Tuesday, May 29, 2012

OnFire #280 The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #280 The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree

We are well into gardening season and I hope that we’re not so different from others who feel like they’re falling behind on the yard work and weeding. It seems that we get one area done and then it is time to do another, and then  by the time we get that finished the lawn needs to be mowed, and more weeds have sprouted in the first place we worked.

It is interesting to think that we actually reflect the image of God when we garden. Genesis 1:26-27 tells us we were made in God’s image, so it only makes sense. “Like father, like son,” as the saying goes. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” “A chip off the old block.”

So how is it we reflect God’s image when we garden? First, there is the urge to bring order from chaos. This is exactly what God did at the beginning when He created the heavens and the earth. We are reminded that the earth was formless and empty. God set about to bring order from the chaos - scheduling day and night, separating sky and sea, arranging plant and animal life. Gardening is nothing if not bringing order from the chaos.

There is the urge to create and to be creative. Before creation, nothing existed, but God called it all into being from His imagination. He made it new. He is Creator and creative. In the same way, we reflect the image of God in us when we look for new ways to do things. “Wouldn’t it be neat if...?” is the question of creativity. 

(On a side note, I think this issue of creativity is a possible solution to the “worship wars.” Often we turn the issue into one of new music VS old music, when the real issue is not music, but creativity. No one is asking (or allowed to ask?) the question, “Wouldn’t it be neat if ...?” Anyway, back to the main topic.)

No gardener will question that humanity’s first place to commune with God was in the garden. There is something about being in a garden which connects us to God and brings a sense of peace and calm. No wonder Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, a garden outside Jerusalem. I think this is all related to Romans 1:20, where we discover that nature reveals some of God’s character traits – power and divinity, for example. Not much wonder we feel closer to God outdoors.

While we have the image of God in us, Paul tells us that Jesus is the real thing. He is the “image of the invisible God.” (Colossians 1: 15) While activities like gardening show that we have some of God’s traits in us, Jesus fully glows in these things because He himself is God.  

Every time I look out the window, I am reminded of my shortcomings as a gardener. There is always more work to be done, something I could have done differently or better. I guess in this way gardening is a little like life. But I have One to look to, Jesus Christ, who isn’t hindered by imperfection. It gives me hope and direction, that I can look to Him as I face life’s troubles. 

I hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a bi-weekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published May 29, 2012.  To subscribe or reply, email onfireletter@gmail.com. Archives are located at  www.onfireletter.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

OnFire #279 Squizzeled is Not All Bad

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #279 Squizzeled is Not All Bad
Squizzeled is the word some fishermen on the Bay of Fundy use to describe the appearance of lobster buoys which have been compressed after been driven underwater by the tide. Bay of Fundy tides produce strong currents which drag them down and in many places they only surface at slack tide, when the waters change direction.

I wouldn’t have believed it, but I’ve seen it for myself. The foam buoys start round when they are new, but over time the pressure of the deep water compresses them and they develop wrinkles – squizzeled. I guess the word is a combination of squished and wrinkled.

There are times when the demands and duration of stressful situations leave us feeling squizzeled. We have been submerged for so long that when we finally surface at the other side of a difficult season, we feel like those buoys - pressed in, squished, shrunken.

Our church has called a new senior pastor and he will begin during the last week of July. This is great news and already I can feel a burden lifting. For the last year I’ve been submerged in the details of trying to plug holes in our ministries, and now that our new pastor is coming I can relax a little, which is good, because I passed tired a long time ago and now I’m depleted and weakened. I’m feeling squizzeled.

As I have been thinking about this state I’m in, I see it is not all bad. I am tired, but I sense an opportunity now to remake my routines. I don’t want to fall blindly into some other numbing routine, but rather, I sense a chance to think about the things I need to put back into my life to regain some life balance and build up my spirit.

I plan to add back into my spiritual life the kinds of things I know rejuvenate me. I’ve kept up Bible reading and prayer, but I haven’t been able to journal or take personal spiritual retreats. In the past I have connected with God in powerful ways through these and I plan to add them back to my routine.

I know I need to reengage some of the important people in my life. My family has been understanding, but as I look back, I see that my busyness has risked something with them. Sometimes when we are submerged, people move on without us. I need to reengage them.

I need to reevaluate and reinvent my schedule. What are the important things I want to do? I’ve already talked about putting some spiritual disciplines and family time back in my routine. I need to determine what other major areas I will focus on. I will obviously need to work this out prayerfully and with our deacons and new pastor, but now is the time to consider these things. The hard part will be that some things won’t go back in the schedule and I’ll end up disappointing someone.

So, while squizzeled is uncomfortable, it is not all bad. It presents the opportunity to reevaluate and reconsider. We’ll all face difficult seasons at times, but when we resurface, we have the chance to remake our routines.

I hope this helps. Be onfire.

OnFire is a bi-weekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. This letter published May 17, 2012. To subscribe or reply, email onfireletter@gmail.com. Archives are located at www.onfireletter.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

OnFire #278 We Are Not Guitars

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #278 We Are Not Guitars

It didn’t sound like it hit hard, but when a guitar falls off the stand it’s more about how it hits the ground than it is about how hard. Not long ago I knocked mine from the stand as I walked past. My hands were full, so I tried to catch it with my leg, perhaps to slow it down to minimize the damage.

The instrument pivoted around my knee and fell behind me so I didn’t actually see it land, but I knew it didn’t sound good. The strings rang twice as the back of the head hit first, followed by the body. Not good, I thought, but I hoped for the best. After all, it was not the first time it had fallen.

I picked it up gingerly, but it didn’t matter. The neck was broken where it joined the guitar. The foot joint, as it is called, was split.

The guitar was not an expensive one. I bought it used, not for its high quality, but because I loved its rich bass tones and comfortable action. It sounded better than its price tag, and felt good to play. Later I installed a pickup. A few people over the years have suggested it was time to upgrade because I’ve worn down the frets. I knew the time would eventually come, but in my mind, why upgrade when I loved the one I had?

It’s not worth fixing. I didn’t pay much for it, and it would take a lot of time at professional rates to repair and restore it. Perhaps if it had been better it might be worth it, but it’s not. I checked some friends who know about these things and it might be possible to glue and clamp it, but there is a problem with that, too. The broken joint isn’t wide enough to insert the glue. Too broken to play, not broken enough to fix.

Not worth fixing. There is something very depressing about that assessment. Not impossible to fix, but  not worth doing. How can that be? And yet it is, because of the simple economics. It would cost more than it is worth to fix it. I would never get my money back, and chances are it would never look or play the same again, either. Perhaps if there were some reason - historic or sentimental - I could justify it, but otherwise it is not worth fixing.

Life goes on and it is just a guitar, after all. But it made me think. I wonder if any of the angelic beings looked down at Jesus and questioned God for sending His Son. Did any of them suggest that the price to repair and restore humanity was too costly? Not worth fixing?

Sometimes we wonder. What about the times we blow it? How often is too often? How broken is too broken? Are we worth fixing? Is the cost too great?

It helps us realize God’s love for all of us. He sent Jesus for us. We must be worth it if he did not spare His own Son, as Paul reminds us in Romans 8:32.

We are not guitars, or cars, or something else that isn’t worth it to fix. God loves us. God’s economy is different from ours. We are not beyond repair. We are worth fixing, and he sent Jesus to do the job.

I hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a bi-weekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Apr 26, 2012.  To subscribe or reply, email onfireletter@gmail.com. Archives are located at  www.onfireletter.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com. Check out Troy's other blog at www.pastorofeverythingelse.blogspot.com