Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The argument I made every Christmas was always “It’s our holiday, why are you taking our holiday”. Growing up I was always frustrated that Christmas was robbed by the masses, perverted and twisted into a spending frenzy so the message of the Birth of Christ was muted and dulled. Then Easter came around, and I was equally disgruntled at Capturethe world for turning the death and resurrection of our lord and savior into the celebration of a massive bunny that poops chocolate.  I wondered why Ramadan, Hanukah or other major world religious holidays didn’t get the same treatment. Why do no other faiths have to contend with the world to keep their faith and their celebrated days pure and untarnished by the world.

 

Even writing that piece above it got me a bit bitter. Thinking that I’ve resolved my issues and I’m ready to write it down and solidify my thoughts on the issue I realize that I’m still a work in progress. I’ve got a long way to go but I’m happy to be on the journey. What led me here was the thought that we get ANGRY if not FURIOUS that the story of “Love, Grace, Forgiveness, and Redemption” is being ruined or distorted by a world in dire need of Love, Grace, Forgiveness and Redemption. We have come to hate our fellow man because they need love but have “stolen” our story of love.

It just feels so ironic.

tumblr_inline_nr899qWwo11qhe5f0_500

Many Christians beg the world with slogans, lawn signs, posters, posts, tweets, instaposts (?) and whatever resource we have to “KEEP THE CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS” 1297498459570_ORIGINALwhile in their haste and bitterness, frustrations and sadness fail to “KEEP THE CHRIST IN CHRISTIAN”. That’s a bold statement – and lets be clear, it does not apply to most and it shouldn’t apply to any Christians. Unfortunately it does, and too often.  When I first heard the line “If you want to Keep the Christ in Christmas, maybe learn first to Keep the Christ In Christian” I was a bit ticked off. I thought “Quit stealing our holidays and maybe we would!” Haha…. Terrible. Once again our own words were being hurled at us and we once again had to justify our position and intentions.   Urgh… will this attack on our faith ever end? (hint: No)

10885026_10152431126445940_6552267708295750820_n

But that statement didn’t leave me. It hung on like Klingon for a few days, weeks then years. It really took a bite out of me and it wasn’t even a bible verse, it was just a thought, a concept. I was challenged to think, “am I missing something here”? Did Jesus put any focus or attention on his Birth? Did he ever drive home the importance of celebrating his birth? Did Jesus himself, the one in which we claim to follow, celebrate, worship and emulate (to the best of our ability) ever put his foot down on these types of issues? When He died and rose again was the purpose to stick a flag in the sand and claim that day as Christmas for Christians globally and in perpetuity, or… was it to send a bigger message? (hint: Love, Grace, Forgivness, Hope, Redemption, Salvation).

I’m a husband to a wonderful wife, a dad of 3 unbelievable girls, and have a very wide extended family of whom I love dearly. We LOVE the holidays. In the face of my bitterness that the world has stolen and commercialized the sweet celebration of the birth of Jesus I sill indulged and continue to indulge in every single Christmas shopping extravaganza, movie (especially the horrific made for TV ones starring famous 80’s and 90’s sitcom stars long forgotten.)Candace Cameron_jpeg I don’t/can’t miss a holiday treat, a holiday meal, I drown my bitterness in eggnog, truffles, Lindors, icy-mints, clementine’s. Okay, I’m getting distracted… sorry. My point is… I LOVE what the holiday has become for my family.  From the story of the Birth of our Saviour, to candle light services, caroling, Snacks, gifts and National Lampoons Christmas Vacation and all of it in between. My wife and I have “cleverly” blended the commercialization with the deep profound love and respect and celebration of the story of Jesus, but I can admit to fumbling with the message of hope a few too many times over the season as we get lost in the commercialization. In the end, I think we’ve done it well so I’ve felt justified in allowing some bitterness towards my fellow humans to grow if they don’t or haven’t (in my most humble opinion).

“If you want to keep the Christ in Christmas, maybe learn first to Keep the Christ In Christian”. Back to this. What does it mean to keep the Christ in Christian? I think the bible teaches throughout it’s entirety that it means to love people, embrace them, feed them, clothe them, honour them and even give grace to those who don’t celebrate this season for what it means to me or the Christian faith.10428014_10152403692345940_93995036958062967_n That seems easy. I mean it really does. I know the idea of loving our enemy is not easy but if we consider the atrocities that I personally have committed while claiming to be a man of faith and STILL I’m loved, forgiven, and embraced by a holy and Just God, then I should find it easy to simply love someone who doesn’t love me back. (1 John 4:19 “We Love because he first loved us”).

So Christmas, for me, has changed over the past decade. I’ve learned that this world is LOADED with different people, faiths, personalities, viewpoints, ideals, preferences, etc. My goal, if I am a follower of Christ is to make the incredible story of the gospel known (see the end of this writing for more info on that) to all people, and I attempt do that by honestly just loving people over this season. Regardless of all the above points, just love people. I have failed at that. I still fail. There’s probably someone reading this who feels like I haven’t done well at showing them or people they know that they are loved. My apologies, I’m working on it, and I will continue to do so. When I don’t love, when I don’t show grace, or compassion, forgiveness or mercy then I have failed the message of the Gospel. There is an UNBELIEVEABLE story of hope and salvation that is available for ANY man, woman or child, that is shrouded, covered up and muddied when those who claim to subscribe to that message do nothing but hate, judge, impose and attack.

My goal is not to challenge how people celebrate their holiday. Frankly, happy Ramadan brother, happy Hanukah friend, Season’s Greetings Sister, happy holiday loved one. To love is to set aside my bias and opinions (which are sinful by nature). To love is to build a relationship, friendship, some trust, in hopes to create an opportunity for dialogue.

I can’t forget that true love speaks truth. At some point love requires that honest conversation.  Frankly, if I’ve been diligent in my quest to show people they are loved as they are, then I don’t think that’ll be an issue. I know the truth, I’ve been set free by the truth, and it’s absolutely incredible. I would LOVE to tell you that beautiful incredible truth that you are LOVED by a God (John 3:16) that loved you so much he died in your place, to cover your brokenness and sin (While we were still sinners Christ died for US – Romans 5:8). I’d love to sit and tell you that you are loved more than you will ever understand or comprehend by a God bigger than the Universe and more intimate than a friend who knew you before you were even formed in your mothers womb. I’d love to offer you the message of hope that says all your flaws and failures, those deep dark broken places that break you and keep you weighed down with burdens you can’t release can be simply washed away, forgiven, covered, healed, and mended by a personal Jesus. That’s my goal. My hope is to be able to share with you the true message of Hope that Christmas brings all humanity through Jesus Christ. Maybe someday I’ll get that chance.  Maybe not. But what I can do, what I can offer is love. It’s been given to me when I have not deserved it, so how can I not show that same love to a fellow brother or sister regardless of whatever.

Thanks for reading. Love one another.

John 13:34-35 says “A new command I give you, Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

(Sorry for all my grammar errors, I’ll fix them as I see them)

 

The Gospel and Christmas

The Story of Christmas. Firstly I’d ask you to put this away, because the bible tells it much better. I’d say open the Book of LUKE (in the latter half of the Bible) and just start reading. It’s an incredible story. That being said while I have you hear let me make it simple.

We are flawed. If you think you are perfect than you can stop here. But if you have ever stolen anything in your life, ever lied to anyone, ever looked at anyone with lust, ever thought anything dirty or inappropriate, then you are essentially a Thieving, lying, lustful, perverted, sinner. That’s heavy. But it’s everyone in history if that helps. We all struggle with sin. We all have a sinful nature. (Romans 3:23). That sin separates us from God.

The story of Christmas is about God looking down on us and in love sending His Son to cover the cost of that sin (that would ultimately end in death. Eternal death. The COST of sin is death (Romans 6:23) but the Gift of God gave us was eternal life through Jesus). Jesus (God in the Flesh) came down. Born as a child to suffer as we did, to be tempted as we have, to live and to die, to be hungry and thirsty, to struggle and to live just as we do. Jesus was sinless, perfect, and the sins of the world was placed on his shoulders. As a result he was crucified and suffered in our place. A Sinless Jesus, died in our place to pay the cost for our sins. Doesn’t end there. Death did not defeat him. Jesus then rose again, from the grave, with death and sin defeated and offers us the hope of that resurrection. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved the bible promises. (Acts 16:31). Accept his forgiveness and be forgiven. It’s that easy. There’s no good deeds, no work, no earning that salvation. It’s free, the cost has been paid.

Connect with me to talk more, lastly. I’ll end with a story I LOVE called The Judge. It’s an amazing metaphor to explain some of what I mentioned above.

The Judge: I’ve taken it from the site www.snapshotsofgod.com/the-judge/

The Judge

Upholding what is right comes at a cost.

There’’s a story about a judge whose own son was brought before her for a crime he had committed. The judge felt a deep grief that her son would violate the laws upon which she based her entire life. Tears welled in her eyes and she listened painfully as the evidence against her son was presented. The courtroom sat in silence wondering how the judge would rule. Would she just give him a reprimand in an act of mercy? Would she give him the minimum penalty for the offense? Much to their surprise, she handed down the maximum fine, upholding the law to its fullest degree. The son was in shock, for he knew that he couldn’t pay the fine and was anguished at the thought of imprisonment. He looked up at her in disbelief.

But then something happened that nobody expected. She stepped down from the bench, took off her judge’s robe, told her son how much she loved him and then paid, out of her own pocket, the fine she had just handed down.  Not everyone understood what she had done. As a judge, she showed her commitment to honor the law to its fullest, but she then stepped down from that seat of honor and showed her love for her child. Her son never understood the depth of his mother’s commitment to the law until that moment, and, until that moment, he never knew the depth of his mother’s love for him. He felt deep sorrow for the pain he had caused her and for those he had hurt by his act of crime. With his head bowed, and his tears flowing freely, he asked for her forgiveness, which she willingly and freely gave to him.

This story is actually an allegory for God’s relationship to us. Our crimes are our willful departure from the laws given us by God for the way we are to live. When we break those laws, God is grieved and pained. Inevitably there are natural consequences of our failings that hurt others, sometimes affecting lives for generations to come. This is why God’s laws say that the penalty for sin is death. His holy nature demands that He not just let us off the hook or go easy on us. So what did He do? He came down from heaven to us in Jesus Christ to help us to understand His laws, to show us the depth of His love for us and to pay the price of our sin with His own life. This never made sense to me until I understood how I fell short of God’s standards for life and how deeply that had hurt those who depended on me the most. But once I knew the love and forgiveness of God, I turned away in disgust from my deepest sins and understood, in a way I never had before, how to love and forgive others.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

William Branham

Isolated

Indoctrination 24/7

No internet

No freedom (no desire)

Always surrounded with the same men

The same words

The same scriptural references

The same teacher

The same message.

The Satanic Cult of William Branham circa 1950 And today.

Let me explain.

 

SO… This is important. For some time now in the little/big city of London Ontario, church goers have been trying to separate ourselves by a few in our community who claim to be Christians. I called them the Screaming Preachers in a previous blog I had posted. There’s so much more to this story so much to their story that I simply didn’t know. The more I read, the more I asked the sadder it became.  There is a true sadness to the brokenness of this situation, but it also calls somewhat for some exposure.

After the article I wrote went somewhat viral I had a myriad of people I’ve never met privately messaging me. From pastors to other church goes, to people outside of the faith and to people who know and have known Matt (the one I mostly spoke to or got yelled at by) from university years prior to his cult indoctrination. (No body contacted me that knew Steven – The other guy but also the leader) So today I went back to them to ask some questions, get yelled at, get told I was the devil and I was going to hell as an evil pastor (which I’m neither) and hear some more about what they Actually believe.

First to start, I’m changing the name “Screaming Preacher” to “Screaming Heretics” I can’t keep giving these guys an equal title as those who do some great preaching in this city. I believe that local Christians have kind of been going at this from the wrong angle since we’ve been trying to tell people that their brand of Christianity is NOT the norm, it’s on the outside of mainstream and limited to about…. 5 people. And while they are currently getting attention in the press over this, there needs to be some more said about who EXACLTY they follow and what EXACTLY they believe. (Because it’s kinda crazy). I want to EXPOSE THESE GUYS so while they keep claiming to be Christians, you will know they just aren’t… in fact… they aren’t even close.

Let’s start with William M Branham. Cult Leader extravaganza. At first when Matt, one of the two, was hurling isolated old testament verses at me to justify the idea that I was going to hell do to my cargo shorts being “ladies underpants” or my tattoos that were “written by the hand of the Devil” I assumed they were TRYING to speak on the scriptures behalf, but I was mistaken. THIS ISN’T THE CASE. They are trying to speak on behalf of Willy B, using Scriptures.  Matt Carapella and Steven Ravbar (taught and led by their elder Rudy Ravbar) don’t follow Jesus as you would expect someone who claims to be a Christian to follow. They actually follow this guy, and everything they do, say, speak, yell and scream is classic Willy B.

As far as I can tell, Willy B was an old school “evangelist” of sorts until his mental health took over and disillusionment started to run the show. In the 1940’s he named a church after himself called the “Branham Tabernacle” (tad bizarre to name a church after oneself isn’t it?  at least a little bit?). He started some massive healing road show, in fact he was kind of known as the leader of the modern healing revival shows. (yes shows, not services) ANYWAYS, this guy is a nut job. He claimed to all sorts of nonsense including the exact dates of the end times (don’t worry, he failed many times, thus you are reading this). He claimed he was Elijah returned. He claimed the United States would be destroyed in 1977.  He also claimed to raise people from the dead (never been proven or validated – obviously), and heal all sorts of sick people (also, no validation). According to Matt and Steven and Willy He was God’s 7th Angel Messenger.  So… there’s that.

William Branham

Another hilarious tidbit about this guys is his picture where there was an “angel” captured in it as well…. in 1950 they took a pic of him speaking and there was an issue in the development. a spot of light during the development phase, but then claimed it was an angel, and kinda went hogwild with it. (See more on the story of the Huston Photograph here) .

These guys, Matt and Steve follow that Fella.  There’s a real sadness to it, Its brainwashing at the best and I don’t write that to be demeaning or condescending, but that’s my strongest opinion on the matter.   The following is a clip where Steven explains their thoughts on William (I just took this myself downtown, it’s a bit rough)

 

 

I had a rough statement there.  After the first 20 minutes of him calling me a child of the devil, then when he exposes that he follows this “prophet” who is clearly not of God, then my only thought is… if it’s not For God it’s against God.  If this is not God’s message…. who’s is it? Who stands in opposition… Satan.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Eph 6:12

So what do you get when you have multiple men living together, following the same cult leader, 24 hours a day, eating together, travelling together, street cornering together, denying internet together, and removing themselves from all family, friends, and any other biblical scholar, and mix in a clear portion of mental health history? You get Matt and Steven deep into the cult of William Branham. A Cult which has nearly 50k followers in the US alone, and supposedly nearly 40k followers in Brazil among other places globally.  What you DON’T get is real authentic Jesus following Christianity.

There’s a sadness here. A Sadness Christians shouldn’t ignore. They need prayer, they need truth they need love. In the midst of all the hate they spew they are lost, broken, disillusioned, confused and betrayed men who need truth, they need love, they need some grace, and they need freedom.

What are you looking for?  Want to hear truth? Need some freedom from the baggage you’ve been carrying for too long?  connect with me. Connect with a local church.  Heck, please come join me at my church if you are from London or the area. West Park we are just Everyday people, on a journey together, pursuing Christ.

Love you all, I mean that. I love them too. Pray they get some freedom from this cult.

Screamers

The HOUNDS of HELL were calling me the Child of the Devil…

I was walking during lunch. I usually try to walk downtown for the hour, taking different streets and seeing different faces. Downtown London can be scary. I’m 6’5 and I’ve eaten enough in my life to look a bit intimidating and I cover of my face with a sizeable beard so people usually don’t bother me too much. Not that it’s my intention, it’s just the way the cookie has crumbled. Today was different. It was quarter to, and I thought I’d better take a left and head back.

As I crossed the street I saw London Ontario’s screaming street preachers with massive sandwich boards over their bodies with KJV scripture all over it. I ran in to them the previous week where they heard that I was a Christian but called me a vile demonic child of satan (one of their reasons was because I was wearing shorts which was “women’s underwear”). They screamed from their megaphone the threats of coming wrath and how evil we all were. I decided not to pass at their corner as I was late on time and I needed to get back. I didn’t care to get into an argument with them… the vile demonic creature that I was. So I just kept going straight until for some reason at the last second I turned, it was an awkward turn so last minute that I just about hit the building standing at the corner. I don’t know why I turned but as I walked past the screaming preachers, I passed a man that was behind them who was shaking his head and looking right at me trying to make contact. He was short, maybe mid 40’s, roughly shaven, a cigarette between each ear, dirty clothes and he smelled of strong alcohol.

His name was Brian. The screaming preachers never asked him that, but his name was Brian. He reached his hand out for me as I passed and I grabbed it. Extra firm. Coarse as sandpaper, and firm. I took out my earbuds and asked him how he was doing. His face dropped and he was upset. The screamers had just spent the past 30 minutes berating him, calling him out for the struggles he was clearly well aware of, and hammering on ministries he had been a part of in the past when he was trying to get clean.

Brian let go of my hand and asked me if I was a Christian. I said “yes”. He stepped back a bit, seemed surprised and then asked “like them?” to which I replied. “I don’t know… but I doubt it.” He rubbed his face, his eyes were strained and he was fairly upset. He started to ramble for a bit, so I leaned against the broken brick wall on the corner and zeroed in. He had a lot to say and I was happy to just listen.

Brian was once a graduate from an amazing… AMAZING organization called Teen Challenge. If you don’t know it, look it up. Brian has relapsed a dozen times in his life. “Over and Over again I keep failing. Over and over again I keep failing God.” He repeated with real shame in his eyes. I could only console him with the words “me too Brian, me too”.

My heart broke for Brian. I’m absolutely no different. My sin overwhelms me daily and over and over again I fail to live up to the faith to which I subscribe. Brian seems to wear his struggles on his sleeve a little more than I. The world can see, smell and hear Brian’s struggles. His mouth wasn’t tamed, his words were raw and crass. His clothes were worn and stained. His breath was thick with alcohol. What an amazing guy this was. So bold to say he was struggling and broken to someone he’d never met. So bold to list his failures, his shame, his emptiness, and his frustrations. This guy was amazing.

The screamers looked over to me, saw me talking to the man they spent 30 minutes berating and raised their voices. Over their megaphone they started to almost curse us, and threaten spiritual consequences at me while telling Brian I was spawn of the devil (actual words)

The noise they squawked by divine intervention literally faded away as Brian’s ramblings continued. He spoke of a desperation to have God “come lift him up from this s#i+”. He would say “how the hell can… oops heck, how the heck can I find some hope when I can’t stop drinking”. Brian spoke of being old school and getting into fights in the same breath that he spoke of reading the Bible this morning. Matthew 11 and Philippians 4:6 he kept quoting. He actually knew his Bible, he seemed to have a real love for it. “I have a beginners Bible Marshal. I have a beginners bible and I read it every day. I know Jesus. I love Jesus but I can’t fight this addiction. I can’t win this thing”. In a huff of frustration he said “all these tornados, all these floods, all these addictions, all these people hurting… sometimes I think God has just given up on us. He’s just given up.” Only to counter himself in the next sentence “But it’s me, he’s still there, he’s still God, He’s never changed, I have. I’ve walked away, and I’m too embarrassed to come back, I don’t even know how to come back”….on he went.

I just sat and listened. He needed to be heard and I wanted to hear.

The preachers came close. Borderline intimidating (if I found Tilly hats, Khaki cargos and sandwich boards intimidating). They tried to jump in a few times and he just kept rolling. I paid them no attention, ignored them completely and like a good dog they backed off.

Brian ended his rant. He looked and felt depleted. We talked a bit, I gave him some comforting words of scripture. I reminded him that we are all struggling, we are all broken, but we are forgiven and we need to keep fighting and praying and reading and talking to God, crying out for help and surrender our failures and weaknesses to him because in our weakness HE is made strong. Some of the basic stuff, as I type this I wonder if I said or did enough. I wonder if it was all to cliché.

I asked Brian if I could pray with him. He instantly dropped his head and clenched his fists and closed his eyes. Hands on his shoulder, on the street with people screaming from behind I prayed with Brian. We prayed for direction, for help, for a strengthened prayer life, for strength of the will to overcome temptations, for strength in the body to overcome addictions.

After a few minutes I looked up and Brian was still head down. Tears dripping on the pavement. It seemed like a silent moment. We ended our prayer and I looked at my phone. It was still quarter to. Don’t ask me how, but not a moment had passed since I last minute turned that corner and grabbed Brian’s strong hand.

The hounds of hell came closer now. Like his sandwich board was rubbing my shoulder. I looked at Brian and said find a church (which they HATED, because they think all churches are corrupt), so they screamed in protest calling me the “mouth of the devil” I shook Brian’s hand, and said I will see him again, we will pray again. I asked if he wanted to walk with me back but he had a bus coming. As I left the Screaming preachers chased me down.

Screamer: “I see you have a tattoo”

Me: “I have 9”

Screamer: “what you are doing is wrong, you are violating the purity of scripture, you will be held accountable for your false prayer and false teachings against this man”

Me: “How?”

Screamer: “You are perverting truth with worldly sin” (all this on the megaphone) “his friend chimed in calling me a “vile, vile man of the devil, with words of hell written on you” (my ankle says “SAVED”, so….)

They both continued to walk with me and try to berate me. I put in my headphones, pressed play and one of my favorite songs came on. “No Longer Slaves” (Timely) I smiled at them as their mouths flapped but all I heard was the fantastic harmonies of Shane and Shane. And I moved on.

Love God… Love Others. I hope to see Brian again, but not the two screaming preacher meatheads.

Love God…. Love Others.  I’m not going to spend time writing about why they were wrong. I can tell you where I was wrong. Where I didn’t pray for those guys as they were clearly lost, where I didn’t stand for scripture, where I didn’t expose darkness…. but I won’t.  the story says enough. I’ve failed, I’m a failure but I’ll keep trying to love.  I need to love LOUDER than their megaphones and more actively than their sandwich boards.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

 

(IF YOU WANT MORE INFORMATION ABOUT WHO THESE GUYS ARE AND WHAT THEY ACTUALLY BELIEVE  Check out my second post The Cult Behind the Screaming)

I need to discuss a Pet Peeve of mine. So here we go!

“Just You Wait….” Every new/newer parent hears this countless times through their parenting journey of the early stages of life.  I usually hear it the most right after some grand moment with one of my girls.  That moment opens the doors for the Just-you-waiters, they see that moment and seize it every time.   Just when my little girl runs up and gives me a great big hug after Sunday school while we stand in the church atrium chatting about.  I’ll scoop her up, swing her around, and share a moment and a laugh.  She proceeds to unload handfuls of half done colouring pages and a difficult to decipher crafts and takes off through the masses of cookie snacking, coffee drinking fellowshippers to find her own post-church treats.

This is the moment the door is open.

wait-traffic-sign-k-7650Only moments after she’s taken off, the inevitable comment comes from the experienced parent nearby… They casually side-step up to you, maybe offer a friendly up-nod, or just a slight elbow/shoulder nudge, followed by a head shake and a long exhausted sigh.  Then it comes, as you both watch her dart into the masses: “Just you wait” they say.  In an arrogant tone of grand precautionary warning they offer their words of endless wisdom.  “Just. You. Wait.”  Then the storm of negativity comes flooding in – rushing in over that wonderful moment washing away every trace of happiness.

“Just wait till she’s a teenager” – “Enjoy it while it lasts” – “It doesn’t last long, just you wait and see” and on it goes. Wow. I mean… wow. Great advice and terrific perspective. Thanks for that! How terrific of you to overwhelm me with the reality of my limited precious moments with my little girl.

waitThen there is the other side of the Just-You-Waiters . These people have it WAY better than you. And believe them… you think this moment is good?  YOU HAVE NO IDEA! “JUST. YOU. WAIT.” In their most humble opinion… you have simply not experienced happiness. At all. Not on any level like they have. This moment… it’s nothing. Just you wait for it though… they’ll promise you that much. They will strip you of everything and hand you back a small promise of hope all in those boastful 3 words. But you have to wait for it. Just wait.  When my littlest baby is gripping my finger and giving me a smile (that likely is just the result of gas, but I accept it as deepest expression of admiration) they come.  They come when I’m clinging onto the beginnings of new expressions and changes in life with the ultimate hammer-down of “Just. You. Wait”

“You think that finger hug is good? Just wait till they can wrap their arms around your neck, then you will really know love from a child.”

“You think that smile is good? Just you wait until they can say I love you, so much better”

Whammo – knocked down to size. Boom. No longer permitted to enjoy the moment as it is. Instead, It has been recommended, that I just wait….

31ds31aetl__sy300_

The Problem with Waiting.

“Just you wait”, they said. So I waited.  I waited for those long nights of screaming and needing me every 30 minutes to pass.  / All of a sudden I’m not needed, I no longer run to their room at night to cradle them in my arms, to feel their heart beat slow and their eyes close as they find deep peace from the comfort of my arms.

Just you wait, they said. So I waited. I waited for the moment when my baby could finally crawl and walk and explore the area around them. /  All of a sudden those cozy moments in the morning of overwhelming trust and epic new smiles, mini hands grasping  at my fingers, supported bounces on my lap all seem to disappear, lost to a world of new independent exploring.

Just you wait, they said. So I waited. Wait until they are finally out of diapers and can go to the bathroom and get changed on their own. / All of a sudden those funny moments of giggles and peek-a-boo on the change table, those little bare bum cheeks sliding off the bed and running around the kitchen squealing with naughty delight have faded.

Wait until they go to school. / Now the house is so empty.

Wait until they have friends / Now they never want to be home for movie nights.

tt meWait, wait, wait. If it’s good, just wait cause it’ll all go away.  If it’s new and amazing, just wait, cause you don’t even know… No! I won’t.  I’ll enjoy every difficult rotten overwhelming moment and live in the present. I’ll appreciate every area of growth and love.  I’ll enjoy exactly what I have now. I’ll be glad someday knowing that I never waited, but just lived in that amazing, precious, endless moment and gladly let it passed into the next. My mind will slow down that dance in the atrium at church, She will forever swing in my arms as her golden curls bounce… and THAT moment wont’ be lost, not from my past and not from my future.

So Just-you-waiters… I’m looking forward to your next comment… trust me. Just you wait!

There’s Joy in the Mourning

13393942_10153486956910940_1585445795389955549_n

On January 1st 2009 we experienced our first miscarriage.

My wife and I were on a cruise with her family, and it was nearing the end of the adventure, one day left.  It was at about 12:30 am on New Year’s Day and we were in the middle of an ocean somewhere in the Caribbean. My wife had gone to bed early as the New Year’s celebrations went on into the night.  I stayed up a bit later, then came back to the room around midnight.  The memory of every moment surrounding the next hour or so still haunts me today.  I came in and something was wrong.  Pale, weak, crying.  There was my wife suffering alone, and no matter how close I was now, she still felt so alone. I remember her face, seeing the sadness in her eyes as our hope faded away into the darkness.  She was a nurse and she knew what was happening.  She also knew she was losing blood and her blood sugar was low.  I ran to my mother in laws room who had been a maternity nurse for 30+ years to get some help.  She came quickly and sent me off to the buffet to get some brownies or something with sugar to help with the blood sugar.

Typing this brings it all back. That’s 7 years ago now, but every moment seems to flood back in detail. I ran back to the room with a small plate, and I remember looking off the ship into the middle of blackness.  Feeling so hopeless and so broken.  I was so sad.  It wasn’t three weeks before that night that we had passed the 3 month “safe” mark and decided as a Christmas gift to tell the family and the world of our new, and first pregnancy.  We discussed names, and guessed the sex.  We talked with my siblings about hand me downs and what we would definitely need and not need to buy.  We discussed everything.  It consumed us with joy.

As I sprinted along the deck going to get some needed food for her this all came back but hit me like shattered glass and I ran with tears falling over my shoulders. At this moment my concern would rest with my wife.  We had support through her mother, and we were safe.  She was going to be okay physically but I knew how her heart had wrapped around this little gift of a child.  I knew how her hopes were laces like praying fingers through the details of the next few months.  I knew that this was a loss larger than we could handle alone.  (God is Faithful)

We mourned through the night. We sat heavy and silent for hours. We cried and slept into the morning. Jan 1st 2009 we sat on the deck of the ship in the sun.  Very quiet.  The beginning of our new year was broken and sad.  We were just so sad while the world celebrated the birth of a new year around us.

(There’s hope in front of me)

For the following few weeks I told some family and friends of the loss. My wife kept away from people so she wouldn’t have to hear reminders or condolences.  They knew and she knew.

Little did I know that this deep pain would bring so much joy. I couldn’t see the plan then.  We were frustrated and lost, but we never lost faith.  We were confused but never got angry with God.  We were hurt.  We told Him.  We were desperately sad.  He heard our cries and saw our tears.  We gave our fears, and hope and sorrow to Him to find rest and eventually we did.

In an odd turn of events we found the starting to our new year to be powerfully moving, and full of beautiful change in the midst of our loss.   We found a new fervor for our faith, a new closeness with each other, a fresh desire to dive deeper into our faith and heavier need for prayer, a desire to seek solace in scripture.  All that led to a fullness in our lives, but not to joy… our joy was yet to come.

I remember early in April my wife started to feel the weight of frustration again. Getting pregnant again didn’t have the ease for us it seemed to have for others and we wanted desperately to have a child.  Then that moment came.  I was asked to go get some pregnancy tests from the local pharmacy and I came back with a no-name brand package.  She rolled her eyes and couldn’t believe I cheaped out for this event.  She tried….It read positive.  I was sent back out for a name brand type now. The next morning we tried again and again, it read positive.  There should be joy now… right?  We should be elated.  We watch all these posts on social media where the wife surprises her hubby with a positive stick.  He goes crazy, and they cry tears of joy.  Not us.  We didn’t even let our hearts beat for a moment. We talked with false excitement but our hearts were guarded.  For the following few months we were scared, nervous, expectant but defensive.  There was truly no joy in the process at all until we reached the 4 month mark.  Until a doctor could tell us that we were in a safe place and we could celebrate. Slowly our hope started to rise, and we began to dream.  We shared with friends and family again, and their elation gave us some freedom to celebrate.

Sometimes I watch a video I made on December 25th 2008.  It’s our announcement video.  The whole family slowly catches onto our surprise and they scream and cry and dance….  If we only knew then what we know now.  But that video gives me joy.  I now know that about 6 days after that video we would be very broken, and feel so alone, a price we seemed to have had to pay for unspeakable joy.  God is Faithful.

18970_247262615939_6256683_nOne year later on January 9th 2010 we gave birth to our first little girl.  Keziah Jordyn Burnham.  An incredibly big baby who screamed with life and colic for the next 6 months.  A little girl that has changed everything about me.  Everything.  My passions, my life, my dreams, my direction, my desires, my hope. On January 9th I looked down at this little bundle the nurse handed me, full of slime, guk, blood, and eye cream, matted wet hair and I felt unrelenting joy. This is what God had in store. This is what He wanted me to have. God is Faithful.

Now I don’t pretend to think that God made our miscarriage happen. I don’t know what goes on outside of my understanding.  I know we are living in a broken world.  I know that things happen that we can never understand, that don’t make sense, that don’t seem to have a purpose or a plan.  I know that I rarely have any answers, but on that day I knew one thing was certain.  This was God’s plan.  Whatever we went through was worth it, whatever it took to get this little girl into my arms – it was worth it. God is Faithful.

These little arms that screamed to be hugged, little legs that begged to be chased, little fingers that I needed to teach to play piano, or write stories. Little eyes that needed guidance, little ears that needed protection.  A rapidly pumping heart that needed guarding.  All of this was ours.  Joy, unrelenting.  Joy, unspeakable.   Tears flowed from my eyes as I looked at this little baby, knowing that without our great loss, she would have never been in my arms. My God, is faithful.

Today Kezzy is 6. We sat together not too long ago to talk about life in a very real way.  I explained that before she was born that mommy had a little baby in her tummy.  “I don’t know why babe, but I’m thankful.  I know that if that never happened, then you and me wouldn’t be sitting here talking.  I would have loved that baby, but I never would have known you, loved you, played with you, danced with you.  You are my Joy in the mourning.”  Kezzy looked at me as I welled up and said in a quiet voice “I’m glad that God took that baby to heaven, so I could be your little girl.”  Perfection. God, you are faithful.

A year after Kezzy we experienced another loss. We were guarded again for this one, and never went public as my wife couldn’t handle the pain of another loss in front of family and friends.   She suffered in silence for some time.  I told some family in private and we wept together, prayed together.  Again the sadness swept over us and like a heavy blanket on a roaring fire and snuffed out our joy for some time.  In all of it, I never forgot my lesson I learned in our first loss.  There was something great coming.  There was someone incredible just on the horizon.  It took us two years but we were once again blessed with our second little girl.  Zoey Belle Burnham. God is Faithful.

This one wild, funny, crazy endlessly sweet little girl has sent my world into more bliss that I expected.  When we wrestle and play I couldn’t imagine any other little baby… She’s exactly what I could hope for or dream of.  Exactly what I needed and wanted. God is Faithful.

I truly don’t know how all this works, I don’t know the divine plan in it all. I know in the midst of the pain it’s impossible to see joy.  In the darkest moments of life, any light just seems to hurt.  I know from our now 6 miscarriages that there’s no ease, no freedom from tears.  But I also know that through those most difficult times we found incredible joy.

Our happiness is lost in the moments of getting pregnant. Any couple who has suffered multiple miscarriages knows how painful even a positive reading can be.  The day to day expectation of loss is heartbreaking.  We refuse to connect, refuse to think of names or give life to that future.  It is a desperate time that can drag on for months and be stolen away from you in an instant.

This isn’t a plea to find joy in your mourning. It’s just a word of hope that you will.

Mourn. Feel that loss.  We have, we do, we will.  Even as I type I feel sorrow for the losses we’ve had, those unknown faces I would have loved.  But know also that there is hope beyond your situation.  There is joy on the horizon.  There is a future in front of you that you can’t even imagine.

Now as I type this, I have a little frame beside me I got for my birthday. We have been low on funds lately and I was out of work for 6 months so our birthday gifts involved paying bills with limited funds and celebrating a meal together.  But my kids and wife got me this little wooden frame.  Inside is a picture of me and my two little girls hugging me on either side with wild smiles.  Our three elated faces smushed into this little wooden frame.  I don’t know what that picture would look like without our miscarriages, but I know what it looks like with them, and I’m filled with joy…..

UPDATE: thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump….

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

UPDATE: thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump.  My wife  leans in closer,  trying to hear the sound of a little healthy heartbeat over the shouts of our 4 and 6 year old scrapping joyously in the doctors office. I get a call from her in my silent office where she excitedly describes the sound of our little heartbeat pulsing rapidly. There’s finally joy in her voice.  Hope has returned to a very saddened and frustrated heart.  After 4 years,  and many prayers… My God is faithful. Just a month after writing this we discover we are pregnant. And after a few more months of fear,  we find ourselves finally, after many years,  in a place where we can celebrate new life…. Thump-thump,  thump-thump…. Can’t wait to meet you little baby, I’m going to be an amazing daddy.

Little Baby Beaux Aurora Burnham (I call her ‘Lil Beaux Peep’) was born on March 30th 2017. Healthy and 10.6 lbs. (wowza) She is an unbelievable addition to our growing crazy family. thank you for all your love, comments, shares and prayers.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ecclesiastes 11:5

“Just as you do not know how the life breath enters the human frame in the mother’s womb, So you do not know the work of God who is working in everything.”

GOODBYE YUKON

Posted: January 7, 2016 in Uncategorized

IMG_8431 (3)Well I’m clocking out for the last time. Turning off the office lights and packing up our little government house. It’s cold today, it’s -35 but it doesn’t make it any easier.  I went outside last night at 2:00 am to see the lights dancing across the sky for one final time. I heard the wolves and dogs howling into the darkness, and icicles started to fall from my eyes. This is truly one of God’s greatest creations. One of the most beautiful places in the world. Endless wilderness, and quiet (albeit broken) communities full of culture and history.

I almost don’t deserve to be sad I’m leaving. it was like a blink or a dream and after waking up, realizing it can’t continue forever you just spend a few moments remembering the most amazing parts of that dream

spring1Salmon fishing in Haines Alaska beside a mother bear and her cubs, in front of a seal with Eagles diving beside me. Hunting and exploring the endless forests and mountain ranges across the territory.  Quadding trails thousands of feet in elevation through the keno Mountain ranges or in our own back yard.  Harvesting my own little pocket full of gold in my bucket list gold claim.  Spotting an incredible variety of wildlife (from Bison and moose to ermine and martin) around every corner of this great wilderness. Camping in every park or beside every body of water in the Yukon in quiet un-populated solitude.  Viewing glaciers, whales , sea lions and porpuses in Juneau Alaska. Watching bears, seals, eagles and salmon compete for existence in Dyea/Skagway Alaska. Driving the top of the World highway chasing Caribou. Seeing fields full of moose on our way to Anchorage Alaska.  Flying into the remote “Fly in only community” of Old Crow and experiencing a culture like no other (and food prices that would blow your mind). Driving the infamous Dempster Highway to the NWT border and the Arctic Circle. Experiencing 24 hour daylight, and almost full darkness in the same place.  On and on and on the experiences go. This is truly like no other place in the world.

The fact that I got to experience it at all is an undeserved blessing. The fact that we convinced ourselves in the middle of our busy lives, with two little girls and a new house to pack it all up and head to an unknown distant north leaves me so thankful that we took a risk.  We had no idea what we were about to do.

IMG_7071 (2)

Road to Whitehorse

We have without question experienced some of the worst times in our lives. Living in a broken, small, cut-throat, heartless backwards community that has only a few shining lights has had it’s moments of much difficulty. being hours away from civilization also had it’s feeling of freedom from mass consumerism, and left a desperate desire to feel life at times.

In the end. this was the greatest thing we have done with our short lives. We’ve met some of the greatest people I believe I will ever have the pleasure of meeting, turned friends into eternal family.  It was the greatest of experiences. We stopped and walked from everything we knew and journeyed into the unknown for a brief 2 year adventure. While I wish it could continue, I know it can’t and I’m beyond thankful that it happened. Better to have loved and lost, then never to have loved at all.

1454676_10152505928430940_7632200635869617786_n

A Beautiful Burn – Beauty for Ashes

Cambell Highway Burn (4)

Tall black charcoal remains of old Black Spruce spear the sky across hectares of land as I drive the Klondike Highway in the northern parts of the Yukon surrounding the great Fox Lake.  In 1998 this stretch was ablaze and 45,000 hectares of land was roasted by the firestorm. Pretty incredible. Driving past I can see the tall black timbers standing motionless as far as the eyes can see, weaving through valley and mount seemingly endless across the region.  It’s truly an incredible sight. Never again will the thick forest be the same, or return to its former glory. The entire Fox Lake region is scarred by its past and there’s no near effort that can aid in hiding the injury.

For me it’s all new. Having only lived here coming up on two years now, these blackened forests and ash laden floors are all a wonder to me.  True Yukoners on the other hand seem accustomed to seeing the charcoal woodlands covering the region as part of the natural cycle.  The summer before I arrived in the Yukon, just north of my small village of Carmacks was a grand old forest fire that decimated thousands of hectares of land just off the Robert Campbell highway. I arrived in January but as spring and summer rolled in I noticed the strangest thing.  This little town of 400 had blown up to 1000+ in population. But it wasn’t highway tourists and trailering families that filled the town. It was blackened-faced backpack-wearing entrepreneurs in old broken down cars.  They came in droves to little old Carmacks and filled the stores with ash. These people had come from across the country to roam the forest floor looking for edible gold.  Morales.

In the aftermath of such a great disaster came the strangest reward.  Through the ash popped up millions of Morale mushrooms ripe for the picking.  Hundreds if not more came to comb the burned out forest for these small treasures. Small business stands were set up to buy them and dry them to be shipped overseas and across the country to top tier restaurants for premium dollars.  An entire economy was created as a result of the deep burn of the forest.  Camps were set up, buyers and drivers, pickers and dryers.  Countless rewards for thousands of pallets, earned at the sullied fingertips of hippie entrepreneurs as they scavenged the blacken forest for their pearls.  Then, like a strong wind had carried them all away, with the forest picked clean they were all gone.  Tents, backpacks, hitchhiker thumbs, dreadlocks, bandanas, and white shirts turned black all disappeared in a matter of a week.

Cambell Highway Burn (1)

It’s wild from the outside looking in. In the face of this great disaster comes the strangest reward. But today that forest, only two summers from its burn remains nothing more than a fire pit across thousands of acres. But I know there’s more to the story.   Every time I take my 2 hour journey to get groceries, go to church, see a movie, or visit friends I’m reminded that there is so much more for the future of that burn as I pass the Fox Lake Burn of 1998.

After years of darkness and death, slowly new green life begins to emerge from the ashes.  The once black covered floor begins an entire new chapter of various greens and purples, whites and yellows as flowers and grasses, trees and shrubs hesitantly surface from their hiding. New growth, new life.  Never again will that forest be the same as it once was, but we can now begin to see some of what it may become. It’ll be unlike any other forest, it’ll show its painful past and begin to nurture something new and fresh all at the same time. Beauty exchanged for ashes. Now, for me, Fox Lake stands out amongst the rest. Tested and torched, littered with new growth, it has become a beautiful collection of old and new, defined by its darkness but beautiful because of its scars and emerging life.

Bob Dylan once was quoted saying ““Behind every beautiful thing, there’s some kind of pain.” There’s no question that pain, while in the moment leaves us desperate for escape, changes us completely and almost always for the greater. There should be no insinuation that time will eliminate our bruises and scars from the past.  The idea that ‘Time heals all wounds’ I would say is closer to fiction than it is to reality.  While with time we may find the wisdom to define and assess our pain from a better, healthier, and stronger position, the scars remain and most often we are better for them.

Cambell Highway Burn (7)

For better or worse, our scars define us, and more than that, they help move us forward. In the book The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis once said “Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself”.  From our pain comes new life, new growth, economy, relationships, wisdom, understanding, appreciation, paths, and dependency.  Life emerges from the ashes.

Part of the natural cycle of the Fox Lake Forest is to experience a deep burn.  Whether it’s once in a life time, or every other decade, a painful scorching was part of its life cycle.  Out of that process and with time comes new life.   New life that is affected and changed by the burns of it’s past.  Those tall blackened, scalded trees remain as a witness to the past, while the fresh blossoming greens arise as a testament to the future.

Our pain, our mistakes, our bruises and our scars are now and forever a part of everything we are. They shape us, challenge us, remind us and push us forward. Don’t deny the burns of the past, just embrace them for their beauty today.

There are many who don’t see this the same way, many that don’t see that there is a natural reaction to the world around us that causes pain, or that causes burns.  Many people would argue that if there was a God, if He was real then the forest would never burn.  A real God, a loving God wouldn’t and couldn’t allow the results of the fire to roast this life to ashes.  Without realizing what true love is, they assume that God has either abandoned us, hates us, or simply never existed.  We see the forest fire raging and we shutter at the damage but we refuse to consider the purpose and the cause.  We see a world riddled with sin and darkness and wonder where the plan is in it all without truly searching for answers.

fox lake burnI can’t pretend to have it all understood.  I can’t pretend that I’m satisfied with all the burns of my past, or those close to me who are standing in the fire in the present.  I can list the pains I wished were swept away with a good rainfall.  I could list the embers of today that I wish didn’t exist at all and that I spend hours in prayer begging them to go away.  But then I look over my shoulder and more often than not thank God for the fire.  There’s an old song I sang growing up in my youth called ‘Refiners Fire’.   It’s based on the idea that God uses a fire to refine us like precious metals (Malachi 3:3).  Once pulled from the dirt, unshaped and unclean God takes that brokenness and brings us to the fire.  He works with us, holds us, molds us and takes our flaws and carefully, over time and sometimes through fire He refines us to something as precious as pure gold.

It’s a stretch for some isn’t it?  If God was so great, we wonder, then why the need for the fire, why the need for refining.  Well a lot of that is on us.  There’s another half to the story.  The fact that we live in a broken sinful, God resistant world plays a big part. The fact that we ignore His design, reject His plan, discard His purpose, throwaway His Word plays a large part in our story. The beauty of God’s true love for us, is that He gave us the freedom to choose it. We can reject Him and His purpose for us, and feel the natural fire of consequence. God warns us to not lie, cheat, steal, lust etc. and if we ignore that then we are the only ones responsible for the consequences.

In the Fox Lake BurnHowever there’s redemption to be found. There’s unlimited grace, and never ending forgiveness offered when we simply accept Jesus. The scars will remain and temporary penalties for sin will likely persist, but eternal consequences have already been paid for, and when we accept that forgiveness we are truly free, and we are saved from the ruin of this world and ourselves.

We are both product of a sinful and dying world, and we are being refined by the fire. Both apply, both affect us daily. Embrace the lessons and the challenges of our refining that will steer us towards our Creator.  Accept the forgiveness for our broken failing state and find true freedom in the cross of Christ, and look back at our forest and be thankful for the burns that refine us.

 


Seeing God’s hand.

My wife and kids spend almost every weekend at a couple’s house from our church named Ron and Sheila Brown.  Since we moved to our little remote Yukon village last year this couple have been a blessing beyond words right when we needed it. familyWhere we live is a bit remote so often we have to travel a couple of hours to Whitehorse for church, groceries, supplies, gas, and to remember that normal life still exists outside of our town (a needed reminder every so often). Ron and Sheila from our first week living here and our first experience at Whitehorse Baptist Church have always had an open door for us, before even getting to know us they made sure we knew that their upstairs apartment was there when we needed it, and a listening ear was always available. Since we are 6,000 km away from our families and everyone we know, they are our Yukon parents, counsellors, advisory board and friends.

Superbowl weekend 2015 was no different. We showed up Friday afternoon and moved in upstairs (all 4 of us plus the dog). We spent the weekend laughing, and chatting, enjoying meals together, going to church and so on. We ate gas station fried chicken (at Ron’s insistence that it was better than KFC – and it was), and I spent hours in his garage looking over his unbelievable gun collection. Another normal weekend with friends.

textOn Sunday Feb. 1st 2015 my wife and I left Ron and Sheila’s house a bit later than we planned (I had lost my phone and we were back tracking), Ron and I spent a few minutes combing the outside lot in -40 degree weather but found nothing. It was late and we had a two hour drive ahead of us so we had to get on the road. The girls say goodbye to their friends and we headed home. When we got home (a few hours later), nearing midnight we transferred the sleeping kids to bed and I told my wife I was going to the mountain to take some pictures as the sky was completely lit up. Sheila texted me and we quickly made plans for next week, I suggested maybe we would be back and she was more than happy to offer the space letting me know that they are both planning on being there.

I went out and started shooting for an hour or so well into the night I captured lots of photos and while I loved the process, they weren’t amazing photos so I thought nothing of them specifically at the time.  (for more about my shooting and pics of the Northern lights check out Gods Painting on the Canvass of Heaven) but got home and processed a few and posted them online.

ron 4ron 3

When I awoke the next morning Feb. 2nd 2015 and got to work, within 5 minutes of me opening my office I got a call from, Ron’s daughter that my good friend and “Yukon dad” had passed away in the night.  Completely unexpectedly.  Sheila found him that morning, with his bible open and side lamp on. He had drifted into the kingdom and away from this world while he slept. I was completely torn up. This was my go to man for guns and hunting supplies, advice and wisdom, friendship and a dinner out. Ron was also the former director of where I currently work and he always offered me advice and moral support for some of the decisions I had to make on the job. We had only been here for just over a year but this man had a very significant impact on my life. Devastated. ron2 I went home and spent some time with my family, I explained to my 5 year old that her friend Ron had gone to be with Jesus. Kezzy in her limited wisdom smiled and said “He’s okay now, God will take care of him”. Later that day I checked my posting online of the Aurora Borealis I had shared and this one specific picture was pointed out to me by a friend.  It seemed like the hand of God was reaching out from the sky down to earth.  My heart both sank and was lifted in the same breath.

Seeing God’s Hand

10426126_10152522689835940_576378262767417239_nGod was so present that night as I sat in the dark snapping pictures of the heavens above me, for more reasons than I had realized. Through my limited lens I can now see the hand of God giving me and those who loved Ron an incredible reminder that Ron was in Gods Hands.  Cradled by the light of this world and taken into eternity to his final destination. In the same picture I realize that while I am able to witness what looks like the hand of God in Ron’s death, I’m so much more blessed to have been able to see the hand of God through Ron’s life even more clearly.

I thank God for this reminder that we are held in the palm of his hand. I thank Ron for being a friend who showed me deep love and wisdom, counsel and friendship. And I thank Sheila who has flawlessly continued to carry his torch. Ron has been “Welcomed Home”.   He has finished his race well, and now he sits with his Creator and his Friend.

Until we meet again, your friend.

Marshal Burnham

Feb 2nd 2015

LEAVING WINTER

Everyone loves the summer. Everyone. that dry hot heat that makes you plunge into icy lakes, or dive into your neighbors pool after they’ve turned in for the night. The warm evenings with friends and BBQ’s on the back porch or competitive bocce ball and badminton in the yard. Evenings of fishing and boating, weekends of tents and cottages… there’s no better time right?

girls rocks

Then it stays hot. Real hot. Too hot! You wake up earlier then expected because your pillow is soaked from your head sweat and your clothes are sticking to your body from the exhausting humidity. Your car is a nice 188 degrees so the leather seats and steering wheel melt to your skin instantly. Your air conditioning takes 48 minutes to get cool enough to touch your belt buckle and your water bottle has started to boil just from sitting in your cup holder, terrific.  Your supposed to be at work (because it’s Tuesday and not a holiday and you’re not a teacher) but your stuck in this unrelenting heat at a railroad crossing that’s determined not to end so you can be late.  Then the domination of the outdoors by the black flies, horse flies, mosquitos, Gnats, and the tiny things you don’t see till they bite you, all working together to force you into spraying your face with stingy smelly deet and wearing nets over your face hours after beating yourself bloody trying aimlessly to kill them.  Then after two months of sunburns, unrelenting smog, wickedly high power bills, sauna level humidity, the heat finally breaks and offers some cool breeze and sweet relief. With that, we see the first leaf swap it’s shade of green for yellow.  Autumn has returned.

10603492_10152253088750940_8892485464366384260_n

There’s no better season then the Canadian Fall (this is fact, not just my opinion!).  Autumn is amazing. mosquito free Campfires, walks through the woods, beautiful colours, crisp air, hoodies and jeans, deep woods hunting and evening fishing, cool nights in the cabin, but warm sunny midday walks.  The leaves have created an array of colours over the forest floor that never gets old.  it has to be one of the most beautiful (and comfortable) times of the year.

 IMG_7371 (2)

But near the end it’s not so pretty. By the time winter finally rolls around Autumn is just showing the last of its ugly few days. Trees look old and desolate. the ground is covered in dead, wet rotting leaves. the Rain has mixed with the cold and snow to make dirty roads, and mud slicks everywhere. The cold rain is mixed with icy gusts forcing us into warm layers that are all bound get wet before you arrive to your destination.  Its clean now that the season is dying and its a bit of a nasty death. But then something amazing happens.  It snows.

IMG_5998 (2)

(Above Top of Tower Road, Taken Early November – Photo by Marshal Burnham)

In only a few days the entire landscape is covered with a soft white fluff that drops slowly from the heavens to blanket the mess that the fall left behind. rotten leaves, mud lined curbs, dead grass are all covered by this brilliant white sheet that seems to give us a fresh new start.

I love the winter. Even more I love the snow, the cold, frosty mornings, warm houses, chimney smoke, blizzards, families mixed with holidays meals, old movies paired with hot chocolate and a fire, baked goods being exchanged around the neighbourhood, last minute snow days, everything, I love it all. Most of all I love the imagery it brings. I love the idea of a clean slate. Everything is brand new. Kids gaze wide eyed out the frosted window and begin to dress in multiple layers so they can dive, roll, toboggan, throw, toss, flop then moments later run inside wet and cold smelling like the fresh outside.

IMG_7109 (2)

(Above Taken on the Klondike Highway Yukon Territory on Boxing day 2014 – Photo by Marshal Burnham)

But the snow isn’t perfect.  It doesn’t take long to begin to detest that which I once loved. Every year the winter overstays it’s welcome. The once pure white fluff becomes dirty and hard packed. It turns from a fun and endearing holiday friend to a worn out, bitter relationship, that overstays its welcome far too long.

outside

(Above “Freegold Road” just outside of Carmacks Yukon near 8 mile lake – Photo by Marshal Burnham)

Then one day the sun stays out a little longer. It seems to be a bit closer, and we get a hint of warmth from above. The snow for the first time beings to drip from the roof and there’s a continual little “ping ping ping” you hear all day as your eaves start to leak melted snow. finally spring has sprung, and there is once again a feeling of hope in the air. The warm rain is a welcome surprise as it washes away all of our dirty snow and unyielding chunks of ice from the corners of our driveways, the wildlife begins to roam, chirp and growl. Rivers and lakes begin their thawed journey’s once again,  green life starts to crawl its way up the mountains as the white caps melt into it’s veins.   Life begins to emerge again from hiding.

spring 2

(Above “Kings Throne” Kluane National Park and a Grizzly fresh from hibernation searching for Alaskan Salmon, Haines Alaska)

But with the rain comes the severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings, the unceasing wet, and un predictable temperatures all of which causes endless growth. Endless growth causes endless work, digging removing and replanting, rebuilding repairing and fixing.

Then To the Summer we return… only to cycle through again.

There is no better place in the world to live then Canada. 4 amazing season, all breathing their own life, all affecting one another and interacting with each other cleaning up the mess of the seasons before and intern preparing to leave their own.

It’s not tough to relate this to life and I won’t pretend it’s a new idea. We are all forced into dark cold winters, and we’ve anticipated the spring.  We’ve all experienced the joy of the rain and the pain of a lonely thunderstorm.  Sometimes I’ll thank God for the summer and in the same breath curse the heat. I’ll feel the blessing of a slow falling flake, and rage against the frost on my windshield.

We met for an evening some years back with some dear friends who told us that they had lost their twin babies late in their pregnancy. Still to this day it breaks me to think of that pain they faced. To see their eyes as they shared of their lost joy, their futures they had celebrated had crumbled to the floor. I was so devastated for them and there were no words I could offer that could comfort. There was nothing to be said. I went home that night and tried to gain some perspective of loss and how in the darkest moments of our lives, all of a sudden one leaf can change its colour, and the beginning of an entirely new season is just waiting for us to embrace it. Every season will end… doesn’t’ matter how amazing or beautiful, how hard or broken, it all ends. ‘This too shall pass’. I look now and see this family with all their kids and realize that while the painful memories don’t fade easy, we can through the changing of the seasons begin to understand how those moments have changed us.

My wife and I have suffered many losses.  The pains of multiple miscarriages, broken hopes on repeat, can’t readily be described.  That feeling of hopelessness and loss isn’t easily equaled.  The hurt within those single moments can never be diminished or erased, but now when I see the faces and hear the voices of my two little girls that came after those and as a result of those losses…nothing can replace them. It was worth all the sadness, worth all the pain.  I’ve even thanked God for the loss many times.  When I’m swinging my baby girls through the air, or being hugged tightly after bedtime prayer I remember that God has a plan.  Without my pain I possibly never would have known these two little girls who bless me a thousand times a day.

Gods plans are bigger then ours, and when we can’t see ahead of us He’s already been there, and he knows that the next season is just one falling of a leaf away.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

…….

So I wrote this song called “Leaving Winter” about that whole experience. words are below and the link for the song is here too.  LEAVING WINTER ON YOUTUBE  (FULL VERSION Also available on iTunes

Every year

the leaves beg its branches to hold on,

resisting the urge just to move on…

” God I don’t want to blow away…”

And the colours,

slowly fade from pale green,

to shades of yellow and sunset,

their days are coming to end.

And the Winter, convinces the leaves to leave.

So the snow can cover everything.

And all the falls imperfections,

they’re covered in white

and day starts all over again.

So we’ll leave this:

Autumn we loved so dearly,

seeing tomorrow so clearly,

and the snowflakes reminds us of that.

and the Sunrise,

always follows the sunset.

tomorrow is not even born yet,

so we will just live on through tonight.

Embracing Thorns

The end of the day was fast approaching, but living in the Yukon for the first time we are getting used to the sky that continually lies to us about the actual time.  After dinner, bath time, and play time it was still crazy light outside and closing in on 9:30 pm. Megan and I were tired and ready to sit and watch a show, but Kezzy (my 4 year old daughter) was nowhere near ready for bed.  In an effort to exhaust her remaining fuel in the tank I decided to take a walk with her to watch the rapid flow of ice moving up the Yukon River.  Kezzy and I are both a bit adventurous and standing on the boardwalk beside the flowing river wasn’t quite enough for either of us,  we decided to plunge a little deeper down the shore line for a closer look at the rolling ice flow and maybe search for some treasures.

Image

Carmacks has this beautiful wide smooth boardwalk that parallels the Yukon River through the middle of the village.  It makes for an easy walk, bike ride, or stroller push but when Kezzy is in her rubber boots she has no intentions of staying on the board walk.  She wants to explore, get dirty, see things she has never seen, lifts rocks, throw sticks, look for bugs, stomp on ice, and search  for treasures.  This is of course fine with me and most of the time I’m just as interested in exploration as she is.  Kezzy’s sight is however limited.  Her limited height and her thoughtless speed in life don’t give her the best judgement or perspective on routes and paths that get to her destination.  Most often, like any child, she just barrels through the first opening in any bush she sees only to find herself face down with a scraped kneed and a bruised ego.  I on the other hand have a few advantages I can offer her.  My height, around 6’4” gives me an advantageous bird’s eye view of the lower landscape and my experience allows me to quickly assess the ground and decide on the best path to get to our destination. Sometimes she’ll listen but sometimes she won’t

Image

Often times I’ll try desperately to instill some of my wonderful wisdom to my kids, and most of the time they don’t listen. I’m likely the only parent with this problem (insert sarcastic face here).  I love Kezzy more than anything in the world. Kezzy and Zoey are my little girls, my babies. They are my gift from God and I would do anything for them.  That being said, clearly I want to use my advantages and experiences in life to give my girls the best plan for their life adventures.  This walk in particular was no exception.  Wild roses line the boardwalk almost the entire length of the path. While I’m sure they are beautiful to look at when they bloom, they are a painful and annoying hazard to try and get through when we are exploring the banks of the river.  Kezzy suddenly spotted something red and yelled “Dad look, it’s red; it could be a real treasure!!!” She screams it with all the enthusiasm of winning a million dollar lottery.  Happy to see her elated and excited for her, I jumped in with the same emotion and made a plan on how to get to our distant treasure.  Kezzy’s attention faded fast and instead of listening she barreled head-first off the boardwalk and down the slope towards the river.  I quickly grabbed her, realizing the thicket of thorns she was about to blast through in her shorts and knew that she was about to experience the definition of regret in a painful way.  Kezzy wasn’t happy with me.  Her treasure awaited her and I was her roadblock.  I wanted to be part of that experience with her but I also knew that she was about to go through a wildly unpleasant experience trying to get there.

I was only wearing shorts myself and to get to where we wanted to go, to Kezzy’s treasure, meant we would have to go through the thick thorns.  I told Kezzy I was going to pick her up and she immediately, with hands on hips, tilted her head and said “No Dad, I can do it myself!”  She turned to run ahead of me and about two feet later she instantly felt her first attack by the wild roses.  She turned around and with a big smile put her arms up for me to carry her. She thought I wanted to take away her fun and her freedom but I was actually just doing the opposite. I was keeping the adventure alive and the moment fun and exciting by removing from my little girl the direct path of the painful thorns.

On I went. In my sandals and shorts through the thorn bushes holding my little girl above it all so we could get to her treasure.  I looked down to see my legs bleeding and felt the pain of the rose thorns cutting into my leg and it made me smile.  I loved my little girl so much that I had no problem sacrificing so I could see her enjoy this moment, this treasure.

It was at that moment that I was able to view Jesus in a little bit of a different light.  I had always known and embraced the idea that Christ died and took on pain and death for my sin and my inadequacies.  For my failures and my stupidity, Jesus came and completely sacrificed himself for me.   That’s the Jesus and the message I’ve always loved and embraced. It’s a beautiful story of sacrifice. But today was different.  Today was less of a desperate rescue of a broken human, but rather this was embracing the zeal of life of Kezzy through sacrifice.  The Bible says that Jesus came to give us life and sometimes we tend to rest on that statement.  It’s a beautiful one, but that’s not the end of the story, there is a much more amazing ending to it.  In John 10:10 (NASB) Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly…” another translation (NLT) says “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

I went through some bleeding and some pain not just so Kezzy can survive on our walk; I did it so she can find the treasure in her life that excited her.  I was excited with her; I wanted to be part of it, the joy, the excitement, the adventure of it all.  I wanted Kezzy and I to have and live in that moment together. I loved seeing the joy in her eyes.  Jesus in the same way has picked up the burden of the pain for us.  He has sacrificed more than some scratches on his legs and some thorns in the flesh, but His entire life so we don’t just have to survive through this life, but so we can experience an amazingly abundant wild adventure that He has set out ahead of us.  So we can find joy, and love. So we can sing and dance, and run to the river banks to find life’s little treasures.

Megan and I find true joy when we watch our kids enjoy life.  Whether it’s a birthday party or a treat on a hot day, a swim in a pool on some wild vacation, or finding a red leaf on the shoreline of the Yukon River, we feel completely blessed and satisfied when our little girls are laughing and smiling and fully elated with life.  We too often get the view of God that He places all these rules and regulations to stifle and limit life and cut us off at the knees so we don’t have fun or experience life to the fullest.  The truth is unquestionably the polar opposite of that.  Just like I design a plan and a path for Kezzy so she can find maximum fun and enjoyment and pleasure on her evening walks with me, God has defined ways of living and practices that (when followed) enhance our lives and brings maximum fulfillment  in our walk with Him.

God created us to enjoy life and for us to enjoy it through and with Him.  The sad part is we, not God, are the ones to blame for how we exist in brokenness.  We have created false religions, false gods, false traditions, and rules that don’t follow along with our Creator’s plan for us.  Our foresight is blind to the thorns as we stare with tunnel vision at our treasure. We ignore the directions, the path, the plan written out and all of a sudden in our quest to find life’s treasures we are covered, head to toe in thorns and bruises, scraps and wounds.  We lift our eyes to our Father, we cry, blame, curse and question His design and guidance for our life but we fail to question our decision not to implement His plan. 

We’ve made our own plans with our limited scope of view and we’ve failed to listen to our Father’s birds-eye view.  We’ve created our own goals without realizing our purpose, so when the inevitable happens and we find ourselves nothing more than lost broken failures we blame the wrong source of our troubles. ‘OH MY GOD’ we cry and rant to our world, “how can He…? Why can’t I…? How did this….? Who am I…? What should I….?”  We turn our anger toward our Father and turn it into disbelief and false prophecy, false religions and self-worship; yet all the while our Father, my Dad, continues to stand there with arms wide open. 

With all the plans and guidelines in place on how to get to our glorious treasure, God stands there waiting for us to return to Him for direction.  My pride finally broken, lost and bruised by this world of selfishness and sin, in humility I came back a mess.  Weeping and begging for my Dad to pick me up and carry me through the thorns, He swoops down to my level and embraces me with a fury of unexplainable love and picks me up above the mess.  I can see it finally.  From His angle I can see why He gave me those plans, those directions that path to follow.  From His graces I can see that, like the Israelites, He knows the best plans for my life. “’For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord.  ‘Plans to prosper you, plans not to harm you, plans to give you HOPE and a future’…“ The book of Jeremiah tells us of a story of a broken lost generation of people and God is calling out to them “You will seek Me, and you will find Me when you seek Me with all of your heart. I will be found by you!” (Jer. 29:11-13).  This promise that He made so many years ago to so many lost and broken people applies to me right now.  It applies to you right now.

Kezzy and I continued our journey. She was unscarred by any thorns as she squealed and ran with delight up to her new found treasure.  Hand in hand we continued our journey down the shore line, so much more to go, so much more to explore and loving every minute of it.

 Marshal Burnham  –  Raise Your Gloves