Rest and Recreation

Smoky Mountains

I recently read these words:

Sabbath is for rest, retreats are for reflection, vacations are for recreation, and sabbatical is for renewal. Continue reading

Best Photographer in Brussels

CLP LogoI might be biased about a few things. But only a few things.

One of them is my family. I have a beautiful wife and two beautiful boys. Trust me!

My wife is a photographer. We have an in-home studio and she focuses mainly on photo sessions with families. The descriptive line of her photo business is: From belly to baby & beyond. That gives a pretty sufficient explanation of her style of photography.

She also enjoys on-location sessions – especially outdoors at some of the beautiful treasures around Belgium. And there are some really nice outdoor settings in our neighbourhood as well.

Today she went on a mummy date with our boys, one in the early afternoon and one in the late afternoon. The plan was to take photos of them, to get a little practise in, while also playing with the boys.

Below are some of the images, which I think are simply spectacular. Hence, the unbiased claim of ‘best photographer in Brussels’. 🙂 If interested, you can visit her website and Like her Facebook page. Continue reading

But A Mere Mist

This past Saturday, my grandfather passed away. It was good, as he had both lung and brain cancer, and following the treatment for the brain tumours, his health headed downhill fast. The suffering has ended, praise God!

You know, when we experience death, not ourselves personally, but experiencing such via loved ones who pass away, I think it provides an opportunity to survey life as a whole. Nothing else can bring us to ponder certain things except through the eyes of death.

It is a horrible reality, is it not? Death is the furthest from the will of God! And I am glad that through the resurrection of Christ, death has lost its sting! But, in this age, we still must embrace it. Continue reading

It’s That Time of Year Again…

I must admit it. I love the Christmas season. I love the lights, the trees, the smells, the goodies, the giving and receiving of gifts, the cold, the snow (if it comes), the Christmas movies, the time with friends and family, the delicious and usually huge meals, and so much more.

Yeah, I know. I sound a bit worldly, heh? No mention of Christ and his coming into the world. Well, I absolutely adore him and I am filled with gratefulness for such an act. But I believe I understand the importance of Christ’s incarnation on a regular basis.

But, with the holidays and Christmas time, well, that comes around one time a year for me.

Now, I know, it’s just the end of October now. There is still this ever-discussed holiday we call Halloween (I share my thoughts here), as well as the well-known American holiday of Thanksgiving. So why the rush?

Well, there is no rush. I just love the start of November as the days get colder, the leaves begin to change orange, yellow and brown, the wearing of warm clothes, and all things as we lead up to those beautiful holidays.

Actually, maybe I am in a rush. I listened to Christmas music for the first time this morning – ON 25 OCTOBER!! And now, writing this article, I am reminded to put on the music again.

Ok, maybe I am pathetic.

But really….I do love this time of year.

I think my parents made it quite magical growing up. We always had lots of lights outside and a big, beautiful tree with coloured lights. Yes, I prefer coloured lights over white lights. My wife prefers the white lights, so we make compromises.

At times, during the days leading up to Christmas, we would have friends over to make gingerbread houses. That always proved interesting! Graham Cracker houses, candy, gum drops, candy canes, white icing for snow and coconut for snow. My mom definitely makes the best snowman cookies in the world – little Hershey kisses for hats, mini-M&M’s for eyes and buttons, and the scarf made with coloured icing. Oh goodness, my mouth is beginning to water. I would enter these things in any holiday cookie contest!

White Christmas’ were really not an option growing up in Memphis. It would get down, at times, in the low 30’s or high 20’s F (or around just below zero C). But our colder days are in late January and February. So I cannot even remember if it ever snowed on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. But, nonetheless, the cold weather lets you know what time of year it is.

I love watching Christmas movies like Home Alone, Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story (thanks to TBS running it 24 hours straight), etc. But my favourite two movies are A Christmas Carol (probably the Muppet version the best) and the newer movie, Polar Express.

When it is time to sit down at the table for the big feast, ohhhhhhh yes! The turkey, honey-baked ham, hash brown cheese potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, dressing, gravy, deviled eggs, rolls, and a few other things scattered across the already full table. And then, whatever dessert mom had cooked up (and maybe a snowman cookie or two as well). Again, my mouth begins to water.

This Christmas, I will be able to visit my family in America. The past 2 years, we have celebrated with our British family in northern England. So this will be our first Christmas in the US since 2007, and my son’s first in America. Therefore, I look forward to it with much anticipation.

So, it’s not quite that time of year again, not quite the holiday season just yet. But it’s that time leading up to it, which is just as unique and amazing for me, as I am able to experience the longing and anticipation for that wonderful time of year. Hence, maybe it is that time of year again….. And I embrace it with all its wonder and anticipation.

The Relational Kingdom

I have decided to develop this short blog post after a conversation with my wife tonight, a cool Saturday evening as we relax in the living room of our apartment situated in the small town of Hoeilaart, just outside of Brussels.

Many times, western Christianity does not line up with the Biblical model in regards to many of its teachings on particular topics. I do not say this arrogantly, nor as a cynic given up on the church, the body of Christ. There are many areas in my own life that I continue to long and pray for the Spirit of God to help me line up with Biblical teaching.

One area we seem to easily fall short of is the relational nature of God’s kingdom. It is a peculiar thing, at least to the world and even many Christians, that God has decided to relate to His people as family.

Please believe me when I say I do not negate the glory and majesty of God as sovereign Creator and Ruler over all of creation. When you read passages in Isaiah, how could you not ponder the greatness of God, especially when He gave these words to the prophet:

Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.
(40:26)

And I cannot forget these words of the Almighty to Job:

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
(38:4-7)

But, though God is such a glorious Creator, so ‘other than us’ (as Louie Giglio states it), He has decided to relate to His people as family.

It is God who takes the initiative to reveal Himself as Father, even in the Old Testament (Psalm 89:24-27). And those who are indwelt by the Spirit are the ones who cry out, ‘Abba, Father’ (Romans 8:15). Oh, if we only knew the full ramifications of such words.

It is Jesus, the Christ, who comes as the Son of God. Oh yeah, He is Savior and King, and He carries all other attributes that call us to worship Him. But He is the Beloved Son of the Father, and you maybe even sense God’s excitement as He verbally express this for others to hear (see Matthew 3:17). And Jesus even calls us His brothers (Hebrews 2:11; and I might add that I believe this encompasses the idea of sisters as well).

But as a friend of mine aptly stated:

‘In Biblical times, the greatest institution upheld was that of the family, and therefore God’s people were referred to and functioned as such. In 21st century America, the Church mainly functions like a business because that has become the greater institution of our culture.’

In the 2,000 years since the new covenant (covenant simply meaning a joining of two in binding relationship) was set in motion, we have moved quite a bit aways from such understanding. We would rather build up organizations and structures rather than life relationships. Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate leadership and right church government. It is Biblical and very helpful. But in the end, we are called to be in relationship with people. We can become so task-oriented in our ‘ministry’ that we forget that we are actually trying to reach and relate with human beings. These are people we are calling back to our Father, into the love relationship that we ourselves have hopefully entered into. But maybe we have lost sight of it as John said in Revelation 2:4:

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

I like to read books and write. But when it is all said and done, I am not going to look back on my life and wish I had read a few more theological treatises or even written a book or two that fit nicely on your shelf. I am going to wish I had spent more time with people, more time pouring my life into them, and hopefully seeing such relational life reciprocated.

Yes, we have a task to get on with. I do know the ‘Great Commission’. But if our eyes are so fixed on the task, we will miss the opportunity to speak to people’s hearts. And, as Eldredge would always try and remind us, it is Christ who came first and foremost to reawaken the heart. For as the wise man of Proverbs put it, ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life’ (4:23). That is the central place, and it is our Father who calls out to that central place.

I must admit, I am glad that the kingdom of God is to be primarily focused around family and relationship. The Father, Son and Spirit know there is a task to be completed. They’ve been working on it for quite a while (a lot longer than you and I combined). But they would rather win people’s hearts than walk all over them or heavily burden them with a task list. That was what the Pharisees were good at – the burdening part, that is (Matthew 23:4).

Thus, let us remember the Trinity and how they outwork relationship first – with each other and with us. And my hope is that we will draw upon this truth for the rest of our lives whatever our gifting, calling and vocation. Let us bring our focus back to relationship, back to the importance of family, back to the heart of the matter. For when we do, we will then know true life eternal.