The Year End Wrap-up 2014

2014 is rapidly slipping behind us. Its been a year of change, a year of some uncertainty,  in many ways, a year we will look back on with mixed feelings.

20141215_095050 (2)

One of many beautiful pieces coming from the shop

J and I have both seen the direction of our lives change this year. J’s maybe more than mine. In April, after a really bad season of winter driving, she left her job at the YMCA. It just wasn’t fun anymore and the pay didn’t cover the aggravation. She’s not one to sit quietly though. She had been taking some pottery classes from a local potter and her creative side was tickled. The workshop in our drive-in shed was commandeered and renovated, equipment and supplies purchased, and now there is a steady flow (trickle?) of wonderful pottery coming out of it (there are a few things going into the scrap bucket as well). She’s even had a few people wanting to buy what she makes, which wasn’t the intention at all.

20141127_090230While it may seem like we should call J’s year the Year of the Pot, we could also call it the Year of the Sock. She had been an avid knitter before, but this year it seems to have become a passion with 26 pairs of socks completed along with a number of sweaters, shawls and other pieces. Her hands are never idle.

I started the year with three hats to wear and ended it with only two.

In October, I graduated from the Waterloo Lutheran Seminary with a Master of Christian Studies to go along with the Master of Divinity I completed last year. For a while anyway I will no longer be able to call myself a student, at least in the “enrolled somewhere” sense.

Photo courtesy Annelies Numan

Photo courtesy Annelies Numan

In February, after having been called by my local church, I was examined by my denomination and ordained as a Minister of the Word in the Christian Reformed Church. We had a wonderful ordination service and  party afterward. I’m apparently a Reverend now, but I don’t really like the title and I feel no more reverend than I did before. My work at the church has been fulfilling. I’ve learned a lot. Since it is an interim position, I know I will be replaced; there is always a feeling of uncertainty about what the future will hold.

I also continue to work as a sheep and goat nutrition consultant. This work, for a number of reason has slowed somewhat this year but still manages to fill in the cracks with interesting work outside of the theological world.

The tamdem along the Natchez Trace Parkway

The tamdem along the Natchez Trace Parkway

With all of these part-time things going on, J and I are able to enjoy a lot of flexibility in our lives. We need it because we love to travel. In February we went with our entire family to Nevada and Arizona. While Las Vegas was part of the trip, the highlight was the three days we spent at the Grand Canyon. In May J and I rode the entire Natchez Trace Parkway from Natchez Mississippi to Nashville Tennessee on our tandem. Later in the summer we did a three day trip in southern Ontario. We spent more nights in our trailer than we have any year in the past, catching long weekends and a full week in early September.

Of course, our litany of travel wouldn’t be complete without those trips to see our family. In August we made our last trip to Edmonton to see our daughter R defend her PhD thesis. They have since moved to Ottawa (we can drive there!!) where R is working at the University of Ottawa on a Post Doctoral Fellowship and JW is working for a company that makes software for accounting firms. Their son, D, will be getting used to going to a daycare in the new year.

In late November we traveled to San Francisco where our son, J, continues as a Software Engineer at Google, and his wife, L, is working as the producer of an independent film coming out in the new year. The sights and sounds of this city are always exciting. This year we had a new experience there, crabbing. It was cool, but we only caught a shoe and ended the day with a big feast of crab from the Whole Foods grocery store down the street.


I’s baptism

J and M, still living in Toronto, are close enough to drive to for a visit. In June, little I was born, healthy and happy. By September J was enrolled and busy with classes as she starts working toward a Master in Information Science. M works as an engineer during the day, but is increasingly busy with independent engineering work in the evenings. He completed his real estate licence this year as well.

With only a few days left in the year we are looking forward to 2015. We know there will be uncertainty, but we already have some pretty major plans for the year (more on this later) and are looking forward to what God has in store for us.


Pace and Direction in Life has Changed

When I started this blog back in the summer of 2009, it was my way of taking others along on a journey. I was stepping off the path I had been on and going down a road which was very new for me, with lots of new things to examine and describe along the way. The destination of the journey was never clear and I was surprised to find myself occupying the office in the corner of a rural church, my home church even.

Over this past y20131103_135207ear, getting my feet wet in a bi-vocational ministry, I have written a little about the experience. I’ve written about my call, explained how it is to be bi-vocational, shared the ordinations service,posted about baptism of my granddaughter, shared news about a fire in the church, but the interval between posts has grown, interspersed with book reviews and records of holidays.

It’s not that nothing is happening in life, that I have nothing to say, that my mind is empty. Certainly, I am busy writing, likely more than before, sermons, bulletin announcements, various reports keep my fingers near the keyboard. I don’t need the blog to fulfill the urge to write.

My days and weeks have been  taken over with things that are not really for public consumption and it’s likely this keeping me away from this forum. My thoughts and feelings about the funeral I conducted last week are best shared in private. The day belonged to the family as they remembered, not to me, the servant of the event. The visits made to my office, and to the homes in my parish are wonderful, but not the fodder for internet discussion. The struggles we go through daily, are best shared with people who are close, rather than the whole world.

I read a number of other blogs written by pastors some of which are repositories for sermon manuscripts (I could do that). Others write at length about denominational politics, theological dilemmas, and cultural issues (I could do this too, but likely won’t very often, it’s just not me). Most pastors, though, are silent. Shepherding is a local task.

So, we’ll just need to be satisfied with a lower rate of posting. I’ll still write about the events of life, the grandchildren born, the trips taken, the books read, my own thoughts from time to time about things happening around me, but a large part of my life will be kept from view, it’s not mine to share, only to hold.


Isabel’s Baptism

Today we baptized Isabel. She is all of 26 days old and already has gone to church twice. This time she got really wet (and not the diaper kind of wet) in front of a whole church full of people. She was very brave too and only cried a little when the somewhat cold water hit her little head.

20140720_112751Baptizing Isabel is one of the cool side benefits of being ordained, a pastor, in the Christian Reformed Church. Since M and J, Isabel’s parents attend a CRC, and their pastor was away on holiday, it was like I was doing their church a favour by coming to lead their service today, but really, I was the one winning on this deal.

Every baptism is special, but spilling water from the baptismal font on a grandchild, saying those words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”; putting my hand on her little head and pronouncing a blessing on her; it just doesn’t get much better.

In it all is the deep symbolism of God’s love for us, covenant love. Isabel came to churchisabelwater today, loved and accepted, was marked, wearing the same gown my mother put on me almost fifty five years ago. The same gown my grandmother put on her sons. The same gown our children wore as J and I made much the same promises M and J made today. Baptism ties us together, in God’s faithfulness. We felt that faithfulness again today.

It was a day of celebration. The morning rain cleared and great grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends enjoyed a day with Isabel (rather than a campfire) as the center of attention.

A gift.

The Stole


Photo Courtesy Annelies Numan

My ordination service, in the Christian Reformed Church, was an odd and wonderful thing. It is unusual for a minister to be ordained in his home/childhood church. I have been part of the congregation where I now serve for over 40 years. I’m older than the regular candidate, and earned my MDiv from a seminary outside my denomination. The service itself was a community event since I have been involved with the other churches in town for many years. It was an awesome and diverse event.

One of the very special, and unique aspects of the evening was the presentation of a stole. A stole is a liturgical vestment which, in some denominations is seen as a sign of ordination and the office of the ministry of Word and Sacrament. In my part of the world the use of a stole is unusual in our denomination. It is however common in the Lutheran churches, whose seminary I attended.

Photo courtesy Annelies Numan

Photo courtesy Annelies Numan

The stole was given to me by some of my Lutheran friends and presented by Matthew, a Lutheran pastor from Montreal who has become a close friend following a couple of pilgrimage trips mentioned earlier in this blog.

Receiving and wearing the stole has been a wonderful privilege. I love symbolism and will wear the stole for special events, Lord’s supper, baptisms, weddings, and funerals as a symbol of being yoked with Christ.

Matthew 17:28-30

28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The Ordination Service

In 2009 I started this blog, not knowing where I was headed, but realizing I had started something new. Those first posts are tentative, a feeling in the dark, knowing God had a plan, knew what I was supposed to do, and if I kept walking through open doors I might find my way. It has been amazing how doors opened, and opened, and opened, until, maybe just as one more open door, I was ordained as a Minister of the Word in the Christian Reformed Church this past Friday night.

It was wonderful, a mountaintop really, with folks coming from far away and from nearby to share and participate in the event. I felt truly blessed and supported, loved even. The event was very ecumenical, with my Lutheran friends very well represented among the CRC majority. I will cherish the stole that was presented even though I’m told it will “pull hard”.

There is much processing still to be done, and I may write more on this event at a later date.

I don’t have any pictures to post yet, but I do have video of the whole event which you can view here:



2013 Christmas Letter

Christmas time is a good time to reflect on the past year. It is at this time we remember the Gift God gave to the world. It is also a time of giving gifts to each other, appreciating and enjoying these gifts. We were given the gift of another year, with all of the good and exciting things that happened in it. While 2012 revolved around the growth of our family, this year was more about travel and milestones.

Introducing D to Sesame Street

Introducing D to Sesame Street

We were in Edmonton twice this year to visit with our Grandson D and his parents. He is growing up so quickly. Our last visit in October was wonderful, because D, now walking, is so responsive. We visited the zoo together where he became totally enamored with the domestic pigs, mimicking their grunts at every opportunity. Google talk has been a wonderful tool for keeping, and growing our relationship. I find it amazing the way a eighteen month old can seem to understand that the folks on the screen talking to him are real, as he interacts with us, just as if we were in the same room. Our son-in-law, J, has finished his PhD, with his defense in September. R, continues to work on the last stages of hers and hopes to complete this spring. They are doing a great job of balancing their lives as students and parents.

J and Clementine out for a drive

J and Clementine out for a drive

In February we traveled to San Francisco to visit J and L and our newest grand puppy, Clementine.   J continues his work with Google and seems to be flying around the world on business even more than he did before. L has left Google for a job with a company that makes a robot which is run by an iPhone. This company is based in San Francisco, saving her the commute to Mountain View which J continues to make. Clementine goes to work with one of them, most days.

J and M in Toronto came home a couple of weeks ago with news. They are going to be parents to more than two dogs and a cat. The baby is expected to arrive sometime in June. This news has put a little more pressure on them to finish the work they have been doing on their house.

Doggie messengers

Doggie messengers

They have been renovating the attic for a master bedroom and still have work to do on the main floor. M completed the requirements for his engineer’s stamp this year and also got his real estate licence. J continues to be active in her church as a youth leader and in her knitting group.

Last month we said goodbye to Liia. It was tougher to let her go than either of us had imagined.

Liia May 2004-Nov 2013

Liia May 2004-Nov 2013

Over the years on the farm we had, in one way or another, had animals come and go in our lives. Liia had entrenched herself in a much more intimate spot  than any of those others. We still feel her absence every day. For the first time in over 30 years, our house is pet-free.

History and cow pastures in Ireland

History and cow pastures in Ireland

This year, we joined the group we walked the Camino with in 2011 to visit the high holy crosses of Ireland. We decided that an eleven day bus trip in Ireland was not really an active enough holiday for us, so we extended it with a sixteen day bicycle trip. Ireland was a wonderful experience. The people are amazingly friendly and the history of the place is deep. The history surrounds you in castles, tower houses, and cottages.

Across a two lane road in Ireland

Across a two lane road in Ireland

Much of it just left where it is, protected by law and maintained by sheep and cattle. We were gone nearly a month.

J continues to work at the local YMCA as a personal trainer. She has also rediscovered knitting putting together socks, shawls, sweaters, and most recently Christmas balls. She has also started playing with clay at a local pottery shop.

Some of the many Christmas balls

Some of the many Christmas balls

The first days were pretty frustrating, but now warns me a new shelf might be required for all of the pottery she is bringing home this week and is hoping to make in the future.

A couple of years ago, J and I started taking dance classes. Initially, it was to keep from embarrassing ourselves at J & M’s wedding, but, finding that we enjoy doing this together we have continued. We don’t get a lot of chances to show off our skills, and maybe that is not even the point of the classes for us. For us, it something we can do together when biking, canoeing, and travelling are not possible. It’s good to have a best friend to share life with.

In April, I finished the last class of the MDiv I have been working on since 2009. In June, I was declared a candidate for ministry in the Christian Reformed Church. In September the congregation in Lucknow, my home congregation, called me to be their interim pastor.

Graduation October 2013

Graduation October 2013

While it seems like the end of the journey, it’s really just another way point. I’m enjoying the work at the church and look forward to the next couple of years here. The call is a part time one and I continue to consult with sheep and goat farmers through Threefold Consulting.

As the year draws to a close, we look forward to 2014.  We’re already talking about the cycle trip we hope to make, the canoe trip in Algonquin, the new grand baby. How many times will we get on an airplane next year?  Even as we talk about these things, we recognize life is fragile and we’re in God’s hands; whatever comes, we trust it’s part of God’s plan.

A Pattern Emerges

There is a pattern emerging in my varied and somewhat crowded life. The pattern comes thanks to the council of the church where I am currently working as interim pastor. This position is not full time, but, they asked me to keep regular office hours to allow parishioners to drop into the church office to visit. Their request was likely good for all of us.

The regular office hours have become the framework around which the rest of the week is built. Mondays have become a study day, working with texts, translating, researching, digging into commentaries. I thought I might start sermon writing  Monday as well, but so far writing doesn’t start before the next office day on Wednesday. Tuesday has become a sheep and goat day, on the road with the Threefold Consulting hat on (no I don’t really have corporate hats). Wednesday, besides being a writing day, is also a busy day for folks dropping in. Coffee Break, the midweek women’s Bible study happens Wednesday mornings all  of them go by my office, with happy greetings.  Some pop in for a moment of two just to say hi, to pass on a prayer request, or a few words of encouragement. By Wednesday evening the sermon is roughed out (a bunch of it still roughly in my head) a new blog post is written, my part of the bulletin is submitted, prayer items are updated, and the service is put together. A busy day, but totally doable since each job is not very big.

Thursday is a day in class at the seminary so readings need to be done sometime before. They do get done,mostly in the gaps between other things. I thought I remembered the profs saying there would be about one hundred pages a week to read. Somehow, It seems to be more than that. Maybe it was a hundred pages for each prof.

After class, its off to the farmer’s market for fresh vegetables and farm calls on the way home. From this point back to Monday the structure peters out depending on what the weekend holds. Friday morning has become a personal care time on the bicycle or at the coffee shop (or both) with the afternoon devoted to the things the week did not finish.

Structure can be a good thing. In the past couple of years my classes provided the place I needed to be and the task which needed to be completed. It was not as regular as what I am experiencing now which is in a way both confining and freeing.