Saturday, December 12, 2015

OnFire #338 Just Move the Beam

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #338 Just Move the Beam

Jan and I are singing in a singing Christmas tree. The set-up is pretty elaborate. At the core of the tree is sturdy steel piping. Around this structure there are the walkways and then finally the frames upon which the greenery is hung. On the very top is a regular tree with lights.

We had a few moments of laughter during the set-up when the top was placed. It was clearly evident that it was not straight as the structure was directly under a large, open wood beam. If everything lined up, the centre of the top should have met the centre of the beam, but it didn’t. 

Our first inclination was simply to leave it as it was – perhaps no one would notice!? But then one of the women walked in and proved us wrong. It was so obviously not straight that it would be a distraction.

Someone suggested, “Let’s just move the beam!” It was so ridiculous as to be funny. The simple solution was to adjust the tree.

As in the tree, so in life. Instead of simply admitting we are wrong at times, we adopt the attitude that everyone and everything else is wrong.  I’m right. Let the world change to accommodate me.

We even do this to God. We might read a clear passage of scripture and think, “That can’t mean what it says,” and we look for loopholes and justifications because it doesn’t occur to us that we might be wrong. By all means we should investigate fully in order to understand scripture. But to think that God is going to change for me is laughable, like thinking about moving the beam to make the tree look straight.

No one likes to change, but this is where we need to trust that God knows what he is doing, that His character is based in self-sacrificing love, that He really has our best in mind, that we can trust Him that He really is the standard for upright.

Evidence of God’s character is at the heart of Christmas. Jesus came as one of us, to live and die, for us, so that we can have a relationship with God. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

I want to wish you a Merry Christmas. May you know the joy of Jesus Christ in this season and throughout the year.


OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis.  Married  to Jan, Troy is a chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces, and has more than 20 years of pastoral experience. This letter published Dec 12, 2015.  *New International Version. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email Blog located at

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

OnFire #336 Rodeo Horses and Holy Life

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #336 Rodeo Horses and Holy Life

The last time I wrote was Jan’s birthday. We went to the rodeo and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. There were a couple of events that were the most fascinating to me. First was the calf herding. Working in pairs, riders on horses sorted 10 calves by directing them one at a time from one pen to another. Barrel racing was the other. Riders and horses charge around a course of three barrels to race against the clock. 

It takes amazing control to do these things, and these riders had amazing control over their horses – they could command them to go forward, backward, step to the side, turn as far or as little as they needed, make them go or stop, fast or slow. 

I don’t know a lot about horses, but I know this. This is not the first inclination of a horse. Horses can be stubborn. They want to do what they want, and they’ll take advantage of a weak rider to push their limits of what they can get away with. A horse has to be trained. Again, I don’t know a lot about this process, but I know it has to be done to make a good horse. 

In 1 Thessalonians 4:4 we read, “…that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable…”

As Christians, we always face an important decision. We can be led around by our urges and desires, or we can actually take control of our own lives. In fact, I think we can go so far as to say that until we take control and learn to control our own bodies, we are simply slaves led around by our impulses and urges. 

Until we take control of our bodies to turn them toward holy purposes, we are like untrained horses. As Christians we need to take control of our own bodies if we are to seek the higher goal of being set apart for God’s purposes.  

I hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis.  Married  to Jan, Troy is a chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces, and has more than 20 years of pastoral experience. This letter published Nov 24, 2015.  *New International Version. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email Blog located at

Saturday, October 24, 2015

OnFire #335 Little Cloud on the Prairie

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #335 Little Cloud on the Prairie

Hi folks!

Our excitement is that Jan’s birthday is today, and we have a new fridge. We’ll celebrate Jan’s birthday by going out to eat and then to a rodeo. When in the West, do as the Westerners do!  And about the fridge – our old fridge was 19 years old, and on its last legs since we could not get a replacement seal for the door, and it was rusting heavily at the bottom. It is kind of neat to know that we have been together long enough to wear out a fridge. Jan has, and continues to be, a great blessing in my life. May we wear out many fridges together!

Blessings for you and your household.


Grain and oil seed production is a basic way of life in western Canada. This is something we have learned since moving to Manitoba last year. Everywhere we travel we see vast fields swaying in the breeze. Wheat, barley, oats, rye, canola, soy, flax, and sunflower are just some of the varieties.

It is incredible to see the different crops flower in early summer. Flax blooms into an ocean of blue, while canola and soy glow yellow.  Later on, green fades to gold, and then there is the harvest. It is a major production to bring the crop into the bins, as we discovered when we were invited to see a friend’s farm. A small family farm is 1500 or 2000 acres. Many are larger. It is a huge logistical effort to time the harvest of different crops at different times.

The machinery is impressive. Combines are used to separate the grain from the stalk as well as to remove the outer shell. The seeds are collected for transport back to the farm, while the remainder is spread onto the ground behind the harvester.

It is a very dusty process, and depending on the crop, the cloud rising into the air often resembles smoke. Canola, in particular, produces a dark, sooty dust which could be confused with a tire fire from a distance. Because the prairies are so flat, it is possible to see evidence of these operations from many kilometers away. We might not see the combines, but we know they are there because we can see the clouds of dust.

This reminded me of the Holy Spirit. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8*)

Jesus spoke these words to a man named Nicodemus. Like the wind, we might not see the Spirit, but just as we know there is wind because trees sway and wheat rolls like ocean waves, we can see evidence of the presence of the Spirit. “But the fruit [aka “evidence”] of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23*)

As we live each day, our words, attitudes, and actions create a kind of cloud around us which indicates something of our nature and character. As believers, it should be apparent to others that the Holy Spirit is active in our lives. That just as we see a cloud of dust rising on the prairie and we know a combine is active, people ought to be able to see that God is living and active in our lives.

I hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis.  Married  to Jan, Troy is a chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces, and has more than 20 years of pastoral experience. This letter published Oct 24, 2015.  *New International Version. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email Blog located at

Thursday, September 24, 2015

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #334 Half Marathon Thoughts

Hi Folks

About a week ago, I ran my first official half-marathon, 21.1 km of stamina and endurance. I finished in 2:22:15, which earned me 9th out of 12 men in the 40-49 age category. Humbly, I finished just ahead of a sixty-year-old who ran the entire course barefoot. Like a lot of things I’ve written about, I found some spiritual and life lessons, and I offer them to you hoping they are helpful and encouraging.

It Took More Energy To Finish than to Start
The beginning was fresh and exciting. The middle had some tough hills, but even that was OK. The real challenge for me began as I turned downhill for the last 5km. Pain struck my knee, jabbing me with every stride. Stretching at the side of the road helped, but didn’t take it away. It took a lot of energy to fight back the pain at the end of the race.

There is a rule of thumb that the last 10% of a project will take 90% of the energy.  There is certainly some truth in this. I thought that once I finished the tougher 15km, the race would practically finish itself. I underestimated how hard the finish would be.

There is a life lesson in this. We love to plan the beginning, and things are exciting at the start. But the true test of character is finishing.

I Did Not Feel Ready
In August I developed pain in my knee related to something called IT bands.  For a while, I could not run more than 5km. I did, however, find that slowing my pace made it tolerable. Even still, I wished I had another month to heal and prepare.

I thought about this when I was running and remembered all the times I wished I more time to prepare before some project in one of my churches. It seems there comes a time to act, whether we feel ready or not.

We won't ever feel 100% ready. This is not an excuse to avoid preparing. On the contrary, it ought to drive us to prepare all the more. But there is always something more we could have done. More time we could have used. Perhaps this is where faith comes in, and we must pray, “Lord, I’ve done all I can do. It is time to start, the rest has to be You.”

Don’t Quit Before You Start
When my knee didn’t seem to improve, I seriously contemplated giving up about a week before the race.

Looking back, I remember the same feeling at other times when things did not seem to be coming together – fundraising a trip, pulling volunteers together, rolling out a new ministry.  There have been times I quit too soon, when I didn't ask for help, when I wasn’t determined enough.

There are crossroads when we must decide to continue or quit. There are times to quit, but this is the topic for another discussion. Let us not quit too soon. There are times we need to push through or we will never reach our goal.

God Was in It
On the morning of the race I opened a Bible to do my next scheduled reading and turned to Hebrews 12.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus,…” (Hebrew 12:1-2*)  Truly, God has a sense of humour!

And then while talking with another runner after the race, he showed me a bracelet he wears on race days with the same verse.

Coincidence? It showed me that God was in this, watching over the entire process from training to race day, including bringing me into fellowship with other believing runners. All I can say is, God is cool!

I Heard My Name
This race had chip timing, meaning that we all wore plastic disks that transmitted our information to a computer as we crossed the finish line. It was pretty neat to hear my name being called over the PA: “And now, Troy Dennis from Shilo, Manitoba!” A crowd of people cheered and clapped. What a feeling of pride, accomplishment and satisfaction.

How special it will be when believers appear before the Lord at the end of time. The book of the Lamb will be opened, and those whose names are written there will enter. (Revelation 21:7) Surely there will be so much more joy to enter into the eternal presence of the Lord.

These are some of the thoughts I had from my half-marathon. I hope this helps. Be on fire.

OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis.  Married  to Jan, Troy is a chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces, and has more than 20 years of pastoral experience. This letter published Sept 24, 2015.  *New International Version. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email Blog located at

Saturday, August 22, 2015

OnFire 333 - Citizenship Ceremony

Encouraged by our base commander, a bunch of us recently attended a citizenship ceremony held on the base. 102 immigrants from 26 countries stood, raised their right hands, and committed themselves as Canadians:

“I swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

This was repeated in French. Candidates had to be seen to speak the words in either language, and the option was given for those who wished to “affirm” rather than “swear.” Then, one by one, they were called forward to receive a small Canadian flag, sign their paperwork and officially become Canadians.

This was their final step in the immigration process, which included paperwork, multiple applications, travel, and classes.  Many invited friends and family, and it was obvious that it was a proud day for all involved. There were lots of pictures, especially with the RCMP and military members in dress uniform.

I found it to be a moving ceremony as I reflected on many things. My Scottish and English ancestors came to Canada in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s for the same reasons as modern immigrants. Hope for a better life is a powerful motivator. It gives courage to leave the familiar for the promise of the better. In this way it is a kind of faith.

It was inspiring to hear the judge read a half-dozen letters from new Canadians. Some had escaped horrendous situations, while others left regions with little prospect. All had sacrificed to come to Canada. One account in particular demonstrated that hope was not ill-founded. A colleague of the judge had escaped tyranny in Vietnam, survived on a boat in the South China Sea, and finally made her way to Canada where she plodded through minimum wage jobs to go to school so she could establish a legal career.

We whine and complain sometimes about Canada, and we hear more lately with the election underway as candidates try to get the upper hand by blaming each other for the problems of the day. We forget that Canada is a country of opportunity, a land blessed with safety, security, promise and prosperity unknown in many parts of the world. We would do well to be thankful.

In a surprising number of the letters read by the judge (more than half), the new Canadians thanked God for bringing them to Canada. Let’s not assume that all of them referenced the God we worship, nor should we assume that all the immigrants had some kind of religious heritage. But even still, many were not afraid to attribute their new status as Canadians to God, and were bold to proclaim it.

This was inspiring and challenging to me, and it was also a signal to broaden my thinking about how immigrants are changing Canada. I like Canada’s diversity. I like that new blood brings freshness. Canada cannot help but be changed for the better by immigration.

More than that, I am excited to know that many immigrants share faith and are not ashamed to proclaim the good news about Jesus. This, too, will change our country and our churches. One man was given the opportunity to read his short account. He was African in descent, with a deep voice, and he was enthusiastic as he thanked the Father in Heaven for bringing him to Canada. This was not lost on the other officers I was sitting with. “He should be a preacher!” Perhaps a big part of the revitalization for which we pray will not come from within, but from without. Praise God!

Finally, I reflected on citizenship. We enjoy the privileges of being citizens, but someday we will slip away from this life and the status of our earthly passports will no longer apply. In this we can be grateful for a different citizenship through faith in Jesus Christ:

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
(Philippians 3:20-21*)

Each follower of Jesus has the assurance of an eternal citizenship which will be far better than we have things here.  Just think, there will be a day when we will stand before our Judge, our citizenship will be recognized, and we will be granted entry into eternal state with Jesus.

If you are not sure of your hope, trust in Jesus today. If you are, be thankful and tell someone else. And take hope in the promise of better life to come.

These are some of my reflections after attending the citizenship ceremony. I hope something in this helps you.



OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis.  Married  to Jan, Troy is a chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces, and has more than 20 years of pastoral experience. This letter published Aug 22, 2015.  *New International Version. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email Blog located at

Thursday, July 23, 2015

OnFire 332 Broken Springs Affirm Faith

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire 332 Broken Springs Affirm Faith

Our vacation plan was to tow our hardtop camper to BC in order to visit our oldest boy. We would stay with some friends, but also camp along the way. This would minimize inconvenience for our friends and be cheaper than hotels.

The plan came apart when the trailer broke a spring about an hour away from home. I jacked it up, blocked the suspension, and limped about a kilometre back to Virden, the Manitoba town we had just passed through.

What to do? It was Canada Day, so nothing was open. If we waited to get the trailer fixed, we would miss out on time with Ian, a basic goal of the trip. What would we do about the trailer?

We decided to go on without it. We made arrangements to stay with our friends and found a place to park our trailer until we returned. And then we hit the road, only a few hours later than we had hoped.

We had two choices for looking at this event. We could see it as a really lousy start to our trip, and gripe the whole way around BC, or we could see our trouble as the seed bed for a much better experience than we had originally planned, and thank God for the opportunity. This is how we have come to see it, for a bunch of reasons.

We got to spend more time with our son. We skipped camping in Jasper, as lovely as that would have been, and pushed through for the extra day.

We spent more time connecting with friends by staying in their homes instead of camping. We would have missed out on some real blessings because we could not have had those wonderful evening and morning chats.

We had a more comfortable drive. Some of the mountainous roads, route 99 in particular from Cache Creek to Pemberton, were nail-biters. When signs said 30km, they meant it. I’m glad we didn’t have the trailer on some sections. Even worse would have been to break down there – in the mountains - in the middle of nowhere – with no breakdown area.  

If our trailer was going to break down, it broke down in the best possible place – only a kilometre from a large RV centre. It was an easy matter to take it to their repair shop as we returned home.

These are only some of the reasons why we thank God our trailer broke down where it did.

It was fairly easy to see how this bit of rough experience could turn out for the best because the results were fairly immediate. That’s not always the case when we face adversity. In the middle of our pain it is often hard to see how something good might be squeezed from between a rock and hard place.

But looking back on some of my more painful experiences I have seen it happen enough that it makes facing difficulty a little easier. I would never have wished those events to have happened, but I learned from them, and good things came out of them. And I came to see something about the goodness of God that I might not have seen otherwise.

This is the hope and promise of faith, that our trials are not in vain. That God is good, He loves us, and brings good even from the bad. “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord.” (Romans 8:28*)

I hope this helps in whatever you may be facing.


OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis.  Married  to Jan, Troy is a chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces, and has more than 20 years of pastoral experience. This letter published July 23, 2015.  *New International Version. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email Blog located at

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

OnFire #330 Reducing Drama

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #330 Reducing Drama

None of us needs more emotional stuff to deal with, and yet all of us have experienced the splatter of life’s drama. Many of us would like to have a little less dramatic content in our non-reality-TV lives, so I’ve put together some comments which I hope will help.

Don’t assume the worst about a situation.  When we first get a piece of bad news, our minds often race ahead to all the worst possible outcomes, and before we know it we’ve gotten ourselves into a full-blown anxiety event.  Things are rarely as bad as they first seem, however. We need to take a deep breath and pray for wisdom and peace (James 1:5; Philippians 4:6-7).

Don’t assume the worst about a person. You know the saying: “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.” Sometimes that is true, but most often it is just the smell of someone’s reputation getting torched. It is interesting that when we make a mistake, we can think of lots of reasons why our gaffe was reasonable, unavoidable really, but when someone else makes the same blunder, it is must be the result of a deep character flaw. Jesus said something about specks and beams to drive this point home (Matthew 7:3-5).

Be careful with assumptions. Our minds like to fill in missing pieces when we don’t have all the information. Sometimes we can’t know all the facts, and so we shouldn’t try to guess. Resist filling in these missing pieces. Let me say it again, for emphasis. Let’s resist filling in the missing pieces when we don't know something. Let’s remember that another word for made-up facts is “gossip.”

Let’s avoid histrionics. This is when we increase the drama of the story by 1) accentuating our good and positive actions, and 2) exaggerating the negative actions of someone else. Such story telling is really hagiography, events told to make ourselves look better.

Let’s not play out disputes on social media. It seems the first thing we want to do when we’re hurt, offended, or morally outraged is to recruit people to our side of an issue. Social media is an excellent tool to get attention and has done wonders to raise awareness of a number of needed issues, but gossip and personality disputes are not among its redeeming purposes.

Let’s use discretion. We don’t need to tell everyone everything. Some people don’t need to know, while others can’t keep a secret. Unfortunately, we often discover this the hard way.

These are tips I have discovered while in the middle of some blow-up or another. Some were my own, while some belonged to others. Nothing lately, but in general. I say this to protect myself from someone who might try to read into the situation – that would be a wrong assumption, by the way. Perhaps you have some other tips. I've love to hear them.

I hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis.  Married  to Jan, Troy is a chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces, and has more than 20 years of pastoral experience. This letter published June 3, 2015. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email Blog located at

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

OnFire #329 Danger in Bible Study

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #329 Danger in Bible Study

Hi Folks:

We’re mainly well. Jan had the flu last week, but recovered in time to attend a women’s retreat on the weekend. Our weather has been very nice so we can enjoy exercising outdoors again. I got to paddle on Pelican Lake and discovered that there are pelicans there. Mark has moved out of dorm and to some friends for the summer. And, we’re making plans to visit Ian in Prince George in July.

I had the opportunity to speak at First Baptist Church in Brandon last week and loved preaching in a church again. I adapted part of the message for OnFire. Taking my passage from the pastor’s sermon series, I spoke from Mark 12:28-34.  To set things up, religious leaders took turns trying to trap Jesus in tricky theological issues so they could remove him from public ministry.

There is a fundamental pride issue at the heart of their approach to trap Jesus that exposes an issue for serious students of the Bible. I know this because I have seen it at Bible college, I’ve seen it in churches and communities I have served, and I have fallen into it at times.

There is a danger for students of the Bible to be puffed up with knowledge and to think that we have a corner on the truth, that we have things figured out, that we are now qualified to sit in a place of judgment, to be self-appointed arbiters and judges of “proper theology.”

There are some signs that we are on this dangerous ground.

- If we listen to pastors, Sunday school teachers, or small group leaders - not to hear how God might give us insight into our own lives – but to pick apart their theology

- If our sermon or class notes are details of the their bad theology

- If our first inclination after a sermon or Bible class is to fire off an email

- If we see our task is to correct or expose those around us for their improper or incorrect theology

I don’t want to minimize what is at stake. It is true that biblical teaching is serious business. James 3:1 reminds us that God will hold Bible teachers to a higher level of accountability because of the responsibility to teach. As Christians, we need to be on guard so that wrong theology is not spread throughout the ranks. This is part of “testing the spirits.” (1 John 4:1).

But here is the point, and where we are at risk of falling off the rails. Theology always has to coupled with humility. Without humility, theology is a very dangerous pursuit and it turns into the hammer by which we smite those who differ from our pet theological position.

Here are four reasons why we need to need humility as we study the scriptures.

- We do not have a perfect intellect or understanding. What seems so “logical” to us may actually be flawed if we make a wrong deduction or jump to a false conclusion. To illustrate things, how many arguments at home, work, or church have been caused because we misunderstood something?

- We don’t have all the truth – just all the truth we need. When it comes to the Bible, we have all that we need to understand who God is, His plan for salvation, who Jesus is, the Holy Spirit, our salvation, how to live holy and upright lives, our hope for the future, and a lot more. But we don’t have it all. There are some missing pieces, and that’s OK – it means we have to rely on God for the rest. We have all the truth we need, but we must remember we don’t have all the truth.

- The other person may actually know something. It didn’t take long for me to learn as a pastor that there were people in the congregation who knew the Bible better than I did, who had studied various parts in more detail than I had. And, thankfully,  a good many of these people had developed enough wisdom to guide or correct me gently. I learned from their knowledge and approach.

- Scripture commands humility – “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) It is hard to value others when our attitude is that we are theologically superior. We can be right without being arrogant.

It intrigues and disturbs me to look back on my early years in ministry prep. I somehow thought my little bit of learning made me an expert qualified to school pastors and Bible profs. It is such an easy thing to slip into, so you won’t hear judgment from me. Just a reminder that our study is supposed to transform us so that we become more like the image of Christ, not less.

I hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis.  Married  to Jan, Troy is a chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces, and has 20 years of pastoral experience. This letter published May 5, 2015. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email Blog located at

Monday, April 13, 2015

OnFire #328 The Blessings of the Ordinary

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #328 The Blessings of the Ordinary

Hi folks. We just returned from an extraordinary trip. Since our 25th anniversary is coming up in May, and I will likely be on a French course, Jan and I decided we would go a little early. We flew to Phoenix, rented a car, and travelled to Sedona, the Painted Desert, Grand Canyon, Kingman (a traditional Route 66 stop), Las Vegas, and the Hoover Dam. We really enjoyed the time travelling together and were amazed at the spectacular sights. If we are friends on Facebook, you may have seen some of the pictures. If not, email me and I’ll send you the links.

About halfway through the trip, we met a local woman who surprised us with a thought-provoking question. She listened as we described our trip and asked, “What is it that you find so spectacular?”

She was surprised that we were fascinated by sights which were very ordinary in her local perspective. We loved the vastness of the desert, with such a variety of life thriving even though the landscape was parched. In Sedona, the red sandstone formations soared hundreds of feet into the air. In the painted desert, alternating layers of sandstone and rock looked like they had been decorated by an artist.

We met other locals who had never travelled the hour or two needed to visit the Grand Canyon. “Grand” seems too small a word to describe it. It was amazingly spectacular.

We are all guilty of taking local sights for granted. When I was young growing up on PEI, I did not appreciate Anne of Green Gables, nor did recognize the beauty of the water. It was only after leaving and coming back that I saw them with new eyes.

We tend to overlook the ordinary in our lives and herein lies the spiritual lesson. After this woman asked us what we found so spectacular, I began to wonder if it is possible that others might recognize great blessing in something we consider rather ordinary? It seems it is possible to overlook the ordinary of our lives and actually fail to see great blessings.  

My transition to military life has been a good one, but not without its adjustments. For instance, my military work day most often ends at 4pm. This can change according to training or operations, and sometimes I have the duty phone 24/7 for a week at a time. But, generally speaking, I am finished at 4. There are times I find myself a little bored, wishing for something to do or somewhere to go. This is the ordinary of my life. However, a year or two ago I would have envied myself as I tried to pry productive time from every minute of every day. I will eventually find ways to use this newfound time, but it is indeed a blessing.

This is a matter of perspective. What we see as ordinary is extra-ordinary to someone else, perhaps even a blessing.  The challenge is to see our own lives through someone else’s experience in order to gain a new sense of  thankfulness. 

Our ordinary may look very different to someone else, and so we are left to think about that very issue. In what ways is our ordinary actually a great blessing?

I hope this helps. Be on fire.

OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis.  Married  to Jan, Troy is a chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces, and has 20 years of pastoral experience. This letter published Apr 13, 2015. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email Blog located at

Saturday, March 21, 2015

OnFire #327 Eyes to See

OnFire Encouragement Letter
Onfire #327 Eyes to See

A few nights ago, we went out to see the northern lights. We had heard that it was a possibility, and it was a clear night here in Manitoba, so we set out to see what we could see.

In the past we have seen some spectacular sights. There was one time when we lived on Grand Manan when they lit up most of the sky in gorgeous reds and greens. On PEI another time, we saw them as fingers reaching up into the sky at about 2 in the morning. And then in Shediac another time we watched them shimmering on the horizon. We had high hopes since the news had been talking up the opportunity.

As we left the bright lights of habitation to find a dark country road, we could see a little bit of green developing to the north. We parked the car, set up the camera and waited to see what might develop on the skyline.

The aurora are always neat to see, but they were not very bright that night. We gazed for a while and then I decided to take some pictures hoping that the camera could see more than our eyes.  It was an experiment, really. I knew the camera was capable, but I had never shot night scenes with it before.

My goodness, the results were pretty. After experimenting we came away with some nice shots. We were able to see green fingers of light reaching into the heavens like searchlights against the stars. 

Most remarkable to me was the fact that the northern lights were only barely visible to us.  We could only see a dim cloud of light shifting in the sky. No fingers. And yet, they were plainly visible to the camera. We needed help to see what we could not see.

Faith is like that. It is “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1*) In a way, it is seeing what we do not yet see. 

Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesus is interesting in this light. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened…” In other words, that their faith would be strengthened to see more of God’s working around them.

What did Paul hope they would see? “… the hope to which he has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe…” (Ephesians 1:18-19) He wanted them to have hope because things will not always be the same (inheritance) and God is powerful. These things are not always plain to us. We need eyes of faith to see them.

Like the northern lights which were more visible to the camera than to our eyes, God is undoubtedly doing more than we can perceive because he is more powerful than we can imagine.

May our desire be to see more of God so that our hope is confident. May our prayer be “Open the eyes eyes of my heart.”

I hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis.  Married  to Jan, Troy is a chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces, and has 20 years of pastoral experience. This letter published Mar 21, 2015. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email Blog located at

Thursday, January 8, 2015

OnFire 324 Lessons from the Crab Apple Tree

OnFire Encouragement Letter
 OnFire 324 Lessons from the Crab Apple Tree

When we moved into our house in Shilo, we discovered a crab tree in the backyard. Like many crab trees, it is overgrown, but it has especially tiny little red apples, about the size of large cherries. They don’t taste very good. I tried.

Despite it being November with the temperature already averaging below freezing, a lot of the little apples still hung in the branches, while many others occupied the ground under the tree and on the walkway leading into our back door. It did not take long for the movers to track these little apples into the house, where their mashed remains quickly dried like glue on the floor. Needless to say, we were not great fans of that tree…

…Until a couple of weeks ago, that is. About 50 Bohemian waxwings (wide-bellied cousins of the cedar variety) showed up and spent 2 days feeding from the apples in the tree and on the ground. It was quite a show to see them milling in our trees and taking turns swooping onto the ground. Any hint of movement sent them lifting to the air, so we watched quietly from an angle. You can see them on my Facebook page if we are “friends.” We were disappointed when they left, but felt blessed to have seen them.

And then this week we spotted some bunny tracks in the newly fallen snow under the tree. Every morning the tracks multiply, mounting evidence that a rabbit or two has found a private stash of apples.

I take two lessons from this. First, I was gently reminded of the passage from Matthew 6:25-27.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

God is looking after the forest critters in our neighbourhood; in fact, He is using this “useless” tree to do it. 50 birds and a few rabbits, and probably a few deer, too. In the same way He provides for them, He will provide for us, and so we are lovingly reminded that our worrying is futile and pointless. God will, repeat, will provide for us because we mean even more to Him than the birds.

And then, there was lesson number 2. What we considered a pain in the neck actually turned out to be something very valuable and meaningful to us. Cleaning stuck-on dried apple from the floors of our house was a pain in the neck. I contemplated ways to trim the tree and wondered if it was time for this thing to go. But we rent our house, so it is hands off the tree.

We think of the tree differently now. We delight in finding the new tracks each morning. So far I haven’t convinced Jan to let me buy a trail camera to capture pictures at night – she apparently sees through my pretext. But, this tree is now a delight and we see it as so much more than the pain we initially thought it was.

Change is like that. Someone asks us to consider doing something differently. All we can see are the inconveniences and problems. But in God’s economy, who is to say that perhaps God will use this change – and our inconvenience – to accomplish something according to His purposes? It requires a little less selfishness on our part to have this perspective.

I’m living this currently. I have the chance to finish my remaining courses and get off the training list for chaplaincy. Then I can get to more permanent ministry in a unit. That’s what I joined the army for. Or, I can take a French course for three or more months, and delay getting my required courses for another year. It’s not what I prefer. I want to get right in there, and sitting in the class doesn't feel like I’m doing something productive.

But there is another way to think about it. I can be a more effective chaplain if I am willing to see things a little differently. My French currently isn't good enough to provide ministry. Without more second language skills, I cannot minister to a significant portion of our military members. And so this is the thought I need to hang on to.

Change is tough for all of us, no matter the form in which it comes. But let us not give up the possibility of something joyful and delightful just because we can’t, or won’t, see beyond our own circumstances.

I hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis.  Married  to Jan, Troy is a chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces, and has 20 years of pastoral experience. This letter published Jan 8, 2014. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email Blog located at