Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Why I'm here

“So, why are you there?”

I let the question hang while I thought about it. I was sitting on a sun-soaked park bench just off the Bethel Church parking lot. Bethel’s the place of which I’ve dreamed for over a year. My bench is just outside a prayer room with an indoor water fountain that gurgles to the outside, spilling water into a pond full of multi-coloured fish. The church sits at the top of a big hill at the end of a long avenue lined with flags from around the world. California is beautiful. The people are kind. It’s not hard to feel like we’ve made a good choice.

The question came over the phone from one of my closest friends. We’ve been through a lot together. He’d been my boss but our relationship evolved a long time ago into something much deeper. He knows it’s been a tough transition for me. He’s concerned.

“That’s a good question,” I say, biding myself time.

It’s not that quitting my job, selling our house, spending our life savings to go to Bethel was an impetuous decision. It’s that it was such a monumental choice that it’s hard to boil all the emotion and logic down to a short answer.

I’m sure a lot of people in my life asked a similar question when they first heard our plans. Some probably think we’ve been tricked into living on some whacko religious compound. Some chalk it up to a mid-life crisis. Others think I’m smoking dope.

“It’s because…”

I muddled my answer, which often happens when I tackle that question.

But now, in our hotel room with the sun setting and the kids doing their homework, I’d like to try again.
  • I’m here because more and more I can’t read the gospels anyway but literally
  • I’m here because I need God more than I need a nicer house, a better car, or cable TV
  • I’m here because God called us here in a very clear voice.
Believe me, I’m not boasting. I’m a sinner saved by grace.

Maybe that’s the real truth about why I'm here. I’ve been low. I crawled to God and He lifted me up. God loves me and I want more of Him. He is Lord. Of course I’d sell everything for Him.

“I love you man,” my friend said before leaving me with other parting words full of grace.  

I love him too.

- Andrew

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Right now, most of my camp friends are returning home after a summer up north. Many of them are students heading off to set up a house in a university town. And good friends of ours in Guelph are in the midst of moving from a long-time family home to a new house. Lots of people are adjusting to new places to live right now. It's not easy. 

We've been living in hotels for two weeks and we're looking for a house to rent here in Redding for a week of that. And it's not going particularly well.

Some of the houses have been dingy and dark with stained carpeting. One house was a mobile home surrounded by broken cars and tractors. We've put in applications on four of them but so far, we haven't been chosen for any of them.

What is home? 

I remember our first home on Neeve Street, a 100-year old semi-detached with hardwood floors in a ragged part of Guelph. Our bedroom was the dining room because a double bed wouldn't fit up the stairs. We were so proud. I even planted vegetables. Two of our children were born while we lived there. But when the kids were young, home was a source of stress for me. It was my workplace. The laundry was endless and the kids' needs meant that mine always took the back seat. I was tormented by feelings of inadequacy as a mother and housekeeper. But still, it was where I belonged. I loved our homes in Guelph. 

My last home was a cabin at camp with mice and secondhand furniture and a lovely shady porch that at once felt private but with the comforting sounds of camp filtering up through the leaves. It was beautiful.

Where is home?

On the way here, our car and each other and God's invisible grip were home. And I was totally okay with that. But now I'm getting anxious to have drawers to put my underwear in. And the ability to make tea. And a cozy place to sit and read under a blanket that smells like home.

But all those comforts are just echoes of where we really belong. In reality, we are vagabonds, ragamuffins, passing through this world on our way to our real home, our heavenly one. Our true citizenship is in Heaven. 

Yesterday, I was reading about how a wealthy Shunammite woman set up a bedroom in her home for Elisha the prophet. I think she wanted him to hang out at her place and feel at home. But when she needed him to heal her son, she had to go find him in the mountains. He was more comfortable being uncomfortable, searching for the presence and voice of His God. 

And yesterday, I was listening to a quiet worship set and the musician was singing from Psalm 23. "You prepare a table for me," he sang. "I will dwell in Your house; I will dwell with you forever."

Bethel means "house of God." We have come to dwell in God's house. I know He will find us a place to make tea and store our underwear. He is preparing a table somewhere in Redding for our family. In fact, about a month ago, a dear friend shared a picture God gave her of Jesus setting a beautiful table for me. Then the picture changed to me preparing a table for others. I know Jesus is preparing a table for us right now and I know we will eat there and invite others to eat with us and it will be glorious.  

But more than that, He is preparing a table laden with a feast of abundant spiritual blessing for us. And we will dwell in the House of the Lord. He is our home. 

I'm sailing home to you I won't be long 
By the light of moon I will press on 
Until I find my love 
- Josh Garrels, Ulysses
- Anne

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cassie's first week at Bethel Christian School

Today I woke and still wasn't to used to the whole school thing. We woke up then my Dad dropped me, Emma and my mom off at the school. 

Because it's bad to inhale a lot of smoke, and there was smoke from the big forest fires, we had to have recess inside. It was really fun but sucky at the same time. 

My new friend, Neveah (heaven spelled backward), and I had a great time playing basketball. After snack we did spelling. YEAH! I love spelling. 

After practicing the verse of the week we had an amazing lunch in the cafeteria and then recess. Neveah and I did the same thing -- we played basketball. After that we did a few more subjects. Then, of course, we were dismissed. All in all I had a pretty good day. 



P.S. The "C:" is a smiley face!!!!!  

Emma's first week at Bethel Christian School

The first week of school was really great! I made friends, I like my subjects and I had lots of fun. Everything in my school is Christ-centred. On the first day the very first thing we did was gather in the great hall for worship, then get acquainted with our classmates. At first, I had no one to sit with, but then a girl named Hannah came and sat with me. We talked for a bit, and I hung out with her at lunch and recess. I found out that she has been at Bethel for four years, she is from New Zealand and she loves dance.

In the gym/sanctuary on my first day at Bethel  
I found all my classes and everything went smoothly until last period P.E. I was wandering around the hallway until finally I ran into some girls in my class and they pointed me in the right direction. I got there just in time. Our gym teacher, Ms. Cambonne, was JUST starting the class. We had free time because it was only the first day. There, I met another girl in my class named Leesha, and she is so nice! She is also here for a year while her parents are going to school, she is from Switzerland and she has three younger sisters.

The next day I went to school and sat by Leesha and helped her all day with her English. She is very good at speaking it but needs help writing. We hung out with Hannah at the breaks and had fun together.

The rest of the week went by quickly. I think I will become good friends with Leesha and my favourite subject will be Bible. Overall, I think I will love Bethel Christian School and California. My year is off to a good start!


Cam's first week at Redding Christian School

Redding Christian School
I think if I had to pick one word to describe this week it would be "first." 

There have been too many firsts this week to count. Whether it was first time seeing Bethel, first day of school, first swim practice, first assignment, or first conversation. 

There have also been many hard moments, such as the first day of school. Partly because I had come two days late, and partly because the school was new to me, I had no idea who was who, what was what, or where anything was. 

One nice thing was the amount of time we spent as a family. Back in Guelph, it seemed like everyday was crammed full of things like hockey practices, youth, and friends. Now we have nothing. It’s been so nice.

 -- Cam

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Nicky lives in a tent. He says he has a house where he could stay if he wanted, but somehow I doubt it. His tent looks well lived in. There's a broken bike in the bushes. Clothes hang from gnarled branches. He carelessly tosses garbage into the brambles.

Tell me your story, I ask.

"I'm 60 years old. Born in Shasta. That's about all there is to say."

And that's all I get. So we sit for a bit. He sips the coffee I bought him as he plays his Soduko puzzle from a crumpled up newspaper. I can't tell if it's the San Francisco Chronicle or the Redding Record.

The silence makes me uncomfortable, so I tell him about myself. "I guess I'm not sure who I am right now, or what I'm going to be."

He nods. "I gotta figure out a way to make some money."

I had been watching Nicky for a while from a perch up on the hill above his camp. I thought I'd found a nice, safe park to sit and pray. I like going down by the Sacramento River. It's wide and fast moving. It looks swollen, which is strange because all along its banks it's so tinder dry, the smell of nearby raging forest fires in the air.

But I couldn't concentrate on my bible. I couldn't take my eyes off Nicky, entertaining visitors, other rough-looking folks going through their morning wake-up routine. It didn't appear he had much to say to them either.

I'm homeless too. Our financial advisor could put up a convincing argument that I'm at the other end of the homeless spectrum, but I wonder if Nicky and I share something more.

I tell him I'm worried that we can't find a place to live. I tell Nicky that I'm surprised at the wealth in California. I'm thinking of the gleaming white SUVs lined up at the kids' schools for pick-up and drop-off. I tell him I'm not sure where God fits into all this.

"Everything is God's," he says. "The air we breathe. The food you eat. The dope I sell. It's all God's."

And then he asks if he can pray for me. He asks God to open the right doors and shut the wrong ones. Sounds like something I'd say.

We talk some more. His life makes me sad. He points to a huddle of people about 30 yards away. "I knew their parents. Now I know the kids. I know everybody."

I'm pretty sure he's not talking about the parents picking up their kids at our school. But I don't doubt that he knows most of the people living in tents in Redding. I guess once again it's who you know, not what you know.

Later that day I find myself staring at an embroidered picture in a clean real estate office full of computers and designer water bottles and well-coiffed bleached blonde hair. It quotes 1 Corinthians 10:26, "For the earth is the Lord's, and everything in it."

I guess Nicky was right.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

First day in Redding

This morning we woke up to the outline of palm trees against the dawn sky. Redding is a beautiful, sprawling city with a mountainous horizon and neat landscaping. And the people are extraordinarily friendly and polite, even amidst frenzied back-to-school shopping in Target. I didn't really expect that. 

We went to church at Bethel, the 8:30 am service. We got there 45 minutes early and already, one-third of the seats were taken. As I listened to Jesus Culture warm up to lead worship, I closed my eyes and felt the bass reverberate deep in my chest. We're finally here, I thought. For ten months, this is what we've been waiting for. 

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
One Thing remains

The service started. The presence of God was thick in the room. I was warm and electric with it. And in that moment that I've been dreaming about for the better part of a year, I found myself thinking, Lord, I miss home and camp. Will you meet me here the way you did there? 

Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me. 

In the sermon based on David's experiences in 1 Samuel 26-30, Eric Johnson talked about how there are times when we feel displaced or alone, when we need to learn how to strengthen ourselves in the Lord and not rely on others to do it for us. We need to remind ourselves of the promises He's given us and of how He sees us. 

In a vulnerable moment, this hearing impaired son of one of the greatest healing revivalists of our time shared about how weary we can get in our pursuit of the promises of God. How, like many of David's men in 1 Samuel 30, sometimes we just need to sit by the stream and rest for a while. 

On and on and on and on it goes
And it overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never ever have to be afraid
One Thing remains

In the afternoon, we sat by the pool in the dry 38-degree weather sipping lattes and watching the kids swim. It was glorious. And a few tears slid down under my sunglasses as I thought about what we left behind. 

I will remind myself of His promises. And I will sit by the stream and rest for awhile. 

- Anne

Saturday, August 18, 2012


The rocky landscape we've been driving through the last few days is breathtaking. It’s so stark and stunning and lavish and wild. As I have gazed out the window, it has expressed what I couldn’t.

In fact, along this whole journey, each new landscape has reflected what’s going on in me – peace in the prairies, desolation in the desert, exultation in the treed foothills. The soil and vegetation and rocks have wondered and wept and worshiped; they have interceded for me.

Before we started this journey, when we were just considering it, two people told us that we were pregnant with this thing God is doing in our lives. But actually, I feel more like a baby than a mother. 

This journey to California has felt like being birthed. Home was a safe womb, where we were fed, loved, nurtured and protected. This long highway has felt like the birth canal. At times it’s been dark and painful. It’s felt like having the life squeezed out of us. There have been excruciating conversations about our deepest sin and brokenness, how we've wounded each other. Other times our discussions have been full of hope and anticipation for the new life we’re starting.

God is re-creating us. I thought our family, our marriage, was pretty wonderful. Turns out, God has even more for us.

In Denver, Andrew bought me a new iPhone. As I was synching my old 3G for the last time to download the photos, I cried. Of all the things I’ve given up, I cry about my old phone.

“If I give it all to you will you make it all new?” croons Will Reagan and I nod in time with the music.

We are being transformed from glory to glory. He is making all things new. We are coming out with joy, being led forth in peace, the mountains and the hills are breaking into song.

Anyone who thinks this life in Christ is about going to church and tithing is sorely mistaken. He doesn’t just want our Sunday mornings or one-tenth of what we have. He wants it all. I have never been more emptied. Or more free.

Like a newborn, I am revealed in my raw nakedness, bawling my song to the bright world. I have nothing to offer. Oh Lord, cradle me to your breast and feed me, for your Word is life. 

- Anne


We were in the desert today. The landscape was bleak, parched. It’s strange, because deep inside me God was making all things new.

It’s been an exhausting trip. I felt spent coming out of the summer. Working at Ontario Pioneer Camp tested me and rocked me. It seemed like every hour I was whispering, “Lord, I have no idea what to do in this situation. Please speak and move.”

That’s not what the summer was supposed to be like. I am twice the age of many of the young men on staff and yet I felt like a baby Christian. I was expecting to arrive as the superstar, a well-paid executive with years of business experience ready to spread my hard-earned wisdom… blah, blah, blah.

Early on in the summer I was confronted with a foster kid’s pain, listening to a sickening story of abuse. He used words and images that no one – let alone a tiny child – should use. That’s when I realized something: I am nothing.

Feeling God touch lives through my words and actions and seeing God’s power manifest in the lives of the young staff living out their faith with abandon made me realize something else: God is everything.

For the first few miles of our drive through Ontario to Michigan, I told God I wanted more of Him, whatever it took. He answered my prayer. It’s been a wild ride ever since.

I have faced deep, dark places inside myself. I am a sinner, justified by grace overwhelming. I had miles and miles of time and space to think and to let God move, to ask for forgiveness, especially from Anne.

And God spoke. He said, “Finally, I have your attention. It’s just you and me. We’re alone now. You can’t run to your job. You can’t turn on the TV. You can’t drown me out. I see you. Look into my eyes. You’re 39 and you say you want so much more of me. You say you want to do great things for the Kingdom. Good, but we have much work to do and we’re going to do this fast. This is going to hurt. I see where you are. I see where you’ve been. I see your sin. I see your pain. And I still love you. I am deeply moved.”

So the miles have slid past. I will never be the same. I am forgiven. And I am healed.

          -- Andrew

Friday, August 17, 2012


August 17, 2012

Over the past day and a half, we’ve driven through Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada, and we've seen more mountains than we thought possible. Some were lush, forest-filled giants and others were stark rock formations with a few straggly weeds clinging to the sides, standing out among the dusty tundra. In the dry areas the only living thing that you see for miles upon miles are these gazelle/deer things that wander around grazing on the sparse vegetation that somehow manages to survive here. Yesterday, in Colorado, it was the exact opposite. Trees were everywhere and it was full of wildlife. All around the hotel were warnings about feeding the mountain lions and bears. The things we are seeing are things that we have never seen before and will probably never see again. This drive has been so amazing. 

- Campbell


August 16, 2012

We're in Rock Springs, WY. We've now been in the car for 33 hours. We still like each other.

More details to follow.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


August 15, 2012

Somewhere in Kansas, the flatlands swell into gentle curves, a promise that more than just thirsty prairies lie ahead. It’s here that dozens of wind turbines stand solemn and white in the fields, their long arms reaching to the heavens, earnest in their task.

“They’re like soldiers,” I say.

“Yeah,” he says. Then, after a pause, “No, they’re more like saints, worshiping. Or people waving flags in the fields.”

I nod.

The sky is hazy, almost grey. It’s neither sunny nor cloudy.

The corn is stunted, brittle. The fields want rain, but until it comes, there's only wind.

The turbines wave on: soldiers, saints, worshipers, flag-bearers, windcatchers. Lord, help us to stretch out our arms so we can catch the wind. 

- Anne


August 14, 2012

Come and leap upon the mountains with me
Come and overcome your fears with me
He beckons me
I hear the voice of my beloved shepherd

He calls my name
He calls me to come away
O my love
Come away

You're looking at the mountains saying
Lord, I can't do it
I know, I know
Lean into me and we'll do it together

I choose to trust you today, Lord
He's teaching me to lean

I choose you
I'll follow
You are calling me by name
I trust you, I'll follow

I am Yours
Yes I am
Wholly Yours

You are my first love
You are my only one
Lord there is
Nothing else for me
Where else can I go
You are the only home I need

- Lyrics from an International House of Prayer song that played last thing before we left to continue our journey

Prophecy and Fudge Brownies

August 13, 2012

Today we didn’t drive at all. My Mum and Dad woke up early and went to the International House of Prayer. Campbell, Emma and I stayed in the hotel and watched TV till it was time for breakfast. Then Mum and Dad came home and we went to the IHOP and we had people prophesy for us. And that was really cool. One girl named Sarah had a vision of my Dad standing in the middle of a tornado and Story (our dog), the car and the house swirling around with the tornado. They said I am like an small little acorn that can become a huge tree. They said lots of things for our family. It was so cool.

Then we went to the cafe and got fudge brownies, they were to die for! Following that we sat outside and went on the bookstore. I bought gum, a bracelet, and candy for me, Emma and Campbell. Then we went back to the hotel and swam for about half an hour while Mummy was in the prayer room. When we were done Daddy went to the prayer room, with Mummy. Then we went to bed. That’s how our day went.

- Cassie

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

From Michigan to Missouri

August 12, 2011

Today was a fun day! Yesterday we drove 11 hours through all of Michigan state. Today we woke at the hotel in Tinley Park, Indiana, and ate our free breakfast than were on the road almost right away. As you can see from the photo, Indiana is very flat. Since we were full from our huge breakfast, we drove until about 3:00 when we stopped for a gourmet dunch (dinner+lunch=dunch) at McDonald’s. We had to eat quickly because we wanted to get to the IHOP in Kansas City, Missouri, in time for 6:00. The IHOP stands for international house of prayer, and we wanted to stop there for a couple hours to visit and pray.

We got to our hotel after the IHOP and it was really nice. Our Mum had stayed at the prayer room to hear one of her favorite worship leaders, so we swam in the pool until she came back, then we watched TV until it was time to go to bed.

- Emma J

Monday, August 13, 2012

Crossing Over

At 6:06 a.m. on August 11, five weary vagabonds drive down the road leading out of Ontario Pioneer Camp, where we’ve spent almost eight weeks. Our hearts and minds are full of camp memories and our spirits are poured out as a drink offering. We mourn and we rejoice. There’s a grieving and aching, but also a flicker of excitement. We pray and thank the Giver of good gifts for our breathtaking summer of firelight and Spirit wind and healing rain and lake water and grilled cheese and dance parties. In the heaviness of the rainy dawn, we can scarcely allow our minds to wander back to good-byes to family and friends from home. We ask for His protection as we travel and His provision for this faith adventure.

The silence is full of our own reflections and sometimes we speak up, mentioning a name or bits of a conversation. Someone asks for music. Do we listen to camp songs or Bethel music? We opt for camp songs. We’re not quite ready to move on to new melodies yet.

We upload photos and browse through the faces that will be setting tables, cleaning chalets, saying goodbye to campers and preparing for a day off. It’s hard to offer them up and not see the full fruit of our prayers but as with everything and everyone else recently, we pry open our fists and let go.

Several Tim Horton’s stops later, we’re in Sarnia, doing some last-minute banking and preparing to cross over to the U.S. The mundane realities of stubbed toes and bathroom trips and currency exchange and border line-ups and paperwork bleed into our dreamy, mournful state. When we finally finish errands and lunch and begin to cross over, we look down at the expanse of water flowing beneath us, dividing the slabs of land. We are in limbo, suspended between two worlds: Canada and the US, Muskoka and California, old and new, camp and Bethel, family and strangers, grief and joy, heaven and earth.

- Anne