Monday, December 15, 2014

OnFire #323 Santa, and Other New Experiences

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #323 Santa, and Other New Experiences

Hi Folks:

We continue to settle in. Our house is looking more like a home, and there are only a few things we have not been able to locate. Mark, our youngest, flies in Friday from Moncton, and we are very excited about his visit. We have a tree up, but we’ll wait until he arrives to decorate. We won’t see Ian this Christmas, but hope to see him in February.

Blessings, and Merry Christmas!
~~~~~~~

It has been a season full of firsts: first chapel service, first duty calls, first military Christmas events, first “official” prayer with the soldiers, first potluck in a church where I’m not the pastor. Today I’ll have a meeting with the regional minister. It has been exciting and interesting season as we integrate into our new calling.

Last weekend we attended the officers’ family Christmas party (another first) and we were taken back a few years to when Mark and Ian were still young. There were tables to make Christmas decorations and gingerbread cookies, and lots of little children clutching their parents’ pants legs. 

At the right time Santa arrived and everyone got their gifts. It has been a while since we were in that life stage, and I had forgotten that not all children appreciate the opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap.  A few cried when they realized they did not know this jolly old man in red and white, at which point their parents retrieved them to stop the crying.

We all knew that they did not need to be afraid of Santa, but they did not. Give it a few years and their feelings will change, but for now this was a scary new experience.

New experiences can be a little scary for all of us. Our new experiences here have not been without their moments, which generally revolve around being afraid of doing the wrong thing in a new setting. For example, we were at the base commander’s open house last week, and I dropped my plate, which landed face down on the floor, of course.  

Fear and new experiences go hand in hand. Some situations are minor, but not all are. Regardless, our fears are very real to us.  No one wakes up in the morning and says, “Woohoo, I get to do something that makes me afraid!”

The good news is that we never do these things alone. Go to biblegateway.com and look up “I will be with you” in your favourite version. NIV shows 7 times God speaks to his people to assure them that their new experiences will not overwhelm them.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”  (Isaiah 43:2*)

Don’t forget, also, that “Immanuel” means “God with us.” Jesus came to demonstrate in a very real and practical way that God is with us.

Whatever our new scary things is, we will not be alone. God goes with us. I hope this helps.

Troy

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 Dec 15, 2014. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email onfireletter@gmail.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com

Thursday, September 4, 2014

OnFire #321 In the Meantime Live

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #321 In the Meantime Live


Hi Folks:

Since writing last, I travelled back to Moncton for the sale of our house, and had  about a week of leave before basic training.  Despite the fact that we are now homeless, there have been some real joys during this time. I baptized our youngest son, Mark, along with a teen from our former church. Our other son, Ian, was home. We had some great time with friends, and we’ve visited family on PEI and in Saint John NB. In addition, we dropped Mark off to Crandall University for his first year. A lot has been going on.

Tomorrow I board the plane to Montreal and make my way to St. Jean sur Richilieu for my Basic Military Officer Qualification courses. Since we have already completed about 75 lessons on military life, law, history, and all sorts of other topics over the summer, we will do a condensed course lasting about 4 weeks.  In October, we change to Borden ON for chaplain school, which lasts another month. Then, on Nov 1, I will return to Shilo. Jan will join me and we will begin our life there together.

I will not be able to write during Sept and Oct. Thank you to so many who have written to express their well-wishes already, and who have told me they are praying.  Despite the stress of so much transition, my first two months in the military have been a confirmation of God’s leading, and I anticipate the next two months will go slowly day by day, but quickly overall.

There is a lot to squeeze in, but in many ways I am looking forward to it. I met a number of the chaplains when we were in Ottawa for board selection in February and we have maintained contact. They are super and we will look out for each other along the way.

I’ve been thinking about some advice I have received which I want to pass along. Both pieces are related, although they were given many years apart.

When I arrived in Shilo, my base chaplain told me to relish all the firsts. There would be a lot to learn quickly, but along the way there would be some great memories. He was right – I’ve had tours of the units on base, visited artillery in the field, met many great people, and experienced a lot of God’s grace and favour through them.

In 1989, we sat in our first chapel service in seminary and listened to our preaching prof bring a message called, “In The Meantime, Live.” The sermon was based on Jeremiah 29:4-10. We know the passage which follows really well, “I know the plans I have for you…” (Jer 29:11), but there were important words for us leading up to it.

The situation was that the Hebrew people were taken into exile in Babylonia.  God promised that after 70 years they would be able to return to Jerusalem, but in the meantime, they should not to be afraid to live their lives:

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.... When seventy years are completed for Babylon,…”*

The message for us students was that even though we would spend a number of years in school, we should fully embrace the experience. It would be easy to delay life, to view seminary as an exile of sorts. However, we would miss the opportunity God had placed before us to meet new people and experience new things.  In other words, in the meantime, live!

As I look ahead, it would be easy to wish away these next two months, to simply exist and endure. However, I’m hoping for some great times with the other chaplains. There will be lots of shared experiences and some great memories along the way.

I don’t entertain any illusions about basic training. It is designed to put us under stress and push us to new limits. I do not expect it to be comfortable.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t live in the meantime.  Jeremiah reminds us to live in the meantime.

I can’t claim original material in this letter, but a good word is worth passing along.  Difficulty, hardship, trial or trouble will come, but in the meantime we can still live.

I hope this helps. Be on fire and I’ll connect with you again in November.

Troy


OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis.  Married  to Jan, Troy is a chaplain-in-training in the Canadian Armed Forces, and has 20 years of pastoral experience. This letter published Sept 4, 2014. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email onfireletter@gmail.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com

Monday, August 18, 2014

OnFire #320 Bad News and Good News

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #320 Bad News and Good News

Since coming to Shilo in July, I’ve seen some good increases in my fitness level. The military has an interest in the fitness of its members, and daily physical training is a requirement. Before, I had a few runs of about 15km, but with almost daily running I have increased this. In the last few weeks I have had runs of more than 20km.

This is a good news and bad news story. My last long run started out great. I mapped out a route of about 20km. I would leave the base, take one of the back roads, cut across to the highway, and then return. Without some way to vary things, running can become boring, and this new route would be a nice change.

This was great until I missed my turn to cut across to the highway. This little mistake added about 7km to my route, and about an hour. I ran out of water. I didn’t have an energy bar. It took me about 3 hours and 15 minutes, and by the end I think my effort would be better described as waddling instead of running.

The bad news was that my run that day was a lot tougher than I planned or anticipated. I was sore for a few days, even with stretching, and my energy lagged in addition.

The good news, however, was that my run that day was a lot tougher than I planned or anticipated, but I did it! I was stretched far beyond what I thought I could do, and it has changed the way I think about these longer runs.  A few weeks ago I wondered if I could do a half-marathon, and now I’ve done that, and more, more than once. It gives me confidence to think about even tougher challenges ahead.

Strength and stamina don’t come without struggle, effort, and a little pain. As much as we’d like to believe the ads and infomercials, there is no quick route to physical conditioning. We get stronger as we work hard, test our bodies, push our limits, and overcome continuous challenges.

Our faith is similar in many ways. This is why James writes, “consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:3)* It is not realistic to think that life will be trouble-free.  Indeed, we can waste a lot of energy asking “why me?”  Instead, let us look at our difficulties in a different light. We tend to think our troubles are pointless and meaningless, but this not so. Trials are the push-ups, sit-ups, and footsteps of our spiritual fitness by which we develop strength and stamina.

When I think of the people I consider spiritual giants, they are not people who have escaped trial. Rather, they are the ones who faced difficulties with the strength that comes only from experience. They found the Lord to be faithful in the past, and they trust He will carry them through to the future.  It gives them calm and a peace even though everything swirls about them.

I don’t know what circumstances you may be facing, but I hope this helps. Be on fire.

Troy.

OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis.  Married  to Jan, Troy is a chaplain-in-training in the Canadian Armed Forces, and has 20 years of pastoral experience. This letter published Aug 17, 2014. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email onfireletter@gmail.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com

Saturday, August 2, 2014

OnFire #319 Almost Spilled Coffee

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #319 Almost Spilled Coffee

Hi Folks,

Since I wrote last, I have started the  distance learning portion of basic training. This involves about 10 days-worth of lessons on military life, law, history, culture, and knowledge. For instance, yesterday I started lessons on using a military radio.

I have to say, at times it is a little overwhelming – there is a lot to remember, and there is a lot at stake – but there have been some pretty neat things about it all. I like our chaplain team. I am enjoying meeting new people, and so many people have been kind and gracious.  There are a regular group of us that eat together at the cafeteria, and I particularly enjoy the other junior officers on the base. Also, this past week I toured the “Guns,” the 1st Regiment of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery. Very cool to meet the folks there and see the equipment.

This past week we hosted a team of teens to help us with vacation Bible school. I spent quite a bit of time hanging out with the team, which brought back lots of memories of mission trips with youth groups in the past.

I have been doing some sightseeing. Today I visited Riding Mountain National Park and saw free-range bison. Very cool. Last week was the Lily Festival in Neepawa.

Back in Moncton, the house has shown a bunch of times – we’re just waiting for the right buyer. Also, please pray that we could find a home for our two cats.

Ian loves his work in BC. He is the compassman on a timber cruising team. They lay out cut blocks and roads, as well as survey for tree size and type. Mark is getting a fair amount of call-in work at a local seniors home in Moncton. 

Blessings,

Troy


This morning I bought a coffee at our base coffee shop and then set it on top of the car to get my keys out. I then forgot about the coffee on the roof and began to pull away. Before it spilled, however, someone kindly caught  my attention and I was able to stop without having a mess all over the car.

Its great when people watch out for you. That has certainly been my experience so far on base, and it is something which we also need in our Christian walk.

My devotional reading lately has been in Revelation. Revelation is tough because there is so much that is hard for even the experts to understand, but we need not avoid it.  This we can know – God is just and no force is equal to Him. God will win in in the end, and this is the theme of the entire vision which the apostle John received.

As I came to chapter 19:9-10, I was struck by John’s response to one of the angels.  In awe of the message the angel delivered, John attempted to bow in worship, but the angel corrected him: “I am a fellow servant.” And then John attempted to worship the angel again in chapter 22:8-9.  The angel responded in the same way, and reminded John that they were both fellow servants of God.

John needed that angel to keep from making a huge mistake in giving his worship improperly. Thankfully the angel stopped him, and I think we can see a lesson for us in how we need to look out for each other. I think we need to thank God when people help us avoid problems, and in turn, we need to look out for others also.

There is another lesson here, and we see it in John’s close call.

How does John, apostle, beloved disciple of Jesus himself, solid servant of the Lord who was exiled to the island of Patmos for his strong and stalwart faith, find himself in the position of almost bowing in false worship? I think we may judge his motives pure, but he was obviously overwhelmed and confused. How could this happen to him, of all people?

I see three concerns, and this time I somehow managed to make them alliterate.

When we are dazzled, distracted, or deceived we may easily fall. If John was susceptible, who are we to think we are beyond such things?

This is, again, where we need each other. May we each have the grace to accept good and sound advice when we need it. All too easily, our pride often resists.

I hope this helps. Be on fire.

Troy

OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. Married  to Jan, Troy is a chaplain-in-training in the Canadian Armed Forces, and has 20 years of pastoral experience. This letter published Aug 2, 2014. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email onfireletter@gmail.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com



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.

Troy
  

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 onfireletter@gmail.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com

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.

Troy

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 onfireletter@gmail.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

OnFire #316 Take Hold of the Gunwales

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #316 Take Hold of the Gunwales

Hi Folks:

It has been an eventful several weeks for us in Moncton. Please continue to pray for the families, friends, and colleagues of the fallen and injured Moncton RCMP members. I ran in the memorial run last Sunday, “3km for 3 Fathers.” I was not prepared for my own level of emotion as I saw the sea of 7000 red runners and the RCMP members who lined the route.

Last week I was enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces. Currently I am an Officer Cadet, but on the day I begin my move I will be promoted to Captain. We are working out our moving dates this week. We can tell you now where we are going – CFB Shilo, which is near Brandon, Manitoba. We anticipate moving in the middle of July. Our house went on the market on the weekend.

Ian loves his job and Prince George, BC. He is a compassman on a timber cruising crew. Ian navigates the team and carries some of the gear for the crew which evaluates stands of timber. This week he is working out of a work camp.

Finally, news about Mark – Monday was his prom and safegrad, and today is his graduation from high school. Wow – hard to believe! We are so proud of him. He has worked hard and achieved much. He plans to attend our local Christian university, Crandall University, to study psychology. He wants to be a psychologist. We are celebrating with a family gathering later today.

I plan to continue writing OnFire. Understandably, there will be times when I will not be available because of courses. For instance, I will be on basic training in September and October. However, I will write as I am able, and will continue to include family news.

Blessings…

~~~~~~~~~

While visiting in Shelburne a few weeks  ago, I took the opportunity to take an overnight canoe trip with two of my friends, Dan and Ron. Dan soloed his canoe while Ron and I had another canoe, and we covered a little more than 20km of the Roseway River.

The Roseway is a fun little river with flatwater interspersed by sections of rapids. One section, Big Falls, is about 1 kilometre long and it involves tricky maneuvering between large rocks. This time of year it is not dangerous, but it can be difficult to make it through without getting stuck.

Ron and I got stuck and turned sideways several times. This has happened to me in the past where water flooded over the upstream gunwale and filled the boat. In fact, Dan and I swamped this way when we came down this section the last time.

At best, swamping means we get wet. At worst, we wrap the canoe around a rock in the middle of nowhere and lose gear.

I was determined not to let this happen. Every time we went sideways, I did everything within my power to balance the boat and prevent the upstream gunwale from dipping below the water. I tried to avoid the rocks that might snag us.  I shifted my weight. I forced the downstream gunwale down. While we did get stuck on many rocks, we kept the boat dry and intact.

I was reminded of the Bible’s teaching to keep ourselves from sin. We are to be determined, doing everything we can to protect our relationship with the Lord.

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  (1 Timothy 6:11-12*)

I love the verbs Paul uses because they show how determined he is.

Flee…sin

Pursue…righteousness

Fight…the good fight

Grab…eternal life


These are not weak words, but rather they convey the strength of the effort Paul calls us to. This is not “try hard, but don’t worry about it.” This is FLEE, PURSUE, FIGHT, GRAB. Be determined.

As I paddled down those rapids, I thought about how hard I was working to prevent the boat from filling, and saw this picture of working hard to take hold of my Christian life. It helped me, and so I hope it helps you.

Be on fire for God.

Troy


OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. He is married  to Jan and lives in Moncton NB Canada. This letter published June 18, 2014. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email onfireletter@gmail.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com