Posts by Chris Clarke

You gotta take someone along with you

One of the difficult nuts to crack for any group of people, and maybe especially churches, is how to teach young ones (or recent converts) how to “do” life. There are literally countless programs for a minister to choose from that promise to “activate the lay men and women” or “re-vitalize your people” or “catalyze the love” or some such nonsense. I was moved today when an elderly, and I mean very elderly, woman came by the church. She stopped…

Morning 10 minute drill

In the morning, when I get to my study, I like to take 10 minutes, it really doesn’t matter how busy my day is likely to be, and take 10 minutes. Some people take Facebook breaks, or coffee breaks, or smoke breaks over the course of the day, I like to start my day with a break. I listen to gentle music, set a timer, close my eyes, and permit my mind to wander. Sometimes nothing happens and I feel…

What are people for? Essays by Wendell Berry

I just realized that while I may not be old, I am old enough to no longer remember when certain personally influential writers came into my life. Few are more important to me than Wendell Berry. His lucid prose, his tight poetry, and the insight and clarity of his essays mean that whenever I pick up one of his books I will not be disappointed. In fact, I regularly re-read many of his books, and I always find myself jealous…

The Unfinished Reformation: what unites and divides Catholics and Protestants after 500 years. By Gregg Allison and Christopher Castaldo.

In an adversarial culture where people are more often concerned with proving their points than hearing each other and where a faux-relativism is often employed as a trick to avoid conflict, The Unfinished Reformation is a breath of fresh air. The writers are clearly protestant but they also sincerely have a heart for Roman Catholics and anyone else seeking to know more about Jesus. “It is an infallible text that God gives us, not an infallible church,” they write in characteristic…

The weekend effect. The life-changing benefits of taking time off and challenging the cult of overwork. By Katrina Onstad.

This is the sort of book I always appreciate: a book in defense of something obviously good and true and needed (slow food, running, health, poetry, reading, relationships) and yet mostly ignored or overlooked. In this case, the book is a manifesto in defense of the weekend.  Onstad became interested in the topic of a “good weekend” when she realized how often her children asked her on Sunday night, “mommy, was that the weekend?” and she felt her heart sink,…

Embrace the Suck. Stephen Madden-reviewed

This book is about resilience, it’s about getting fit, it’s about loving ourselves and our families, it’s about facing pain in the face and punching it in the throat. It’s a book most of us could learn from. Surprisingly, it’s also a book about love.  Stephen Madden was the editor of Bicycling magazine, an industry leading rag that meant he had to be in shape. The magazine is part of the industry and while it reports on the news of…

Airlines, churches, and the sense of ownership

When I worked at a church plant in Barrhaven Ontario one of the greatest struggles I faced as a leader was fanning the flame of ownership amongst the leadership team. Like many such groups we didn’t feel we were the right people to make major decisions. We didn’t know if the resources were really ours to use, even as we stewarded them. At St. Andrew’s Duncan, we sometimes struggle to take ownership of problems, we will ask someone else to…

La La Land and bated breath

It has been said by men wiser than I that oftentimes people quit just when they are about to succeed. While there is no way to prove this, yet something in many of us aches for it to be true. We want to believe that if we, or our loved ones, find the ability to persevere good things will happen. Just keep going, we say, and good things will happen. The recent mega-hit movie La La Land reminded me of…

Airport food and church services

Travelling for meetings this past weekend I bit into several snacks and meals in airports and near airport hotels and in their restaurants. They were universally underwhelming and unhealthy. Floppy, wobbly, mushy, cold, thick, these are the words to describe what I ate. Even when I ordered a salad it was so drenched in a fatty dressing and the chicken in it was chicken nugget-type things. It all got me thinking that when we travel in North America (at least…

A Resilient Life. Gordon Macdonald. Reviewed

  This is a masterful book and if you haven’t already discovered Macdonald for yourself (he has written a bunch of really helpful titles) then you should stop reading this and go learn more about him and pick up whichever of his titles looks most likely to scratch an itch of yours.  A Resilient Life is a wonderful depiction of how to set up one’s life to accomplish the sort of flourishing God intends for each of us. Right off…

Entering Lent

How we approach the bible affects what we will find in it and what we get out of reading it. This doesn’t in any way diminish the work of the Holy Spirit but recognizes reality. When we open our bibles do we do it with a spirit of learning? Are we open to whatever God intends to teach us today? Or do we expect to find the expected? When we open our bibles do we ask God to show us…

The defect free church

A couple of year ago one of my sisters-in-law bought a remote-control car, I think at an airport, for my son’s birthday. At the airport, the car was capable of great speeds and, if memory serves, it climbed the wall a little bit before flipping over and landing perfectly and continuing along its path.  You probably know where this is going. When the car was unwrapped and the expectations of a 4-year-old set sky high…it didn’t work. I don’t mean…

I heart Valentine’s day (and I’m not scared to say so)

I will not ignore Valentine’s day. I will not pretend to hate a day devoted to love. Given the state of the world and current affairs neither should you, and if you hate it I suggest you learn to appreciate what it can mean beyond the cards flowers, and money. Can you tell me the world is so full of love that it needs no more? Today my oldest son will declare love for his classmates and offer a token…

The ability to endure by Michael Chitwood

It’s difficult to know if Michael Chitwood would have accomplished all that he has if his father hadn’t died when Michael was only 25. That’s part of what makes his memoir about setting up Team World Vision, a branch of the famous agency that seeks to solve two challenges at once by getting North Americans off the couch while raising money for children that can’t afford clean water or nutritious food, let alone couches, so readable. The other part is…

an example of love for all of us

If Facebook, Time Magazine, and Macleans are right then we are living in troubled times, times that appear to lack mercy, compassion, and love. This is distressing for many folks, and (perhaps) especially for Christians. The gospel writer John teaches us that Jesus told his followers, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” It is…

Christian, how are we to engage the world today?

My wife and I recently subscribed to Texture, an app that permits us to read about 150 magazines a month (not that we read all of them, of course). In the app you can scroll through the covers of magazines to see what you might want to read. The covers suggest the news is bad right now. There is the general: faster, fitter, leaner, smarter, tidier, better you, covers that are always there and always a little bit irksome. There…

Kindles and Bibles

Those of you who read a lot of them will know about the problem of kindle books. They are also the strengths of kindle books. They are often cheap, so cheap that when someone suggests one in a compelling way you buy it immediately and think no more of it. Then one day you turn to read a book, you aren’t sure what to read and you tell yourself not to buy anything, you have plenty of books, many unread,…

Let God be God by Matthew Brough—reviewed

Full disclosure: I have met Matthew several times, I respect him as a pastor, and he gave me a free early copy of his newest book, Let God be God, which comes out this week. I am glad he did. Glad because I like him and I like free stuff. Also, glad because while this book is certainly worth reading (as I will discuss below) I think I have some helpful advice about how it ought to be read. Brough’s…

One Thousand Gifts. Ann Voskamp-Reviewed

I picked this book up after ignoring it for a long time. In my arrogance, I tend to ignore books that get a lot of hype and popularity. I know I should try to read more of them to know what the good folks of St. Andrew’s might be reading, but I often struggle to do so. Christianity Today had a nice write up about Voscamp and her graceful tone convinced me it was time to pick up her book.…

Office Coffee VS. The Coffee Shop

Here at St. Andrew’s, thanks to the amazing generosity of many people, we recently opened a new administrative wing. It is a delight to work in and the extra space helps us not feel so cramped in our daily digs. The “big Luxury” of what some have come to lovingly call “The Pastor’s Palace” is a Keurig coffee maker. Before you get mad at the waste you should know we bought re-usable pods for all the staff.  We also bought…

A short word on age and finishing strong

Without belabouring the point I would like to ask you, dear read, to read these notes on two levels. The first level is regarding to your age. If you are young then see what you are preparing for and if you are old (however you define it) see the important role you still have to play. The second level is if you are tied to an old denomination, like the Presbyterian Church in Canada, read the notes with eyes to…