Wednesday, July 16, 2014

OnFire 318 Will We Ever Get There?

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire 318 Will We Ever Get There?

Hi Folks,

I arrived at CFB Shilo on July 7 and I have spent the first week getting cleared in – seeing all the different groups on base who need to see me. I was measured for my dress uniforms and I got my initial kit – a large pile of gear including my fatigues, ruck sack, sleeping kit, etc.

I am on the basic training list. Sometime this week I will start the distance learning component of my training. Basic officer training will take place in September, with Chaplain school in October.  Then I will come back to Shilo and Jan will join me. Currently she is watching over the house while we are trying to sell it.

To get to Shilo, Manitoba, from Moncton, I spent 7 days on the road and made some great memories along the way. I waded into Lake Superior at a place called Pancake Bay, and I watched a bear walk down the road near my hotel. In Sault Ste Marie I had a flat, but I was able to get it fixed quickly and was very grateful it didn’t happen in the middle of nowhere. I attended church in Thunder Bay with a college classmate. Great memories.

A lot of time, however, I was staring at trees, rocks, and marsh, with the odd lake tossed in for good measure. Don’t get me wrong – God’s creation is beautiful - but when you’ve seen a bunch, one marsh looks pretty much like all the others.  

After a while I thought I was passing the same places. It felt like I was driving forever and not getting any closer to Shilo.  Kilometer after kilometer the odometer clicked ahead, but it felt like I would never get there. Rocks and trees, trees and rocks – how would a person know he was getting closer if it wasn’t for the place names to mark progress on the map?

As in driving, so in life. There are times when we feel like no matter how hard we try, or for how long, we will never reach our goal.  Whether it is paying off debt, battling illness, praying for a loved one, growing a church, or some other difficult situation, it is often feels like we’re not getting anywhere. And, to make things worse, we don’t have kilometer markers and place names to show our progress.

It is tempting to give up.

The people of Paul’s day knew this feeling. To encourage them, he wrote these words:

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”* (Galatians 6:9)

I love these words:

“at the proper time” – we don’t get to determine the time

“we will reap a harvest” – it will come

“if we do not give up”  - but we must persevere if we want to see the day.

It felt so good to pull my car and camper into the parking lot at Shilo. Kilometer after kilometer, tree after tree, rock after rock – each day was a day closer. And then, finally, I was there.

Let us keep going so that we will see the reward. I hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. He is married  to Jan and is a chaplain-in-training in the Canadian Armed Forces. This letter published July 15, 2014. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email Blog located at

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

OnFire #317 Blessed Hope

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #317 Blessed Hope

Hi Folks,

This is a big week for us. Yesterday I became a Captain in the Canadian Armed Forces and began my travel to Shilo as a chaplain-in-training. I’m finishing this letter from a motel in Rigaud, a little town outside Montreal. It feels weird that Jan and I will be apart for a while, but we find comfort in the fact that things are moving forward, and eventually this part of the journey will be behind us.  

I found myself repeating a phrase I have often taught through this blog –  “you can’t go and stay at the same time.” We can’t be faithful to God’s call without making changes. They’re not always comfortable, but they are necessary nonetheless. We said this to each other many times in the days, and even minutes, leading up to my departure.

One of the toughest parts for us in this process has been the waiting and the feeling like we are “in-between.” This past month, in particular, I have felt this sense of between-ness, of here and not here – no longer pastoring, but still waiting for next steps to unfold. I have to say, it has been a little uncomfortable, with the between-ness and waiting.

We are not the first people ever to wait - waiting is part of our shared human experience.  There are some things which I have found that make waiting a little easier on everyone involved. I’m not going to claim perfection in all, or any, of these things. But I know that when I practice them, things go better despite the waiting.

Don’t do anything to make it worse –  giving in to sinful behavior makes things worse. Likewise, making half-baked or ill-informed plans for the sake of doing “something” is a panic reaction which often results in additional pain.

Keep my patience – I phrase this intentionally. I could have said, “Don’t lose my patience,” but this hints that it was an accident, or perhaps that someone stole my ability to keep my tongue in check. “Keep“ is intentional – a positive decision not to get snippy with each other.

 Do what we can – During the past several months I have had to fight the urge to “shut down” due to emotional overload – too many decisions, too many unknowns, too many changes. It was hard to do anything productive at times. However, there were things I could still do, like preparing the yard, house and car. Doing these things kept me moving forward.

Remember the promise – I believe God is always good, and that He leads us to His good, for our good. When He asks us to wait, it is not in vain - someday we will be able to look back and say it is worth it all. That’s the promise, and it gives us hope.

These parallel thoughts of waiting and hoping lead me to Paul’s letter to Titus:

 …For the grace of God...  teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,… (Titus 2:11-13)*

There is a lot packed in these few verses. In particular, God gives grace to help us bypass sin and to respond with character and godliness. 

And second, we see ultimate hope. Our blessed hope as Christians is not to live without waiting or stress, but rather to see Jesus once again. We often lose sight of this. Our blessed hope is that one day we will see for ourselves the One who died for us and who will return for us.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of this it makes the waiting for my other things seem a little smaller, less consequential, and easier to bear. That’s our hope – on that day when Jesus appears, we will see it was worth it all.

Those are my latest thoughts on waiting. I hope it helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. He is married  to Jan and is a chaplain-in-training in the Canadian Armed Forces. This letter published July 2, 2014. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email Blog located at