Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Great Hershey CandyLane Message Surprise!

Tonight we continued with a fairly new Christmas tradition in the Auld home and went over to CandyLane in Hershey for the third straight year. We love to grab the Holiday Four Pack and head over for some rides and Hot Chocolate.

When we arrived, we got our bag of kettle corn and hit some of the rides that the kids and I love to go on right at the beginning of our evening (Susan's stomach can't handle the rides that just spin round and round...). While we were waiting in line for one of the rides, Susan discovered that there was a show playing and we decided to go to the 6:30 showing.

As we settled in, the show started with some fun holiday music that the crowd really enjoyed. It then moved into a story about a mother, daughter and grandfather wanting and waiting for their father to return home from the war for Christmas. The story is centered on Christmas Eve and the grandfather reads a number of fun Christmas stories like Frosty and Rudolph that are all acted and sung out in a creative fashion.

BUT... I got the surprise of my life when we hit Christmas morning in the production and the mother insisted they read the most important Christmas story ever told. They then proceeded to read about the birth of Christ from the Bible and one of the singers sang "Mary Did You Know" as they acted out the Nativity scene. I was both floored and excited all at the same time. I never in my wildest dreams thought a major amusement park would build the Biblical story into their one major Christmas production. It was really wonderful! The story also ended with the father returning from war on Christmas morning to be home with his family.

As we walked out of the show, I thought to myself... "I wonder how many anti-war and anti-Christian/Christmas people that production just offended???" Oh well... there was at least one family of four that thought it was a great show with a great message in a place I did not expect! Great Job Hershey Park!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Meaning behind a Toronto Maple Leaf Jersey!

I've received a few early Christmas gifts this year and like any kid who is excited about Christmas, I've already opened them. I've been very grateful for the kindness shown and the thought and effort that has gone into the gifts. They have been very creative and even difficult to find, yet the meaning represented in these tokens are special.

Tonight I received a gift in the mail that totally shocked me. It was a Toronto Maple Leaf Jersey (the hockey team I follow) and it had Auld on the back. As someone who grew up in Canada following this team and watching Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night, a jersey like this is special in and of itself. But when I saw the name and heard the story from my wife behind this gift, it encouraged my heart like it hasn't been encouraged for a while.

I have no desire to go into the story as there are some things a pastor holds near and dear to his heart with the Lord, but these are individuals at Grace that I've gotten to know and share life with through some hard times. The grace and faithfulness of God has been evident throughout this year and it's been my absolute joy to live in Biblical community with these people. There were times when we all grew weary, but there is something special about getting down to the nitty gritty of life and watching God work in us as Christ followers walking this journey of life together.

This jersey will always be one of those gifts that encourages my heart to keep on serving the Lord together in community as the Body of Christ. My days aren't always going to be easy as a pastor, but night's like tonight will keep me believing with all my heart that Christ through His local church is indeed the only hope for individuals, couples, families and the world!

Be looking soon for this jersey on a Sunday morning!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Four Services, Great Staff & Great Volunteers!

Well I'm writing this as the fourth service here at Grace is concluding. Because of Christmas, we decided to add a Saturday evening service to offer yet another option for people to come and celebrate the birth of a Savior amongst the many commitments we all have during this season.

As I reflect upon our services, I cannot help but give thanks for the creative and powerful way the Gospel message was shared over the past 18 hours. How wonderful to see people at each and every service make 1st time commitments to believe that Jesus is God the Son who came into this messy world to rescue us from sin. It makes it all worth while!

I also want to reflect upon the truth that we could not do what we do on a weekend without our great staff here at Grace Church. So much of what happens around the office goes unnoticed by the regular attendee on a Sunday morning, but I assure you that the office is moving at a fast clip when we seek to do four services on the weekend and three on Christmas Eve. Great Job Staff!

I also want to reflect upon the truth that we could not do what we do on a weekend without our great volunteers. Literally 100's of people give of themselves for the cause of Christ and in service to others on a regular basis. Thanks for pouring your lives into the ministry of Grace Church.

To each and every person who plays a regular part in our weekend services I say Thank You! Thank you for giving your life to something greater than self so as to partner with us in the pursuit of proclaiming God's truth whereby the fruit is lives changed for all eternity!

It's been a busy weekend, but it's been a great weekend! I can't wait for Christmas Eve services.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Memories: Atari & Zamboni's

There have been some Lexus commercials on TV this year that have me reminiscing about my childhood at Christmas. They are great memories that make me realize yet again just how fast time flies and just how much things change.

The Lexus commercial has got me thinking about the Christmas my brother and I received our first Atari. We loved that gaming system and would spend hours playing PacMan, Centipede, Asteroids, Space Invaders and many other games. As the years went by, we then moved into getting our first Nintendo which we thought was the best it could ever get. Times sure have changed when I think about the gaming system my kids now use! But... I would give anything to get my hands on an old Atari system and play a few of the games just for old times sake.

Another fond memory revolves around our yearly renting of an arena for one hour where we had the ice surface all to ourselves as a family. There was a tiny little town that had a small arena that we would go to either the day before or after Christmas and skate our hearts out for a full hour with no one else around. It was wonderful to have those family hockey games. It's a tradition we've done a few times with our kids, but getting ice time in Canada is getting more and more difficult as well as costly. But there is nothing like watching the eyes of child light up as they watch and sit on a Zamboni for the very first time!

It's also been fun to think about the many family gatherings that occurred as I grew up. This too has changed as family members age, pass on and move away. But as the generations go by, it is fun to begin my own traditions with my kids and their grandparents.

Sometimes I've been known around my house as a bit of a Scrooge as the commercialization of Christmas drives me absolutely nuts. But it is memories like the ones mentioned above that revolve around times together as family that makes me smile over the holidays. The greatest gift I get every year is celebrating the birth of our Saviour with a family that loves Him and loves each other. No present from the mall could ever replace that!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Our Third Child, Doctors and Vacation

A few weeks ago as my family and I prepared to get away for a few days, Susan and I experienced something we had never experienced before. We had to take our third child (a.k.a. Tucker the Dog) to the Doctor's before we could leave town.

Now we've had to take our kids to the Doctors before, during and after vacations, but never the dog. The events leading up to this particular need was both an ear infection and a rash problem that made the dog do circles because of the irritation. The night before we were to leave, Susan and I found ourselves debating what we should do for the poor creature. Should we just take him to the kennel or should we take him to the vet and get him treatment? As good parents (dog owners) we decided we had to take the dog to the vet.

The day we were to leave was crazy to begin with, but we figured out a way to fit in a Vet appointment. As we made the visit, I quickly came to learn that it was going to be more complicated than I first anticipated. It began with the normal weigh in and check up. We then moved to the ears. After a wonderful lesson on how to clean the ears (the infected one was gross) we got the drops we would use. That wasn't too bad... but it got worse.

After the ears we learned about the "rash". The Vet went into a lengthy discussion on how our dog is struggling with acne in his groin area which is causing the problems. Lucky for me, all it would take to clear it up was a needle, 30 pills and a special shampoo. Guess who gets to wash the dog with the special shampoo!!!

As we left that day, I took the dog out to the car to wait for Susan as she paid. All I remember asking was "Did the bill have a two in front of it?" Thankfully the answer was no, but we didn't miss the two by much. I've never really thought about my dog as anything more than a dog, but he came a little bit closer to the "child" status as now all of my kids at some point have caused Susan and I to pay a visit to the doctors while either prepping for or on vacation.

I guess we couldn't call ourselves real parents unless we've had a vacation impacted by a sick child and now we are offically experts as all three of our kids have made vacation interesting!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I know when my spiritual batteries start to get low...

I've engaged in a number of conversations over the past few weeks about the priority of staying spiritually fresh as pastors/ministry leaders when we pour so much of ourselves into the lives of others. It's been a good dialogue as I've been able to share the two biggest indicators in my life that show me my spiritual batteries are getting low.

1) Loss of Hope! When I start to lose the conviction that God is at work amongst all my efforts in a messy world and that it is in vain, I know my spiritual batteries are getting low. Gordon MacDonald once said it this way "I can delegate a lot of ministry tasks... but I cannot delegate hope" or that sense of "that with God we will prevail." I'm coming to learn that when "hope dies, motivation dies" and that is dangerous within ministry. I keep a close watch on my hope guage by regularly asking myself the question "Do I believe with all my heart that the local church is the hope of the world?" My honest reaction to that question helps me monitor where I'm at in respects to hope.

2) Loss of Love! When I start to lose a love for people, I know that my spiritual batteries are running low. I'm in no way suggesting that loving others is an easy task for we can all be unlovable at times, but I'm called to love as God has loved me. When people become more of a frustration and irritant rather than a person to love and show grace to as God loves and shows grace, I know that it's time to take action.

I've come to learn that these two things are my primary indicators for making the time to re-calibrate my spiritual life. I'm sure God will continue to reveal other things that will act as the "warning signals" in my life, but these two are helping me continue to move towards the finish line for Christ!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Meaning behind my new Tim Horton's Mug

As I mentioned in a previous blog (which was over 5 days ago... oops) I purchased the latest Tim Hortons Mug from my favorite coffee shop in Canada. Every few years, this large corporation will put out a new style of mug right around the holidays for guys like me who can't resist making the $7 purchase (which isn't bad for a mug and it comes with enough coffee grounds for one pot).

But the real question is... Why do I get so excited about a mug? Here are three of my primary reasons for my love of the mug.

1) I collect coffee mugs. Whenever we go on a trip somewhere, I don't by t-shirts or other trinkets, I buy a coffee mug. I keep some of them on display in my office.

2) I love to drink coffee. As an individual who drinks coffee for the better part of a day, I need mugs to drink out of. The reality is that the mugs I collect I also use for a season until I get tired of it and make a change to another one.

3) Each mug represents a fond memory. I have numerous memories regarding Tim Hortons in Canada, but here are just a few.
  • In my previous church, we had a Tim Hortons coffee shop within walking distance. On at least two mornings a week, I would walk into my office and there would sit a large cup of coffee. The two maintenance guys would take turns once a week buying me a coffee and for that act of kindness I will always be thankful and have a fond memory of those two guys.
  • It was a Tim Hortons coffee shop my pastor buddy and I would go to talk ministry and re-calibrate after long ministry days. The atmosphere at a Tim Hortons is one where you sit down with good friends at any time of the day and just let it all out over a hot cup of coffee.
  • It was the place where every Tuesday morning I would have breakfast with my kids. At our previous church, my Tuesday morning routine included a very early prayer meeting. Susan would then bring me the kids so she could get to her early staff meeting at the school where she taught. Every Tuesday morning for over a year, my kids had a donut and hot chocolate for breakfast. Those Tuesday mornings still make for many wonderful conversations and memories in my home today.

That's why I love my new Tim Hortons Mug!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Monday Morning Musings...

It was really nice to get away for a few days over the Thanksgiving holidays and visit with family and friends in Niagara Falls. As I settle in for the week, here is what's going on inside of my head as well as a preview of future blogs.

Sick Dog: As parents, we've had to make emergency trips to the doctor's office either right before or during a vacation. But... I've never had to make an emergency trip to the Vet for my dog just before a trip. The details of that visit are a definite blog!

Snow: I enjoyed the opportunity to drive through snow on the way to Niagara Falls and then watch my kids build an incredible snowman on Wednesday. I had also forgotten to put the snow brush into the car which meant I had to go out and buy one while in Canada.

Visits: It is always nice to visit with family and friends. Visits this time included my parents, my brother and his family, my grandmother in her new retirement home, dinner with pastor friends and a visit to a new youth outreach center. It was really wonderful to walk through this youth center in a part of Niagara Falls where there is very little outreach taking place. I can't wait to see how God is going to use my friend and the church I grew up in to make an impact in that part of the city. This too is going to be an upcoming blog!

Niagara Fury and Fireworks: On Friday night we spent some time down at the brink of the Falls and had a lot of fun. We started by riding the Niagara Fury which simulates what it would have been like to see the Falls evolve. Apart from the whole evolution thing... it wasn't bad, but I'm glad we got a really good reduced rate because it wouldn't have been worth what they charge the tourists. We then moved to the very brink of the Falls where we watched fireworks. We finished the evening off with coffee and candy cane hot chocolate at Tim Hortons. By the way... I'll most definitely be blogging about my new Tim Horton's mug.

Susan's Family and Country Cupboard: We finished off our trip on Saturday by stopping in Lewisburg, PA to visit with Susan's family that had driven to spend the evening at Country Cupboard. We enjoyed the few hour break from the road and enjoyed spending some time with her family over the Thanksgiving weekend. I think there may be a blog dealing with Country Cupboard as well.

As always, it was nice to get away and visit with family and friends but it is always good to get home. I'm excited about what my week holds as there are many exciting things God continues to do here at Grace which will no doubt lead to new blog posts as well.