in a few weeks.  She is a great hero of mine.

Most of this fun is being had while I am working.  Actually, tomorrow my boys will go to their first movie theatre without me.  I am kind of sad about that, but also kind of happy that they can finally go experience the overpriced adventure with their mom and friends.

I am enjoying work.  I have great people around me.  I am on a computer a lot, which is not very good for me, but I wear my glasses more often these days, so that is good.

I hope that your summer is going well.  For the first time in a while I am understanding how difficult it can be to make time to hang out with loved ones. I am working on that.  It needs to be scheduled, even.  I hope that you can take up the responsibility and challenge to do the same with yours.


Monday, July 15, 2013

miserable suckers

An interesting thing about people is that we are guarded.  We walk around with imaginary walls to keep out whatever might come our way.  This means that our lives are full of chit chat and how ya doin'.  Small talk isn't a completely evil thing, but I think that there is at least a little evil in it.

The strange thing is that most of us like other people.  Walking around with our walls and chit chat, we are a bunch of lonely suckers.  This is irony, right?  We've only got a a half dozen decades here and we're spending most of it worried about what other people think of us while they're thinking about what we think of them.

The tragic thing is that we all know this.  We all know that the other guy thinks the same things as us, wants the same interaction and depth as us, feels the same hurts as us.  We know it all.  If we look close enough we'll see it in the other's eyes when we fluff on about shallow things.  We know all this, and yet we let this ironic story unfold again and again.  We hit blips of wholeness, trust, and community, but most of the time we trudge through the day with a burden of miserable loneliness on our back.  This burden is a like a sack of rocks.  A bag of useless coal.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

This writing space.

I came back to this today.  I haven't fed it anything for almost two months.  This thing was my security blanket in China.  It taught me how to write.  Taught me how to love it.

As I look up on that long lineup of people waiting in line to go look at the pickled chairman I am thinking that maybe it's time to turn over a new leaf.  I'm not living there anymore.  My mind is there once in a while, but my body is sitting right here in this Canadian chair.

I plan on writing a long review on my time in China.  In fact, it's already in the works.  I was thinking of completing it, giving it a title, and calling it a book.  I might do that.  But another idea I have is releasing the chapters one at a time on here.  I just might do that instead.

The main thing to remember, and it's something I didn't spend enough time thinking about, is that writing a review on my time in China is a really freaking hard thing to do.




Thursday, April 18, 2013

Wisdom

I work at a camp.  It's a large facility, and as the summer approaches we are seeing more a more staff come in.  We all gather at the staff table for breakfast every morning, and these days there are over 25 of us in all.

I've worked at this camp on and off since I was 17.  My parents work here and I have often found favor in being able to get a job in such a great environment.

When I was 17 I worked maintenance with an elderly man named Werner.  Werner is from Germany.  He came to Canada many years ago, moving to a farm near the camp.  I have always enjoyed working with Werner because he is such a great source for knowledge.  Not only would he teach me things about tractors and things, he also did it with a witty sense of humor.  One day, back when I was 17, I had left one of the ride-on lawn mowers out at night.  It had rained that night and, when we came to it in the morning it wouldn't start.  Without missing a beat he told me that, "There are 2 things you should never leave outside at night; your wife and your tractor."  He was funny, but serious at the same time.  I've never forgotten that moment and I don't think I ever will.

Werner has a great command of the English language, but has a strong German accent that we've all grown to love.  When telling you that you've done a good job he will say, "Good Yop!"

Another time, Werner and some of the other people at camp replaced the transmission on one of the tractors.  The process involved literally splitting the body in half to get at the old part and replace it.  Once they were finished, one of the other men took it for a spin.  He came back with a big smile.  "Runs like new!"  To which Werner replied, "Just because you give the grandma the steroids doesn't mean she can have the baby."

Brilliant.

14 years later and Werner still comes out to camp a couple of days a week.  He has been faithful with the time and the things he has, donating a lot towards the camp, including the tractor from the story above.  I always listen to what he says because he's worthy of my attention.  And even though I'm much more mature than when I was 17, I still listen.

That day at breakfast, my boys were fussing about the eggs they had to eat.  I tell them all the time that they need to eat the food they are given, even telling them that a lot of children don't have anything to eat at all.  But what does that mean to a 3 and 5 year old?  It's hard for them to understand such a thing, and I am gracious and patient towards them for it.

That day, I let it go.

So when Miles had finished his toast and sausages and oranges, and after I had argued with him about the eggs and finally came to an agreement ("Just take a bite of them, then you can be finished".)  I told him that he could throw them away in the big garbage cans by the dish area.

The cooks always have to throw out food.  We have groups here this Spring, some of them numbering well over 200 people, and you can never get the right amount of food made.  So, in the end, a lot of the stuff that won't last a few days is thrown out.  Miles took his dish over to the bin and dumped the pile of eggs in.

Later in the day, as I was walking to the shop, I saw Werner packing up his van for the drive home.  He came over to me, and this is what he said.

"Brett, when I see your boy, your son not eating the food he is given, it makes me think.  It makes me remember the times when, during the war, we kids did not have enough to eat.  We starved.  We were very blessed to have anything at all to eat.  So when I see these good things on his plate and thrown in the trash I can't help but think that this is sin.  I think that this is the parent's responsibility to make sure that the child takes just enough food.  Then later, if he needs more, you get him some.  But this waste, it makes me think of the times when we did not have things to eat."

At first, I felt the urge to defend myself.  I tell Miles this sort of thing all the time, but he just doesn't listen.  And usually we will make him eat everything on his plate.  Werner just seemed to catch me on the wrong day.

But I swallowed that urge down and listened to him.  I felt awful.  I felt bad for the way we do things.  I felt shameful that Werner needs to be reminded of this kind of thing when he comes out to serve at camp.

And the things he said weren't said in a mean way.  They were said with a sadness, just how any of us should feel when we stare directly at the consumption and waste we plow through each day.

I told Werner I was sorry and that I'd work harder at teaching Miles and Jonas this kind of thing.

Before supper that night I got the boys together and showed them a picture of some little kids during WWII.  It wasn't a shocking photo of starving children, just a picture of a group of kids standing around in dirty clothes, some of them without shoes, that kind of thing.  I told them the story that Werner told me, about how he lived and what he survived.  They said they understood, but I knew that it still wasn't a big deal to them.  I can't blame them, of course; they're too young to grasp that kind of thing.  We went to the cafeteria and they ate all of their food this time.

It was a valuable lesson for me.  I will remember it every time I tire of teaching my kids the value of things.

The one thing about this that made me think is that these treasures like Werner aren't going to be around forever.  If we keep letting our kids get away with things and if we feed them sugar, fat, and Playstations every day then they're probably not going to grow up thinking that things have a whole lot of value.

We've become soft, and we're making soft kids so that they can grow up to be soft people like us.

I am thankful for Werner.  I am thankful for his wisdom. He survived WWII.  His family literally escaped there just in time.  And he lives near me now and works along side me.  It is a privilege to have him around and I am determined to take what he says to heart and apply it to my life as much as I can.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Gitzel Update from the countryside of Canada

It's been almost four months since we arrived back in Canada. The truth is that time hasn't flown by. Four months seems just about right. A lot has been happening around here.

The first thing to say is that the timing of everything worked out well. We got to spend a lot of time with Barbara's dad and her family all the way up until his passing in December. I recall a moment in the hospital, probably 2 weeks before he passed. We had the boys there and we all said goodbye to him for the day. By that time he had not been very responsive to people; mostly just laying down and watching the people and things going on around him. That day, as we were leaving for the day, he was sitting up at the edge of his bed. As I said goodbye he looked up and winked at me. I smiled at him and somewhere in there we made a connection. One last joke for the son-in-law. Something I'll take along with me, that's for sure.  He was a great father-in-law.

I can't say that those days are distant memories. It will be a long year for Barbara, her sisters and her mom without their man. He will be missed. Along the way, the girls will have the solid foundation of love that their mom and dad started so long ago. The girls have each other, and that's much more than most people can say.

January was full of a lot of different activities.  The main highlight was when Barbara and I went down to Washington to visit the Wilsons and dabble in a bit of China processing. We put that on hold all through December, so it was nice to process things with the wise Wilsons. We also had a good time with their boys; playing football by the water, building a stick fort, and watching them tear up the skate park. Jeff and Carrianne cooked delicious for us. We eat delicious, and it was amazing. We owe them some Canadian hospitality whenever they can take a break from their busy, selfless lives.

February came and a bit of normalcy arrive with it. I started my job out at Camp Nakamun. My official title is Program Director, but really, its been a lot of everything so far. Thus is the life out at camp. I handle summer registrations, staff applications, some interviews, organize the video material, answer questions on the phone, set up sound systems, straighten out the website, and shovel snow once in a while. It's a busy, active job where I work with a lot of great people in preparation for hiring 40 or so more great people for the upcoming summer.

Barbara has found a lot of things to do. She's teaching preschool at the local school down the road from camp. She'll also be working on a diploma in Early Childhood Development.

Miles goes to Kindergarten and Jonas attends the preschool. They both act out here and there; not quite settled in to Canada life. Can't really blame them with all of the changes going on.

We're hoping to be out at camp for at least a year or so. That might depend on how much work they have for me when the slow season rolls around again next winter. We'll cross that bridge when we get there.

As far as integrating back into Canada, Barbara mentioned that being out in the countryside helps a lot. The city is full of a lot of noise and static. The countryside is quiet and patient with us. We're thankful for it and its healing work in our souls.

The photos shown here tell a little bit about the last few months. Take a look.  Click on them for a closer look.

Thanks for reading.

Grocery Shopping in comfort and style


Miles Canadian pose


The Wilsons cooking up some delicious


Miles first day of Canadian Kindergarten


On the lake


Hockey and ice fishing


Our new car


Bedtime stories at the cottage


Jonas the movie star


Our home at camp; cottage #10

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Status

Some people turn in Facebook statuses that read like Oscar acceptance speeches.

"I'd like to thank @jamie and @philip for being with me at #hipaurant for the consumption of the burger I ate that's the focal point of the photo I am attaching."

"Great weekend! Couldn't have done it without my best friend, @squirrlythedog and the great folks at Universal."

At first, it was kind of amusing when people did this sort of "public thanking ritual" every other day.

It's your daughter's birthday? Well, that's nice. She's too young to read but I'm sure that she still appreciates the Facebook shout out.

Some people seem to go to concerts and events strictly for the Instagram opportunities.

Making fun of yourself for not knowing how to use hash tags is the new way to use hash tags.

After all of these years, many of us still seem to forget that hundreds of random "friends" must have their eyes ambushed with every little thought that comes to our minds.

Can we call Facebook an addiction if everyone is addicted to it? Would alcoholism still exist if we were all continuously drunk?

In all of this I am reminded of my own social sins. It takes daily reminders to remember that I am not the centre of the world and that everyone else strongly agrees with that fact.

Lets all take a deep breath and stop trying to stroke our egos with so much white noise. Limit your status updates. Unfriend people you don't really know. Focus in on a bit of life. Communicate with your community. You are not Bono. You are not Oprah. Downsize your marketing campaign and focus in on the voters that matter; close family, real friends, and the neighbours that will only listen to you when you step over to their yard and knock on their wooden door.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Mountains

A young man found himself walking down a country road.  In the distance, he could see the mountains.  The presence and splendor of the distant peaks called him forth.  The young man picked up his pace.

Eventually, as he walked along, the man could see an object moving towards him from the brightness of the mountains.  It flickered in and out of the distance.  It grew with every passing moment.  The young man stopped, squinting at the object as it grew in size as it neared.  Eventually, the object enveloped the whole of the brightness, like blotting out the sun.  And it was at this moment that the young man knew that this strange object was not a beast to be feared or an ever growing tree or a plant of some sort, but the body of a man moving closer and closer to the him as it walked down the road.

At last, the stranger came along side the young man.  He was very old.  Though the old man was no longer walking in the beam of the light from the distant mountains, his body still radiated their brilliance.  The young man looked over the old man, who appeared to have been on his journey for many days, returning from the mountains.  His shoes were worn through to his feet and his clothing hung off of him like rags.

"Greetings, Old man,"  said the young man.  "what did you see in those mountains?'

All at once, the old man's frail, withered face drew itself up into the eyes of the young man.  The young man drew back a step, startled by the life that he could see in this withered carrier.  Life so new it scared him.  It poured out of his eyes like water on fire.  Fresh, watery tears stained the creases in his face all at once.  As far as the young man could see, he was not crying in the way one would normally cry.  Aside from the tears, the old man seemed perfectly content.

"I'm sorry, old man, but why is it that you have tears without any sorrow?"

The old man's mouth moved up on it's edges and smiled at the young man.

"What is it you saw, there in the mountains?"  The young man asked again.

The old man finally broke his silence.

"I haven't seen anything in those mountains."

The young man furrowed his brow.

"Oh, so you are not coming from there?  Then where, may I ask, are you coming from?"

"Oh, make no mistake, it is from those mountains that I am traveling.  Though, to say that I saw anything at all would be a lie.  For it was not with my eyes that I experienced those mountains.  My eyes are but new gifts, for the journey."

The young man scratched at his head, confused as to what the old man was talking about and if, in fact, the old man had gone too long without rest.  Long enough to conjure up such confused speech.

"Old man, might you take rest with me for a while in the shade of these trees?"

"Oh, no thank you.  I must be getting back soon."

"Oh?  so soon?  To the mountains?  Then why did you come this way?"

 "Well, to greet you, of course."

"What do you mean?  What's in those mountains?  What will I see?  Who will be there to greet me?"

The old man smiled again and shook his head while rolling his raw foot over some stones on the path.

"Young man, if only I could explain to you in words what you will never use words to explain.  I can only tell you that seeing, touching, tasting, hearing, and smelling will be of no use to you there.  For to experience things there you will be given a new way, new ways of experience.  I even question whether or not you will experience anything at all, though you will of course experience so much and more than mere experience could ever offer."

"Old man, I am honored that you would be willing to walk along with me, but I am afraid that I cannot understand what you are trying to tell me."

The two travellers turned and started in the direction of the mountains.

"Young man, do you know what water feels like?"

"Well, of course I do.  Though, its texture varies depending on what state it is in."

"Yes, that is true.  But in those mountains, it is not.  Water is water in those mountains.  If you could feel water in those mountains, then I could tell you simply that you could.  But you can't, for you have no need for feeling there.  What I can tell you is that experiencing this essence of life in those mountains does not change or vary depending on what state it is in.  It is only in these ways that I can communicate to you what things are like in those mountains."

"Water is water?"

"Exactly."

The young man thought about these words for a few minutes, trying to take the man seriously to see if there is any truth of sense in what he is saying.

"Sir, are those mountains Heaven?"

The Old man could see confusion in the Young man's eyes.

"Let me put it this way.  What we were talking about a moment ago: the five senses.  Where did they come from?"

"Why, from the creator, of course."

"Right.  Can you tell me why he made these things this way?"

"Yes, so that we could experience the world around us.  So we could live."

"Right.  Now, what about Time; where did it come from?"

"I would say the same thing.  The creator created time for us to live in.  He himself exists outside of time."

"Yes.  And you know where else He exists?"  The old man raised his arm and pointed towards the mountains.

"So, you're saying that those mountains are without time and and without senses?"

"Well, in a way, yes.  But also, it would not be complete for me to say just that.  The truth is that time is not needed there.  Senses are for experiencing, and in the mountains, we experience everything in much greater and fantastic ways."  The old man stopped and turned to face his companion.  "In the mountains, we exist in eternity for eternity.  The clock still ticks, but it goes in the direction of perfection and it goes on and on for eternity.  And, in a way, it's already arrived.  As for the senses, to say that one could experience of what a friendship, what love feels like, it's actual taste and texture, would be false, but not far off of what it's really like."

"What friendship feels like?  Well, that doesn't make any sense.  Please, explain it to me one more time."

The old man smiled and nodded.  He took a moment to remove what was left of his shoes, deciding to go the rest of the way without them.

"Young man, only now will you begin to understand what things are like over there.  Walk with me towards the mountains and along the way you will understand even more."

The young man placed his hand on the old man's shoulder.

"I am sorry, I cannot go with you any further.  Thank you for your company, but as for now, I must stop and sit down under the shade of these trees to figure these things out.  Only then, when I have understanding, will I be able to continue on towards those mountains."

The old man looked around them, at the trees, and the pond of cool water that sat beneath them.

"Son, I am afraid that the shade only hides you from the radiance of the mountains.  Please, walk with me and let the sun do what it was created to do."

"Oh, I will one day make it to the mountains.  Yet, as for now, what you tell me I cannot understand.  I will wait for guidance and direction."

The old man took the young ones hand and shook it.  "So be it, friend.  May you find what you are looking for, in mercies, as you sit and shade yourself from the glory."

The old man turned and walked back towards the mountains.  The young man stood there, in a daze, with his hand open.  He watched the old man walk slowly into the light.  As he grew further away, his pace seemed to pick up until... could it be?  It looked as if he was sprinting back into the mountains, running until he could no longer be seen at all.  At once, the young man walked over to the trees and sat down under the tallest one.  He crossed his legs, pressed his hands together, closed his eyes and prayed:

"God, I wait on you.  Please give me clarity into these things.  Please give me understanding, and please, oh please, next time you send someone to teach me, please let me understand them completely so that I know that what they say is true.  I will now wait here until you send me clarity and direction; that someone will come to guide me into the truths of the mountains.  I will not set one foot on that path until you, in your infinite wisdom, tell me to."

He sat under the tree and prayed until he became old.  Eventually, he took some of the branches from the trees and built himself a home.  He used the water from the pond to boil and cook leaves and plants that he could eat.  He quite enjoyed the place, and yet, spent every evening praying for guidance.

Over many years, the man became lonely.  He assumed that other travellers would come along the road and stop by to visit.  But no one came.

With the passing of the years, the man grew older, and as it happens with age, he also grew wiser.  One day, deep in prayer, the man realized what he needed to do.  He stood up and walked to the road.  He looked up into the mountains, which were greater and brighter than ever, and he breathed in a great big breath of air.  The warmth of the sun wrapped around his body like clothing.  Carefully, he took off his worn out shoes and began his steps toward the mountains.  Suddenly, the old man heard a noise from the road coming up behind him.

"Old man,"  Shouted a young traveller.  "What's there, over in those mountains?"

The old man turned his aging body around and looked on the young man.

"I don't know, but it sure is good to see you again."