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Gone Fishing

One Saturday last July my son-in-law Jason and I took a bike ride outside Ottawa. The country road was mostly flat, almost without traffic. As we were beating up that morning’s only serious hill, out of nowhere a Dodge Ram pick-up blasted by well over the 80 km/h limit, nearly clipping my handlebars and, arguably, shortening my life expectancy by several hours.

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Who Attends Youth Group?

In the city where I live, there are four Christian Reformed congregations, several other more conservative Reformed congregations, plus a host of mainline and community churches. Over the last few years, our youth groups have seen a fluctuating attendance. We don't always know who are "members".

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An Exchange about Membership Transfers

Here's a brief email exchange about some technical issues on membership transfers between congregations and different denominations. I thought this might be helpful for elders, deacons, pastors, members because I think we deal with this at least ten times a year for people either transferring in or out. I think the two notes below are self-explanatory...

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Claudette's Cancer: A Hard Sanctification?

Yesterday a 40 year-old wife and mom from our congregation died. She had suffered from cancer for just over a year. It started with a mole in the small of her back that he husband saw one evening. Though discovered early, that made no difference to the raging cancer that devoured multiple organs.

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What Did YOU Do on Your Summer Vacation?

Well, it has been a couple of weeks since I've been on-line. Yes, my family and I have been "on holidays," as we say up here in the "true North, strong and free"--or as Bob Dylan calls it south of the border, "the north country fair." Whatever you call it, after a hard start to our holidays with the death of a young mother in our congregation (see the blog, "Claudette's Cancer: A Hard Sanctification?"), God blessed us with opportunities to re-connect as siblings, cousins, parents, childen and grandchildren in two rounds of family reunions.

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“Contemporary Worship” Doesn’t Have to Be Empty of History

We were on holidays and decided to go to a “contemporary service” in a CRC with nearly 100 years of history. Now, I LIKE to be critical—part of the "old man" still kicking around, I guess. But my wife is a kind and gentle and just woman. So, imagine my surprise the next day when she energetically called it a “dipstick” service. Yikes. How come?

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A Sober Warning

An op-ed from the August 7 New York Times, written by a United Church of Christ pastor is called "Congregations Gone Wild." G. Jeffrey MacDonald sketches a serious warning to pastors and congregations about our consumerist culture's potential to blow out the foundation and integrity of the pastoral calling.

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A Whisper

About a month ago I bumped into one of the daughters as she was visiting a local sister. I had recently visited her mom. We shared our experiences, wondering what stuck in her mom’s mind, what penetrated the formerly glowing eyes that only infrequently glimmer with God-knows-what powerful memory or affection. At one time the daughter sighed, “We all wonder what purpose God has for letting Mom live like this. Why is Mom still hanging on?”

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"Contemporvant" Worship Video--Funny? Offensive? Satirical? Mean?

Well, since my last blog post about ten days ago about a contemporary worship service Rose and I attended, there has been a fair bit of traffic on this page and a few comments--both on the Network and to my personal email. So now maybe it's time to keep the fires burning, the sparks flying, the synapses clicking (or whatever synapses do). A friend sent me the following link to a video that really...

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Mother Teresa and Pastors Today

Let's learn from the Roman Catholic masters from whom we separated--and whom we villainized for many years. Perhaps one spiritual benefit of ecumenism for all Christians is to examine ourselves, scour our motives, use the agonizingly slow, maddening wheels of the church to move with us and we pastors and leaders with them.

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Let's Keep Thinking about the "Second Service"

It appears that confessional preaching/teaching and the second worship services are both going the way of the dodo bird and passenger pigeon in most places in our denomination. Check out this article about second services by Matt Vande Bunte in a recent on-line issue of The Grand Rapids Press and then read on. I hope the article remains available for a while.

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Mother Teresa and Pastors (part 2)

A decade into her vocation as nun, Mother Teresa began to suffer “darkness” and the “absence of God.” briefly, that darkness and absence of God constituted her greatest suffering. Yet, after some years, she came to this stunning conclusion: "When you accept the vows [of a nun] you must accept the same fate as Jesus [abandonment by God?]"

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When Suicide Rocks a Community

In the last blog post I wrote on Mother Theresa’s profound spiritual suffering and its relation to the pastoral life. The sad, achingly poignant link to our community was the sadness of a 19 year-old’s suicide.

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James Smith on "Buried Treasure? Reformed Tradition and the Future of the CRC"

I invite you to listen to this talk by Dr. James K. A. Smith, professor of philosophy at Calvin College. Both the talk and the talkdown are worth listening to in order to challenge and provoke us pastors, our councils and congregations to re-engage the richness of the Reformed tradition, but NOT traditionalism. I hope you find this as provocative, clarifying and ...

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A Wrap of a Rap on the Heidelberg Catechism

Last week a colleague of mine sent me a link to this hilarious, yet serious, rap on the Heidelberg Catechism. This "cat rap" as I shall call it, is the curious result of a challenge by C.J. Mahaney to rapper Curtis Allen. I hadn't heard of either of these dudes (the term seems fitting), though I've read some good things by Kevin De Young, whose recent book on the catechism occasioned Mahaney's challenge. 

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Going to the Mall for Christmas?

On November 13, unbeknownst to the denizens of the shops and stores, members of Chorus Niagara scattered themselves about the Food Court of the Seaway Mall in Welland, Ontario. Several members of CRCs in St. Catharines sing in this chorus. Some crafty (and I hope legal) camera and sound work captured this marvelous happening. This is not Muzak! It is my early and free (just like the Gospel!!) Christmas gift to Networkers.

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Mockery? OR a Lesson in Gospel Translation?

One of my all-time favourite songs—Christmas or other times—is “Ere zij God”/”Glory to God” (Psalter Hymnal #214). We’ll surely be singing it again during Christmas Day worship, perhaps other times as well. I had never heard this song until we moved to Canada from Venezuela in 1986. Now, though, to take a seriously comical (or comically serious) turn, I’ll relate the story of “Ere zij God” that I recently heard from the spouse of a second-generation Canadian of Dutch heritage.

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More on Mall Music--Hallelujah, Amen!!

As some or many of you know, that YouTube video I linked in this blog two weeks ago of Chorus Niagara singing "The Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah has "gone viral," as they say. With over 13,000,000 hits and counting, this stirring piece has captivated millions for a few minutes--or more; 13,000,000 is more than one-third of the population of Canada.

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Twelve Years of Christmas in Chicago

Christmas really is about giving and receiving. One Christmas gift I never thought about receiving till Army time was the forgiveness that the Christ child was born to give by giving up his life.

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Christmas in the Rear-view Mirror

The week before Christmas was supposed to be easy. On my Monday off I took a pick-up load of scrap metal to Adelstein’s Recycling and pocketed $129.60; more than paid for stocking stuffers for the children and grandchildren who would start trickling in on Wednesday. They’d stay till December 27. Menus were planned, groceries bought.

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An R-Rated Epiphany Story

The names in Matthew 1:1-17 give a thumbnail sketch of Jesus’ family. Don’t skip them; look up their names and stories in the Bible. All in some way point to or reveal Jesus, who redeems people and the world from sin. But some point very crookedly. 

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Jesus in Every Book of the Bible--and on the Internet!

We hear a lot about wicked and dangerous stuff on the internet. But God is the Lord of all technology, including the internet, which can be used for much good. I'm going to invite you to check a four-minute video below of an enthusiastic eleven-year old boy powerfully declaiming in a service at Salem Lutheran Church, Tomball, Texas. (If the introductory frame actually introduces the speaker, he is Jack Stockton.) Here young Jack he names all 66 Bible books, mentioning briefly how each book reveals Jesus.

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Conflict: Inevitable, So Learn to Understand and Lead Through It

On the Church Administration Network colleague Sheri Laninga has posted a blog with this fine article from the Alban Institute about understanding and managing conflict in churches. er you read that article and chew on it a bit, let me suggest that you go to this remarkably closely-related YouTube video about understanding leadership and being a "differentiated leader."

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A Bit More on NOT Tweeting

Early on in the stone age of The Network (about ten months ago), I blogged about why I did not tweet and rarely use my Facebook page. My use of those social networks has not changed appreciably since then.

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Pastors Losing Family Members to Death

How do churches and pastors carry on after an immediate family member has died--whether suddenly or after an illness? I know two colleagues whose wives have died in automobile accidents and another whose young daughter died after a long illness. They were all faithful servants. Their congregations treated them well before and following those tragedies but . . .

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