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


Thursday, June 5, 2014

OnFire #315 Update from Moncton

Hi Folks:

It has been a very surreal night in Moncton as police continue their search for a man who is alleged to have killed three RCMP officers and shot two others last night just after 7pm. This morning, school is cancelled and public transit is shut down. The streets are very quiet. We are approximately 4km away from cordoned area, but Moncton is not a large city so everything feels close. 

I am preparing a regular OnFire, but will wait until this situation is resolved. Please pray for everyone involved. Police and first-responder lives are at risk. There are many victims, eyewitnesses and family members. Undoubtedly many in Moncton will be directly affected.

Let me give a quick family update since it has been a while. A lot has happened since I last wrote. Ian has graduated from his forestry and wildlife program and has moved twice since then. He moved home while he was job hunting, and then last Thursday he flew to Prince George BC for his new job there. As a parent, that was a little weird, but we keep telling ourselves that we didn’t raise him to live in our basement. He is upbeat and started work yesterday.

We’ve been getting our house and yard ready for the market. Jan painted and touched up inside the house. The flower beds and rock garden are looking good, and yesterday I painted part of our car port. The place is looking pretty good but it is a chore to keep on top of the weeds. That, in itself, could be an OnFire letter.

I finished my responsibilities at Highfield Baptist Church in Moncton. On May 25 the church held my last service, which was amazing. There was a great turnout, I got to play in the band one last time, people sang and worshipped well, people said neat things, and there was a great fellowship time after. As a gift, they presented me with a canoe paddle with a picture of the church on it. Truly a very thoughtful gift. It seems a little like a dream that six years could go by so quickly.

We’re on vacation currently, using our time to visit friends and family before the military, and to get the house ready. This past weekend Jan went to Yarmouth NS to visit her sister while I went to Shelburne NS for a canoe trip with some friends there. And then we met up to go to church at Shelburne Baptist where I used to pastor. It was great to see our friends from the church.

We still await final word from the military with my job offer and posting notice.  We have been told where the Chaplain Branch would like to send us, but this is not official yet, so I’ll leave that for another post. It is a lesson is patience, for sure. We’d like to have everything settled, but all will work out in due time.  We expect to move in July.

Please pray for us along these lines: that our message would arrive, getting the house ready, Mark's grad year events and transition from high school, selling our van, finding homes for our cats.

Please also continue to pray for Moncton police and residents.

-- 

Monday, April 14, 2014

OnFire 314 Palm Sunday and the Unexpected

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #314 Palm Sunday and the Unexpected
Hi Folks:

Yesterday in most churches we celebrated Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is named after the palm branches that people waved as Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the final time. Miracles such as the healing of Bartimaeus from his blindness (Mark 10), and  especially the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11), attracted large crowds who wished to pay tribute to Jesus as he travelled into the city.  Shouting “Hoasanna,” they waved the branches and laid them on the road along with their cloaks. 

What followed was a week of unexpected turns. Who would have expected that the Messiah might ride on a humble donkey? Or overturn the tables in the temple? Curse a fig tree? To be betrayed, arrested, and executed?

Thankfully there was one more unexpected turn on Sunday morning. Who would have expected the resurrection? Thank God, literally, that He is a God of the unexpected, working in ways we would not predict, and bringing unexpected good from situations  in ways we could never anticipate.

We should. This is God’s nature and we see it in the Bible time and time again.  It is also the promise of scripture. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” (Romans 8:28)*

I think this is one of the lessons of Easter week, that we need to be open to the fact that God might do something we don’t expect. This is where we need to be careful when we nod our heads in agreement. Of course we are open, aren’t we?

But are we? Really? Truthfully, we aren’t always very comfortable with the unexpected. We like predictable. We like knowing how things will unfold, and often become quite anxious about the future. This happens both personally and corporately. We worry over the details of our lives, and in our churches we dig in our heals to avoid change.  From one side of our mouth we say we want a new work of God in our midst. And from the other side we resist doing something different.

Its part of our fallen human nature. I struggle with this as much as anyone. Years ago I passed up a chance to play in a band. Some friends wanted to clean up a barn and hold youth events. I couldn’t imagine how this would work, and so I missed the chance to be in on “The Loft,” which was based on something Amy Grant started. I am told it was very successful. That’s just one example.

This is to say that I understand the tension and difficulty over change. Nonetheless, the truth remains that if I want to see God work in new and unexpected ways, I need to be open to God working in, well, new and unexpected ways. I can’t change and yet remain the same, just like I can’t stay and go.

I’m thinking a lot about the unexpected during this Easter season.  Not quite a year ago, I began to perceive that God might be calling me toward military chaplaincy. This was definitely unexpected since I never dreamed of this when I was younger.  I thought it was crazy, and thought Jan would think it was crazy. The idea wouldn’t go away, and Jan didn’t think I was nuts. We talked with friends in chaplaincy and prayed a lot. In September I started the recruiting process. In February I went to Ottawa for interviews. Since then I have been accepted as a potential chaplain and I expect a job offer and posting in late April or early May.

Once my letter arrives from the military things will change very quickly. We expect to be posted as early as July. My senior pastor and our deacons have known for some time and are making succession plans. Last week I informed the congregation of these changes. People have generally reacted in two ways: Sadness to see us go, and affirmation that this as a good fit for me. 

There are lots of days I still think this is a little crazy.  I’m 46 years old and I have to do basic training.  But we can see God’s hand in this in so many ways. Two years ago I felt compelled to get in better shape, and now we know why.  Furthermore, the timing is good. Mark finishes high school and Ian will be working. And so, we trust that God will continue to equip. 

One message of Easter resurrection is that God often does the unexpected. I don’t know in what unexpected ways God might be leading you. All I can say is, be open to God’s unexpected.

I hope this helps. Be on fire.

Troy

OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Apr 14 2014. Troy is the Pastor of Next Generations and Connections at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe or reply, email onfireletter@gmail.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com


Monday, March 31, 2014

OnFire #313 Not Everything Goes Back

OnFire Encouragement Letter
Onfire #313 Not Everything Goes Back

As I mentioned last time, we have finished our kitchen and we really enjoy it.  Our nook area is particularly enjoyable and all of us eat there at different points in the morning. We like it.

It has been interesting to plan where everything goes back. The kitchen is a different configuration, so everything needed to move. The spices are in a different place, as are most things. Some things are generally in the same area, but everything changed. 

Not only is the kitchen a different configuration; we also decided to store things differently. We wanted to reduce visible clutter, so everything goes into a cabinet, whereas before, we had rice and flour stored in large containers in plain view. It was as it needed to be at one time, but that was then and this is now. We took the opportunity to make the change and we have been very pleased with how clean and bright things look.

As we made these changes, It became apparent that not everything was going to fit back into the kitchen. We had too much stuff to fit into the available space, and so Jan started weeding and thinning – utensils, cookbooks, recipe books, large garbage containers, cookie sheets ,roasters…. It could not all go back, so we had to choose what stayed and what did not.

It was a good opportunity to make some needed changes. Likewise, there are times in our lives when we have an opportunity to pick and choose what will go back. If I may make the suggestion – not everything needs to go back.

While we look at major changes in our lives with something less than enthusiasm and usually just hope to endure long enough to get through them, we should not miss the opportunities they often create. Whether it is moving, changing jobs, depression, a health crisis, change in life stage, or some other disruption, change has a way of forcing us to make decisions about what is really important -- but only if we take advantage of it. We can coast along, accept the status quo, and slip back into old ways of doing things, or we can reorder and reorganize in ways that move us toward new or forgotten goals.

Not everything needs to go back.

How do we know what should go back? This is where I think Jesus’ simple instruction in Matthew 6:33*  is helpful: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Jesus tells us that if we make room for the big things, the little things take care of themselves. The biggest, of course, is honouring God first. Here are some of the big things:

-Actions chosen to honour God and put Him first.
-Responsibilities simplified and limited to one’s most effective areas
-Decisions reflecting a sense of calling from God

We learned a lot of lessons from redoing our kitchen. This is one of them – not everything goes back, nor does it need to. I hope this helps. Be on fire.

Troy

OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Mar 31, 2014. Troy is the Pastor of Next Generations and Connections at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe or reply, email onfireletter@gmail.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com

Thursday, March 13, 2014

OnFire #312 More Stressful than I Thought

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #312 More Stressful than I Thought

I wrote a couple weeks ago about our kitchen renovation. It is almost finished. The flooring guy comes Friday, and the parts to install our dishwasher should come any day, so we are almost finished. From start to finish, we have moved a heating pipe into a wall, upgraded our kitchen electrical circuits and moved the stove plug, repaired wall board, fixed damaged ceiling, primed and painted, and installed cabinets, counter, and over-stove microwave.

Our place is slowly getting back to normal. For a while I couldn’t tell if we were living through a renovation, or an episode of “Hoarders.” We had stuff everywhere.

We had help from a friend. It was great that Dan could come and we had a great visit as well.

Something I don’t understand after the whole experience. This was way more stressful than I thought it would be. I don’t even know why it was so stressful. It went along relatively smoothly with few surprises, good help,  etc.  But it was.

I know some of the factors. We only had our friend’s help for just so long. Little things held us up at times, like moving outlets, and that was frustrating.  Our space and routines were disturbed. We could hardly move around the house without stepping over, around, or on something. The tension of making decisions, which I knew would delay the project, but had to be done anyway. On and on.  I suppose if you’ve been through this before, there is no surprise here.  I’ve worked on other people’s renovations before, but this was my own, and it was different. Much more stressful than I thought it would be.

Well, it’s almost over, and most things are put away. Looking back, I see some actions and attitudes which helped, and some others which probably added to the stress. Let me share these things with you, as I think you’ll agree there are broader lessons for the rest of life.

This won’t last forever.
As these things go, it was a short reno;  they can last weeks and months, so I don’t want to whine too much. Even still, I found this thought a source of comfort.  Indeed, most situations don’t last forever. It won’t always be this way is another way to express this thought.

Getting snippy doesn’t help.
Apparently I get more directive under stress, and I forget my please and thank you’s. That’s the kinder version of  what Jan told me, at least. Backing off, waiting to answer, exercising patience – all these things help make stressful situations go a lot better. Its one thing to have stress, but I don’t need to be a carrier.

Pray for God’s peace.
Ironically, on the Sunday before most of the work, I preached from Philippians 4:6 -7 on God’s peace:  

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”*

I found myself reminded about my own words many times during the week, and prayed about my own stress (anxiety).  I would have been much worse without prayer.

Its probably not as big as you think.
Every reno brings problems, issues and decisions, and ours was no exception.  Taken together, they seemed huge. But  one by one, and with a little time to think about them, they were more manageable and less intimidating.  Most problems appear larger than they really are.

It’s time to call in some help.
We originally planned to put down the vinyl floor on our own. I have done some basic floors, and I thought between me and Dan we could figure it out. But when Dan wasn’t so sure, I took another look, and realized it was beyond our abilities.  That’s when we decided we needed an expert.  This was a good decision. There are times when we would do better to admit we don’t know.

There is no going back.
A few times I found myself thinking, “Maybe we could have salvaged the old cabinets.”  That wasn’t realistic. Plus, once we started the demolition, it was impossible to restore the kitchen. The only way to finish successfully was to keep going on. In the mess of things, it is easy to glorify the past, as if going back was an option. God’s best for us is in the future, not behind us.

It will be worth it in the end.
There was no way to install a new kitchen without creating a mess. But it was worth it, and thankfully we understood this from the beginning. It helped. By keeping the goal in mind, it was easier to press on.

These are some thoughts that helped us over the past few weeks. There are certainly more pressing issues in life than our temporary renovation, but perhaps you’ll agree that there are parallels to some of life’s other troubles.

Blessings, and hope this helps. Be on fire.

Troy

OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Mar 13, 2014. Troy is the Pastor of Next Generations and Connections at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe or reply, email onfireletter@gmail.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com