Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Blue Sky Day

Once every couple of months our executive staff have what we call a “Blue Sky Day” (this one actually happened on a day when there was blue sky!).

On these full days, we meet at Susan’s and my home to talk about church stuff – my favorite topic. We discuss our staff needs, our building expansions and plans, compare calendars, plan special days and generally have a good time together.

This time we got to talking about our plans to expand and remodel both of our campuses for a variety of reasons. We’re in a growth season and we must make room for our added family members. Churches, being dynamic rather than static, grow like gardens. There are budding seasons, blossom and fruitful seasons, pruning seasons and winter seasons. Each period of time is both necessary and right in the process of life. We must first be aware of what season we are in and secondly respond appropriately to the need of the moment.

Just like in our family dynamics there are many seasons. A single person moves away from home, gets married, have babies, babies grow into children and then teenagers, and ultimately they leave home and mom and dad have an empty nest. Then hopefully grandchildren come etc. Each season in our life demands an appropriate response. The key is listening to the Holy Spirit to know when, how, where and why we should do what we’re doing.

That’s why praying together is an important part of our Blue Sky Day agenda. After all the listening, talking, planning is done; we go and celebrate our future by having lunch together.

Can you imagine a better job?


Friday, February 24, 2006

Robin Hood in Church?

Well life at 59 is pretty good so far! I’ve only been at it for 2 days, but it feels much the same as 58! There are many advantages to getting older.

Because the kids have moved out and are happily married, Susan and I have more private time together. Even when we’re busy, the time that we spend at home together is much more personal.

Grandchildren, as Solomon wrote (he must have had a few hundred of them) are a blessing from the Lord. We can care for our 6 grandchildren, love them, play with them and send them home again. I remember a poem I heard years ago that I enjoyed (but Susan doesn’t agree with it).

“I’ve seen the lights of Paris
I’ve seen the lights of Rome
But the lights I like the best of all
Are the tail light of our children going home!”

There’s also (hopefully) an increase of wisdom, which flows from years of experiences. Mostly bad experiences- we learn more readily from failure than success.

And for me, it took about 50 years to really understand and move into my life purpose. I guess that understanding not only evolves, but our purpose changes from decade to decade. At my age now, it seems easier to focus on that purpose. I’m hoping that the next 15-20 years will be my most productive as I learn to discern kingdom priorities and set appropriate boundaries.

I received a few presents for my birthday, which I really appreciate. Pobably my favorite was Kelly’s letter to me on my blog. A couple of others I loved were a book from a dear friend called, “What I Learned from God While Gardening.” It’s so good I wish I’d written it myself!

Another couple whom I deeply value as friends had 10 fruit trees planted in Africa in my name. Wow! I was so touched by their thought-full gift. It was a great birthday! Thank you for your blog comments and well-wishes.

This week our church has been presenting the comedy drama, “The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood.” I am so very pleased with the gifting of our Director of Arts, Maureen Reid, and how she inspires dozens of actors and workers to fulfill her godly and passionate vision. The play has been the result of months of dedication and work of a whole troop of volunteers.

Merry Men (Opening Scene)

Robin and Marion Meet

Robin is Captured

I’ve been asked why our church would produce a secular, rather than a Christian drama, so this is a good place to articulate some philosophical values that we hold.

  1. We serve a happy God, as Paul wrote to his son Timothy. God likes to have fun – we know that from the parties he expected his people to throw in celebration of the holy days. This play is a great place for people to come, be entertained and have some good clean fun.

  2. God created the arts. I love how Maureen leads our church in the celebration of the gifts of art all around us. Whether it is in musical choirs, kids concerts, art shows (including sculpture, paintings, sketches and carvings), cooking and eating (my favorite), dance or drama; there are hundreds of gifts of art that God has given which need to be enjoyed. For us as leaders, success is helping as many people as possible use their gifts to point people to God.

  3. One of the under-girding values of our church is small groups. We call any group of 4-10 people serving in the community a small group. It could be a baseball or soccer team, kid’s church class, leadership council, ushers group, sewing circle, Alpha table, Bible study group, sewing circle, or a drama troupe.

  4. Our goal is to help people move from the outside circle to the inner three circles. Adherents are all those who attend Northside Church (regularly or irregularly) but who do not participate.

    Prospective Believers is a group of people who do not yet attend any church and who are maybe not yet believers. My hope is that everyone who is part of our church family is praying for 4-5 friends or family members to be part of our church (or another church). That outer circle has about 8000 people in it!

    The Robin Hood play is a great place to invite one of those 8000 people to see the church in action – maybe to help remove their preconceived ideas of a church being boring or irrelevant or uncaring.

  5. We want everyone to know and experience the love of God. We believe God’s intention is that every person in our world would receive his love, acceptance and forgiveness, whether those in the outside circle read about what we are doing in the local paper, or come and see for themselves; whether they first are introduced to the church through Alpha, boxing club, hockey or a drama, that to me is exciting!

  6. Thankfully our drama team has chosen to designate all the proceeds of this play to Missionary outreach (The Northside food bank). Thank God that every $12.00 we give to missions translates to one more soul finding Jesus as their Saviour.

So thank-you Maureen for leading us, those who constructed our sets and painted the scenery, who helped with lights and sound, who sewed the magnificent costumes, took pictures and video, served in the concession or welcomed guests, did secretarial work, decorated and picked up supplies! What a great success we see when scores of gifted people faithfully use their gifts, time, expertise, energy and love for God’s glory.

Bless you one and all – we love the play!


    Thursday, February 23, 2006


    This puzzle was given to me by a CPC colleague. She tells me that it was written by a woman in California in response to a man in Philadelphia who offered a thousand dollars to anyone who could write a puzzle that he could not solve.

    According to the story he was not able to solve it and he paid the money.

    Can you solve it? The only clue is that the answer is one word and it appears just four times in the Bible (King James Version). If you figure it out, let me know.

    Adam, God made out of dust, but thought it best to make me first,
    So I was made before man to answer God’s most holy plan.
    A living creature I became and Adam gave to me my name,
    And from his presence I then withdrew, and more of Adam never knew;
    And did my maker’s law obey, and never went from it astray,
    Thousands of miles I go in fear but seldom on the earth appear.
    For purpose wise, which God did see, He put a living soul in me.
    A soul from me God did reclaim, and took from me the soul again.
    So when from me the soul had fled I was the same as when first made,
    I labour hard by day and night; to fallen men I give great light,
    Thousands of people, young and old, will by my death great light behold.
    No right, no wrong can I conceive; the scripture I cannot believe.
    Although my name is therein found, they are to me an empty sound.
    No fear of death doth trouble me, real happiness I never see.
    To heaven I shall never go, or even to the hell below,
    Now when these lines you slowly read, or search your Bible with all speed,
    For that my name is written there, I do honestly to you declare!
    WHO AM I?

    And in case you are wondering, I am NOT giving away a thousand dollars if you can solve it!


    Wednesday, February 22, 2006

    Another Important Birthday - February 22, 1947

    [Note: This blog was not hacked, although this post was not written by Dr. Buzza and he has no knowledge of it. This special post was written by his eldest daughter, Kelly.]

    Dear Dad,

    In honour of your birthday I wanted to thank you for the amazing imprint that you have left on my life so far, and for continuing to bless my life now.

    Having a loving, caring and always present father has helped mould me into the person that I am. I cannot even think of a time in my life when you were unavailable to me. I still remember all the times when, in my shyness, I hid behind your legs in uncomfortable social situations.

    I can recall many trips to Disneyland where you would carry Kristy or I up on your shoulders for hours at a time. I could never begin to count all the Saturdays you would enthusiastically play Monopoly for up to 8 hours! I really thought I was great at board games. I didn’t know that you often let me win just to build my confidence.

    Dad, you were always physically present and just ’in’ all my great childhood memories. You were also the kind of Dad who was always there to answer confusing questions. We thought you knew everything because you continually took time to answer any question, we could ask, in a really impressive and confident way. Now I know that confidence doesn’t always mean factual, but it was nice to think I had the smartest dad around!!

    Even as a teenager I knew I could go to you with any question or situation and you would give me loving, truthful, and helpful advice without judgment. If I ever called you, no matter where you were or what you were doing, I knew that I came first. I could drop in at work and all your attention turned to me. I could walk outside while you were busy mowing the lawn, and you would turn of the mower to talk.

    Now that I am a mom, it is really amazing to look back and realize that it is very much all the tiny little things in a kid’s life that add up to create a confident, well adjusted person. I really could never even come close to measuring all the wonderful ways you, along with mom, helped guide my life. I just have to say thanks dad, for all the fun times, happy memories and great fatherly advice.

    Thank you for being my Dad, a nurturing Papa to my children and a caring pastor. I love you and am so proud of all that you have become. You are a person of amazing integrity and you really are worthy of all the admiration that each of us have for you.

    I consider you a wonderful gift from God.

    Love Kelly

    Tuesday, February 21, 2006

    A Day at the Office

    People wonder… “What does a pastor do all day?” I guess the assumption is that we only have to preach for 30-40 minutes a week, so life must be pretty rosy for us pastors.

    The fact is, life is good, but I’ll let you follow in my footsteps for one day, so that you can get a glimpse of my work. Last Friday was pretty typical.

    I’m up at about 6:00 a.m. to prepare for my Synoptic Gospels class at PLBC. After ablutions, I sit in my home office to read, study, pray and prepare a three hour lesson for my class of 32 students. The class was about the way that Jesus trained his 12 disciples, (with application to our own leadership development), and about how he led people into a relationship with the Father. It’s a very interesting subject about how Jesus actually got his followers to be “born again.” I think that the students were surprised that He never had an alter call and never led them in the “sinner’s prayer.”

    In the car at 8:00 a.m., I usually stick on a tape with teaching on it -- I love listening to sermons, courses or whatever I can find, while I drive. On Friday my lesson was on the Jewish covenants. From 8:45 to 12:15 I lectured and talked with students about Jesus’ model of leadership and evangelism. I walked away with about three hours of paperwork to mark.

    On the way back to the office, I stopped at the hospital to visit a woman from our church, who was in for a short stay. Usually I can make 3 or 4 phone calls in the car. Back at the office by 1:30, I talked with the secretaries about Sunday and other projects they were working on, made a couple of other phone calls and prepared for my first session.

    A young couple, I’m getting to know and love, are planning to get married. As always, I’d assigned them homework and so we talked about their upcoming marriage for the hour we were together. The time went almost too fast. My secretary called and said my next appointment was here and waiting.

    My 3:00 p.m. meeting was with a dear friend and pastor who’d been suffering from some personal failures and needed someone to talk with. We try to meet regularly and he makes himself accountable to me and others in his journey back to wholeness.

    I had a problem by 4:00 p.m. session. Two appointments came at the same time. With 2 church offices and 3 secretaries, double ups sometimes happen. So I spoke with the one lady first. She had come to church with a friend and heard about the love of Father God and wanted to pursue a relationship with God. I loved listening to her. She knew she needed help, but how could she entrust her life to a God whom she didn’t know? Good question.

    I talked with her, got to know her a bit, gave her some homework and made another appointment. I’m looking forward to our next dialogue. I love the miracle of a new birth – especially the spiritual, eternal kind.

    The other visit was with two people (and a third who came for support) who were working through a prickly relationship issue. Our talk went much better than they’d hoped. Both of them went away pleased with what we’d talked about and some homework. I usually give work for people to do – it shows me how serious they are, and also helps the person(s) grow through their issues.

    By 6:00 p.m. I was home with my beautiful wife and we were ready to spend the evening cooking and preparing for Susan’s mom’s 90th party on Saturday (see previous post about that celebration!).

    So, that's an average day for me.


    Sunday, February 19, 2006

    Happy 90th Birthday, Mom!

    February is a busy month of celebrations for us -- of course, with the large family we have, every month is rather busy celebrating one thing or another. But of particular importance is the celebration of my wife's mother's 90th birthday. Both Susan and I wanted to express our love and appreciation for all she has done for us:

    Dear Mom,

    Thank you for being the perfect mother-in-law. I remember the first time we met at the impromptu 20th birthday party that Linda and Susan put on for me. I knew you were a winner that night when you went to bed and left this 20 year old stallion alone with your 15 year old daughter!

    Among the many things about you that keep me in awe and admiration is your acute ability to rise above difficult circumstances and overcome them. If anyone has come from an adverse and difficult childhood—you have. Your mom was a challenge to say the least, you really had no father; your family was poor economically; you had no spiritual or social guidance and no encouragement—yet you did not only survive, you excelled.

    Like good King Josiah, who followed in the blasphemous footsteps of an evil father and grandfather, and still managed to be one of Judah’s most successful kings, so you have trod through a similarly muddy past, and yet have become the very model of a successful mother and mother-in-law. As King Lemuel wrote about his mom:

    “Strength and dignity are her clothing
    And she smiles at the future
    She opens her mouth in wisdom,
    And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue
    She looks well to the ways of her household,
    And does not eat the bread of idleness
    Her children rise up and bless her…
    Many daughters have done nobly,
    But you excel them all….
    Let her works praise her in the gates.”

    Mom, not only will the thousands of people whom you have blessed, greet you with honor and thanks in eternity for all of your kind and gracious works—but the greatest legacy you will leave in your long and protective shadow, will be your two beautiful daughters, your four strong and successful grandchildren and your ten promising great-grandchildren. For these gifts, who stand tall above your cheering fans, I am most grateful! I love you Mom.


    To the Best Mom in the World,

    I can’t believe you’re ninety years old. You’re the youngest, brightest ninety year old I’ve ever seen. I know it is because of your complete faith and trust in the Lord. You let Him worry about things instead of carrying those burdens yourself. It is no wonder that your whole family turns to you when we are in need. We all know that Mom/Gram will pray and get through!! I’m so thankful for all your prayers for your children while we were growing up. Thank you for praying for my future husband, you did well. Both of your daughters did well. It is hard to believe that you had only two daughters and now your family has turned into 4 children, 8 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren. What a heritage you have.

    Thank you for all the love you gave me. I’ll never forget the camping trip that you, Dad and I went on after dropping Nancy off at Bob’s parent’s home. What a hoot that was. Just you and I trying to put up that tent in the dark only to have it fall on top of us, and you and I collapse laughing while Dad fuming in the car. No wonder I’m a hotel person and not a camper to this day.

    Thank you also for being the best grandma to our children. You are loved so much by them. Barry and I were threatened many times that they were leaving home and going to live with Gram. You truly are the perfect Gram to our children and now our grandchildren. Wow!

    Mom, I want to tell you just how much I love you and appreciate everything you’ve sacrificed for me over the years. I know you worked to make sure Nan and I had “things” we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford, thank you for all the music lessons, taking us to Sunday School, cadets, VBS, youth, camps, etc. You not only took us, but taught to be with us. You’ve been such a perfect example of giving of yourself to your family, church and friends. Everywhere I go, people tell me how blessed I am to have you for my Mom. I know that and tell them I agree.

    I’m finding “ninety” such an emotional time for me. I know life doesn’t go on forever, and I can’t imagine life without my Mom. I look forward to hearing your cheery voice on the other end of the phone, and love knowing you’ll understand me and have an encouraging word for me, and what would I have done without you throughout the Breast Cancer and Depression years. Your prayers got me through. When you told me I’d be all right, I knew in my heart if my Mom said I’d be all right, then I would be because my Mom hears from the Lord.

    I thank you and love you from the bottom of my heart for being such a loving, giving and encouraging Mom throughout my whole life.

    All my love,

    Susan xoxoxox

    Tuesday, February 14, 2006

    My Valentine

    I still remember as if it were yesterday…

    My brother Dave and I were setting out by train across Canada to Montreal. From there we were to board the SS Corinthia II bound for Liverpool, England. Our plan was to motorcycle around Europe for the next three months. Dave and I were fully planning on being alone as we embarked on our trip, so we were delightfully surprised when a group of well wishers from our youth group showed up to say bon voyage. I can’t remember all who were there, because my attention was on a young blonde girl who was there with a mutual friend. Her name was Susan.

    A few months after Dave and I returned from our European tour, I was sitting on the front pew of our church during a Sunday evening youth emphasis service. There she was again. This time Susan was singing in a trio with her sister Nancy and our same mutual friend, Linda.

    I was star struck! Susan’s eyes sparkled when she sang and her whole body moved in synch with the song. Her voice was magnetic, and I couldn’t take my eyes off her for the several minutes that she was in front of me.

    After the service, I, with great apprehension worked up the courage to ask her if I could take her home. She agreed to the ride, but the young man who’d brought her didn’t. Strike one.

    It was a couple of months later that Linda, who was also a fellow student at Bible College (now called Pacific Life Bible College), asked me if I would come to the home where she was living for Chinese food. It was my twentieth birthday and so I agreed.

    I could hardly contain my excitement when I arrived after class, at Linda’s homestay family’s house and there was Susan. It was her home where Linda was living! The three of us had a great time celebrating my birthday, and I even got a birthday kiss from the beautiful young blonde as I left.

    Although I was twenty years old, I was still too shy to ask Susan out for a date, so I asked Linda if she would ask her for me. My hope was that she would go with me to a big youth event that next Saturday evening. Still not having even confirmed our date, I prepared to pick her up all Saturday afternoon.

    First I washed my 1965 Malibu SS, and then I began getting ready. Dressed in a brown suit and tie, Vitalis in my hair, Hi Karate on my cheeks, I was ready to pick up my beautiful young date. I was so nervous for our first date (one of the first in my life) so I had written down several things to talk about on a piece of paper which I'd tucked safely in my pocket.

    My date was everything I’d hoped. Wearing a camel coloured dress, hair well coiffed in a beehive, a gentle White Shoulders fragrance on her soft skin, Susan was radiant. I was surprised how easy she was to talk to and how fun our time was together. Susan made it so natural to share about myself and learn about her. She helped me press past my natural fears, and drew me into conversation with ease.

    After that night, it was simple for me to call and chat with my new girlfriend on the phone. I couldn’t think of anything or anyone else for weeks after we began dating. I don’t think there was a day that we didn’t see each other -- right up to our wedding two years later.

    Susan and I were engaged on February 14, 1968 and happily married on February 28, 1969. She has been the love of my life, my valentine, since that first time we shared Chinese dinner on February 21, 1967. I can’t imagine a more wonderful relationship than we’ve enjoyed over these past thirty-nine years.

    Thank you Lord for my perfect wife!

    Happy Valentine's Day, Susan. I love you.


    Sunday, February 12, 2006

    More About Mary's Book

    Mary V. Goddard will be at the Coquitlam campus (1460 Lansdowne Avenue) tomorrow morning (February 12, 2006) and at the Port Coquitlam campus (1477 Lougheed Highway) next Sunday (February 19, 2006) signing her newest book.

    If you can't attend the book signings, you can still order her books. Just call the church (604-942-1110) for information on how to obtain a copy.


    Thursday, February 09, 2006

    Wild Adventures in Fun and Faith

    Congratulations to my good friend Mary Goddard on the release of her second book, Wild Adventures in Fun and Faith. I met Mary in 1980 when she was widely known for her TV teachings on the Gifts of the Spirit. Mary was then the President of Christian Services Association (CSA) and was a popular circuit teacher on the Charismatic Movement. Her first book, Queen of Hearts (1980), which described here early years on the farm and her rise to fame was fun and easy to read. In her maturing years, Mary has not lost her zest for life, her sense of humour or her passion to see God move in her life.

    I was so honoured to have her visit our church several years ago and was humbled when she decided to stay and sit under my ministry. She has taught many classes and has helped hundreds of seekers move into the fullness of the Spirit both in our church and in other venues, over these last several years.

    I deeply value Mary’s friendship. She still serves as an elder on our staff. Read her book—you’ll learn about life while you are laughing about her true to life adventures with God and His church.


    P.S. To find out how to get your copy of this book, please e-mail me at drbarrybuzza@yahoo.ca.

    Wednesday, February 08, 2006

    From the Heights to the Depths

    The ministry that I share with hundreds of other leaders at Northside Church is quite distinctive. I wrote before about the significant contingent of Asians whom we enjoy as a vibrant part of our church personality. Last Saturday evening I spent a couple of hours with more than two hundred celebrants of the Lunar New Year at our Coquitlam campus. We ate real Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese and other national dishes until we were bulging and then enjoyed some wonderful Chinese style music featuring two of our members, James and Jane Yang and many of their students.

    I loved the variety of sounds and the beauty of their authentic Oriental instruments. There’s something very godly about the blending of cultures, with costumes, foods, language and decor that display the many colours and sounds of God’s family. Sam and Lily Ong (pictured below) do an awesome job of helping our different ethnic members feel welcomed and involved.

    But besides the uniqueness that our Asian members bring to our church family, we also have a large span of economic and social backgrounds in our mix. Because our Coquitlam campus has been built in a more prosperous neighbourhood, we have attracted a large group of financially secure members. Of course, we all recognize that there is as much dysfunction in the well-to-do as there is in those who struggle in their month to month existence, but there are also important life lessons that we can learn from both groups of people.

    I’m so thankful for every person who is part of our church. There’s not an adult or child who can’t teach me something, but for whatever reason, I find myself discovering a lot of life truths lately from those who’ve struggled more to get to where they are today.

    Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent more time than usual with men and women who’ve been working through their recovery from drugs and alcohol. Because my own upbringing has been devoid of both these vices, I’ve learned much about the world around me vicariously. Here’s a few life lessons my friends have taught me.

    Honesty – It’s so refreshing to me to either visit our Saturday evening recovery service or to sit in a counseling session with a young man or woman who is working their way up the 12 Steps. I’m pleasantly surprised over and over with their naked honesty about where they’ve been and where they are now.

    Healthy introspection – Was it Socrates who said “Know thyself?” Most of us don’t or at least we are slightly deceived about our own weaknesses or vulnerabilities. I find people in recovery know themselves well and therefore are aware of what are their triggers. If we know our triggers we can more carefully guard ourselves from failure.

    Humility – As wonderful as success is, it often breeds pride and self-sufficiency. Many of my friends in recovery have spent time on the streets or in jail; they’ve seen life at the bottom and only have one place to look—up!

    Open to God – Again, because of their overt failure, and being faced over and over with their weakness, they know they need God’s help. Paul wrote, “When I’m weak; then I’m strong.” That dependence on God is often forgotten when we get strong enough to stand on our own.

    Thankfulness – Because those in recovery have been without long enough, they seem to be very thankful for help from others. My perception is that feeling people are more vulnerable to pain, and therefore lean more toward medicating their pain with drugs or alcohol. But when they regain their sanity (as the 12 Steps puts it) their sensitivity, which was God-given in the beginning, returns. They more easily feel both the good and the bad. We, who seemingly have it all together, miss out on enjoying or being thankful for the little roses along the path of life.

    I’m sure there’s a lot more for me to learn from my friends. I look forward to every time we’re together.


    Saturday, February 04, 2006

    More Q&A

    Q. We are praying about going to the mission field. Since 1996, when a prophet of God prophesied that I would go abroad one day as a missionary, that call stays in my heart. Later, I got married and for more than 6 years my husband and I pastored a church but then the call is still there. For the past year both of us prayed for a mission opportunity. Please help us to know how we can start the work of the call in our hearts. We are really determined to do the task and willing to work. God Bless you and your family.

    A. Thank you for your e-mail. It’s difficult to communicate such an important subject via this public venue, but because I am often asked similar questions, I wanted to respond to this on my blog. Here are a couple of my thoughts:

    1. Be careful not to run your life by a prophesy. A prophesy should encourage and confirm what you already feel God is saying to you. As long as you and your husband both feel God’s call in your own spirits, the prophecy should serve to confirm your thoughts.

    2. I use Isaiah 30:15, 18-20 as a model. Your attitude must be (as in v. 15) repentance, rest, quietness and trust. Verse 20 says God is your teacher. The way life teaches us is through our experiences. We come to a fork in the road where we have a choice. Then we try something, we make a turn to the right or left. That’s when He speaks to us and says, “This is the way” or “This not the way”. We have to step out (such as applying for a visa or passport) and see what happens.

    3. Look for the Peace of God. When we go down the wrong path, we do not feel God’s peace. Don’t worry about making a wrong decision—we learn best through failure. Col. 3:15 and Isaiah 48:22 tell us that we have peace when we are on the right path and no peace when we are on the wrong path.

    4. Lastly, stay in harmony with your husband. You’ll need to walk out your call in agreement.

    Q. Today at work, the person that was replacing me while I was off, found out that I went to Northside church. She said, "Hey that is Barry Buzza's church. I like that man. I read his column every time. He makes a lot of good sense." She told me that she was an agnostic. She then asked me several questions and told me that she was raised Catholic. I tried to explain the difference and answers her questions but it was not easy. She really enjoys reading what you write. Way to go Barry!

    So my question is, can words put a curse or cause something not to happen? Can they extend the time frame of when or if a miracle is going to happen? For example, our family wants our prodigals [someone who has walked away from God] to return. We want that so badly and we want it NOW! Having a prodigal in one's life is not easy and weighs heavily on your heart. Our family tries to live and talk in a way that makes it easier to deal with. We try to see our children as if they were already serving God and we give credit to God for it. However at times, when the load we carry once again becomes too heavy to bear, positive words often change to a more negative way of speaking. For instant we might say, "It might never happen; it might not be in God's plan or in God's timing. We must learn to accept the inevitable."

    When these kinds of words are spoken, I tend to get upset and say, "Don't say those words, you just put a curse on the child and God won't be able to do his miracle."

    Is this way of thinking correct or am I totally out to lunch? I thought that there was something in the Bible that says that you can hinder or help God by the way you act, speak, live etc. Is this true? If so or if not, can you please explain it to me?

    A. Thanks for sharing the comments from your co-worker. You’ll never know how deeply I am strengthened by positive words – I appreciate your grace and kindness.

    In answer to your question, yes, I believe in the power of our words. Numbers 14 underscores the importance of using positive, godly words:

    1. The people of Israel complained about God’s plans to lead them into the giant occupied areas of Canaan – they wanted to go back to Egypt (bondage) rather than follow God wholeheartedly. So the Lord said to them (v. 20), “As I live, just as you have spoken in my hearing, so I will surely do to you.” They said they wished they could die and God answered, “Ok, you’ll die!”

    2. Moses prayed on behalf of his people that God would forgive them for their ignorant and selfish reprise. God reported to Moses (v. 20),“I have pardoned them according to your word.” Both Israel and Moses got what they said. If words have been spoken with heart and belief (negative or positive) they do carry the power of blessings or curses. Of course negative words can be countered by asking God’s forgiveness and changing our confession. But on the other hand, don’t worry about some things you may have said when discouraged or tired. God knows our hearts and our levels of faith. He doesn’t respond to every word we say when in a down time. He understands discouragement and sadness.

    If you’ve said things that are negative, we simply have to apologize and reaffirm our love and faith to God (like we do for our spouse when we say something negative or unloving to them). The Good News is that God wants what you want. Don’t give up. Be patient, keep loving and praying and you will see the prodigals come home again.

    Thanks for your questions. I'll be praying for each of you.


    Friday, February 03, 2006

    From Mikey's Funnies

    Since I've been talking a lot lately about dying and sharing from my book, Dying Well, a friend sent me this joke from Mikey's Funnies:

    A man dies. Of course, St. Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates.

    St. Peter says, "Here's how it works. You need 1000 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you've done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 1000 points, you get in."

    "Okay," the man says, "I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart."

    "That's wonderful," says St. Peter, "that's worth three points!"

    "Three points?" he says. "Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service."

    "Terrific!" says St. Peter. "That's certainly worth a point."

    "One point!?!! I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans."

    "Fantastic, that's good for two more points," he says.

    "Two points!?!!" Exasperated, the man cries, "At this rate it'll just be by the grace of God that I ever get into heaven."

    "Bingo, 1000 points! Come on in!"

    Keep those jokes and comments coming . . . I'm almost caught up and I love hearing what God is doing in your life!


    Thursday, February 02, 2006

    Happy Lunar New Year!

    We have, in our church, a very large contingent of Asian members. I love the customs, traditions, festivals, costumes, languages and foods that our friends bring to our colorful international family.

    One of the biggest festivals that we celebrate together is the Lunar New Year. On Saturday, February 4, 2006, we’ll be eating and partying at our Coquitlam church. I’m looking forward to a good celebration.

    The Lunar New Year (more international than the Chinese New Year) has a long history. It first began as a celebratory break after the harvest and before the planting of new crops.

    Like our Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Years, the Lunar New Year is rich with tradition, folk lores and rituals. Preparations often begin a month before the actual holiday (like our Christmas). People buy presents, decorations, food and clothing. They also do a huge clean-up (like our spring cleaning which dates back to the Jewish Feast of unleaven bread)—they sweep away all traces of evil or bad luck from the top to the bottom of their homes.

    On the Evening of the Lunar New Year, there is often a feast of seafood and dumplings. Prawns symbolize happiness and liveliness; dried oysters (hoxi) for all things good; fish dishes (Yu) for good luck and prosperity; and Fai Chai (Angel hair—an edible hairlike seaweed) for prosperity. The dumplings (Jiaozi) signify a long lasting blessing on the family.

    The color red is meant to ward off evil—black and white are inappropriate as they signify mourning. At midnight a colorful fireworks display lights up the sky.

    The kids love Lunar New Year because that’s when the ancient custom Hong Bao (which means-red packet) takes place. Married couples give children and unmarried adults money in red envelopes. Often families visit from house to house and bring blessings to family and friends.

    If you're in the neighbourhood, why not help us celebrate the Lunar New Year?


    Wednesday, February 01, 2006

    In Memory of Randi Hoigaard

    On Friday, January 27, 2006, we celebrated the life of a dear friend of our church family, Randi Hoigaard. Our church was packed. Randi, who was born in Norway in 1932, was one of those people whom everybody loved. It was very sad to say goodbye to her, but easy to say good things about her life.

    She was involved in many ministries; working diligently and faithfully behind the scenes in our Father’s Table (feeding the hungry), Alpha, prayer and our clothing co-op. I loved talking to the many people whom she’d encouraged and befriended throughout her years.

    It was such a privilege for me to be invited by the family to pray for them and her as she was transported form this life to the next. I’d been there when Randi first had her stroke on Thursday—I sat with her husband Iver for a few hours until their children arrived from their three outside Vancouver homes.

    On Saturday, January 21, Sharon (Randi’s daughter) called me from the hospital and told me it was time. After I arrived, we had the opportunity of standing around her bedside, talking, crying, and praying. It was a holy moment. Then came the time to removed the breathing apparatus which was keeping her heart pumping. Her brain was already dead. As we stood around her, Randi slowly and peacefully slipped from our world to the presence of Jesus. It seemed far too soon for her to die, but if it was time, it could not have been a sweeter way to go.

    I thought of the scripture where the Apostle Paul says goodbye (just before his execution) to his son Timothy. He wrote “The time of my departure is at hand…it was a nautical picture that he painted of a traveler setting out to a new shore by ship. He pulls his anchor, sets his sails and waves goodbye. As difficult as that is for the people left on shore, it’s an exciting journey for the traveler; and as sure as family and friends are waving “good bye,” others on the far shore are already waving and shouting “hello!”

    Randi did something that I’ve recommended in my new book, Dying Well. She wrote out her own memorial service plan. I loved it! She journalled her life’s history; she said who she wanted to sing (both Jennifer Lehman and Lori Carmichael were able to do as Randi had requested), she named the hymns and said to make sure it was a time of celebration. And we did exactly as she wanted—lots of music, lots of food and lots of friends made it a memorable celebration.

    Good bye my friend—we’ll see you soon on the other side!


    P.S. Thanks Judith for your comment on my blog about Randi's funeral. I, too, believe the stories of Randi's faith challenged many to make a decision for Christ!