Paying for School

My ongoing adventures in life and the pursuit of more...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Lessons

Life is full of lessons.  As long as you’re open to learning, you never stop being a student.  I’ve learned some important lessons about Christmas giving from my wife, the Elusive. 

1) Clothes are a nice gift.  Especially if she’s there when you pick them out.  One day I had a revelation.  I noticed a shirt hanging on my wife’s side of the closet that I’d given her for Christmas that I’d never seen her wear.  Beside were 3 other shirts and one sweater with the very same story.  When I asked her about them she said, “I’m saving them for a special occasion.”  As special as Judgment Day, apparently.  These were never coming out of the closet.  I realized taking her shopping – shopping with her – picking things out and watching her try things on – this was not only a safer route to seeing the clothes on her but the time together was as meaningful as the gifts themselves. 

2) Kitchen appliances don’t count.  Unless they’re from our children.  If they are from our children she will be absolutely crazy about them, take pictures with them, use them and tell others about them.  “Kitchen appliances,” she explained to me, “are like giving a janitor a new mop for Christmas.  It implies working for you and is like lingerie, you’ll enjoy it more than I will.”

3) Lingerie.  See #1 & #2 above.

4) Thought.  My wife, the Elusive, can be happy – thrilled even! – with the simplest and most inexpensive of gifts as long as they reveal that thought went into them.  Similarly, something pricey that has no connection to her likes, her story, her personality is worse than worthless because it’s like insult to injury, “You paid how much for this?  And you thought I would like it why?”  She’s the Queen of Christmas Socks.  She will fill each family members stocking with good things but not just good things.  Each item will have significance and meaning – a favourite candy unique to their tastes, a small toy or plaything from their childhood, a matchbox car that’s make, model or decoration is distinctively suited for the recipient.  It’s almost like a superpower.

5) Receiving is nice, Giving is better.  If someone wanted to torture my wife they would make a rule that she could receive gifts but not give them.  It’s not that she doesn’t enjoy a thoughtful or creative gift given in love.  It’s not that the kindness of others and their generosity does not touch her, they do.  But what truly lights her up, makes that inner luminosity shine in her eyes and radiate from her face, is giving a gift to someone and watching them receive it and connect with the heart behind it.  She’s most satisfied when she sees the recognition on someone’s face as they open their gift and realize the meaning or significance – how this gift connects uniquely with them.

My Elusive wife has taught me that giving can be its own reward.  And seeing her in action again this Christmas I am truly grateful that God saw what I needed and delivered a present to me in a very attractive container that truly keeps on giving.

I’m learning…

If you’d like to help me reach my goal of a Masters Degree, you can click the link =è to donate or follow the FYI instructions if you’re in Canada and would like a Tax Receipt for your donation!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Getting Small

I'm still getting marks back (one today!) with only a few more left to come in.

One paper, reduced from 17 to 10 pages.
One book review.
One exam.

Waiting is the worst.

While I'm waiting I've started on the reading for the next module.  10 book, 10 critical reviews, 50 days or so left to get them done.  I'm enjoying the reading.  It's challenging and full of insights to ponder on.  It's the history that I'm getting the most out of even as it scrambles my brain.

There has been nothing like living in a "foreign" country to get some perspective on my homeland.  Having close friends who live overseas and the conversations we have brings another dimension to that perspective.  The travelling I've been privileged to have done to China, Trinidad & Tobago and other places has also enlarged my view of how life really works.  "Truth" has crumbled before my very eyes more than once as my real life experiences came into conflict with what I "knew" or had been taught was so.

Reading history has done much the same.  I would describe this experience the same way I would this fundraising I've been doing to fund my education: humbling.  It's fascinating to read about the confidence with which men of faith have staked their claims on "Truth" only to see that discovery or reform give way in 100 hundred years (or less!) to the next wave of discovery and reform.  Not unlike the "War to end all Wars", each reform perceived itself as the reform to end all reforms.

Sort of like our grade 12 graduation pictures that hang in high school hallways to remind us that no matter what we believe, we are not - after all - the pinnacle of fashion and cool.  Haircuts, eyeglasses, clothing - we smile or we frown, frozen in time, a testimony that "this too shall pass".

I've been doing a series of talks for December at Church that I get the impression has ruined Christmas for some people.  "I'll never look at Christmas the same way again..." is the way they're kindly saying it.  I started a fight between one couple when I told one of them the wise men played no part in the Christmas story, which was repeated to their spouse and a theological war broke out.  (ooops, sorry, should have said, "spoilers".)

This reading of history, the Church's and Israel's, is growing humility in me.  Humbling me to speak very carefully about my own convictions and less absolutely about the rightness or wrongness of the convictions of others.  I'm learning that finding the good is more valuable than finding the bad in other's arguments and positions - but affirming the good doesn't require me to cover up the bad.  I'm learning that the real satisfaction is not in receiving a gift but in unpacking the box.

...and I still have a lot to learn.

If you'd like to help me keep learning you can click the "donate" button over there ===> OR contact SSU with the information over there ===>.  Big thanks to Jeff & Patty and Jeff & Natasha for recent gifts of extravagant grace!

“And it is the Lord, it is Jesus, Who is my judge. Therefore I will try always to think leniently of others, that He may judge me leniently, or rather not at all, since He says: "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged.” ― St. Thérèse de Lisieux, Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux

Friday, December 16, 2011

Jesus is NOT the Reason for the Season

I don’t want to ruin your Christmas or convince you to throw out your coffee mugs or wall hangings that say otherwise but let’s be honest; Jesus is not the reason for the season.

This isn’t a rant about how we’ve commercialized the holiday and how we’ve left Christ out of Christmas.

Here’s the deal.  Jesus was doing fine.  Seriously.

From his place of perfect love as the mirror image of the Father with their abundant love for the divine Self spilling out all over everything as the Holy Spirit, he was not missing a big event at the winter solstice.  Or at any other solstice.  He wasn’t bored or Christmas would happen in the Spring and we’d call it Christmarch Break, we’d all go to Florida to celebrate it and it would be 10 days long and we’d have palm trees instead of evergreens, beer kegs instead of mulled cider and wet tshirt contests instead of mistletoe.

The reason for Christmas has always been – here comes the heresy – you and me.  We’re the reason for the season. 

Deal with it. It’s not about a petulant God in need of his own season in order to be happy. 

You and I, we need the Christmas event.  The first gift has always been for us, not for him.  The first invitation to the event was given to our reps – smelly, lower middle class shepherds.  Jesus didn’t come for pretty people whose lives are neatly tied up in bows and ribbons and shiny wrapping paper.  Jesus’ first day is a sign of what he’s all about – he comes into the crappy messes we’ve made and he makes himself at home and begins to recreate our lives from the inside out.  He comes illegitimately – he comes in poverty and obscurity.  He doesn’t come for recognition.  He gave up his entitlement.

That’s what Christmas is all about.  A God who meets us where we are because we keep getting ourselves lost looking for him.

I'm learning...

Monday, December 12, 2011


A few decades ago I was raising money to go on a mission.  I sent "support letters" out to everyone I knew.  I'd been told that for every 10 requests I would get one response.  I needed a lot of responses to reach my goal and go on the mission.  The letters hadn't been out very long when I received my first reply.  There was no money in the self-addressed, stamped, reply envelope, just a note.  It was a family member (not immediate - in case you're trying to figure this out) letting me know that I was a tremendous disappointment to the family.

So when I had this idea come to me in the shower to try to get by with some help from my friends, I wasn't excited or comfortable.  I definitely wasn't expecting something like this to happen!  Thanks to friends, new and old, I'm well on my way to reaching my goal of getting educated.

There's a new widget here on the site, the ol' thermometer, to keep track of how this is going.

Here are the quick details again:  I'm working on a Master of Ministry degree from SSU.  I'm doing this by distance and on-site (2 weeks each semester).  I've already done one module/semester and I'm on the hook for that one financially.  There are 3 more modules/semesters to complete, including the next one in March that is the Travel Module that will take me to Egypt, Israel and Lebanon ($4200 due by the end of this month - yikes!).  Then next Fall and Spring and then I have the Thesis - an additional cost and I'm paying my way for that as well.  So the appeal has been to my friends and family for help with the $10,000 in the middle for the travel and next two modules.  And I've experienced an incredible amount of love and generosity that's left me feeling like George Bailey - post visit by Clarence - which is a good place to be at this time of year!

I'm humbled, honoured and blessed by this experienced and rather than crawling under a rock - which is how I thought I'd be feeling - I want to tell everyone how rich I feel because of my friends, my family and my school!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Joining the Band

One of the books that we read for our module was The Story of Christianity by Justo L. Gonzalez.  It was fascinating reading and it will spawn no end of blog posts.  Our reading for this module covered the Reformation to present day.  So many things have occurred to me as I read the pages of The Story but all now fit inside the framework of a picture that one of my fellow students described in class one day.

Dan, who could tell it better if he was here, saw himself, guitar case in hand, making his way into a great concert hall.  From a distance he could hear the music that was being played inside.  At once it touched his soul and compelled him to enter.  As he came into the hall he saw the band, made up of young and old, men and women, every tribe and every nation, each one playing instruments - some indigenous- all playing one song.

He approached the band, put down his guitar case, opened it and brought out his guitar and he began to play.  He joined the Song.  It had been going before he arrived but he jumped right in and added something that hadn't been there before.  While he played, some musicians would stop, pack up their instrument and step off the stage and into the darkness beyond the spotlights.  Their moment was over but the Song continued on, richer for the contribution that they had made, closer than ever to the Finale.

And then Dan's part was over and he stopped playing.  Others had arrived and joined in the Song and he felt satisfied and  complete.  There was no sadness or regret as he packed up his guitar and, like those others before him, quietly slipped off the stage and back into that night.  As he stepped into the Mystery he was reassured by the Song that continued without him but of which he knew he would always be a part.  He would forever be part of that Song and that Song would forever be a part of him.

That picture has come to me again and again as I think about my own life, what I'm doing or not doing here on this big, blue Stage and where I go from here.  I've thought about it in the context of Church History and how the "great players" seem so seldom to have been aware how the new movement they'd introduced with their little lives - triangle players to the tubas - had impacted the overall piece and those who heard it.  I'm encouraged and liberated by the knowledge that I don't have to write an original piece, I'm not the Composer.  Whether I play the notes as written or add a little improvisation what matters when it's all been said and done, is that I played.  I played with heart, with passion and I was faithful to the Song and to my fellow players.

I've wanted to share that with you for a while now.  Dan told me at the module I was welcome to share it.  Remember, no one who's part of a band can ever be called a failure - triangles or tubas.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

First Grade

I got my first grade back from my Masters Module last night.  It was for one of the papers I wrote, a review, for the counselling section of the module.  My paper got an "A".

I was "bouncing off the walls" excited!  I ran upstairs and told my wife, the Elusive, about the mark and she was excited for me.  For all I know everyone is getting "A"s and I'd be fine with that.  What matters to me is that I didn't get a "seriously, you think you can do this?"

As I went to bed last night I was expressing my thankfulness to God and then this thought came to me and kept me awake for a while, "You can only go down from here!"

I've decided this morning that in a "the glass is half full/the glass is half empty" world I'm a "someone probably poisoned my water" kind of guy.

I've got so much to learn.

p.s.  apparently writing before 8 a.m. provokes me to overuse quotation marks.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Post Exam Stress Disorder

It feels like I'm not making that up.  Harder than the exam is this wait to find out what my marks are for the work I did this past module/semester.  The exam covered material Genesis (the book, not the band) to Revelation (no 's') and the questions could have come from anywhere in between.  A little bit Narrative Theology and a little bit Bible Trivia.  No matter what my mark is I feel like I know the material - Narrative Theology - and could take someone else through it.  Which is good since I will.

We had 3 hours to take the exam and I finished somewhere around the 90 minute mark.  I could've written longer answers but I tried to cover the basics and leave it at that.  Back in the undergrad days, 25+ years ago, my essay answers were written as much for effect as they were for information.  I could write an answer so long I was sure my instructors would rather give me the benefit of the doubt than actually read through the whole answer to see if I knew what I was talking about.

The questions could come from any of the 50 questions we had to study from.  Exams like these are always a gamble.  Did I spend enough time of the right questions out of the 50?  This time I guessed wrong.  There were a few questions that I thought, "no way will that be on there...".  My bad.  Some questions that I thought were key to the material didn't even get honourable mention.  Nevertheless, there was only one question I had to completely pull a rabbit out of my hat on.  I hope to find out soon if the rabbit died or not.  I also suspect some of my other answers made sense to me but probably didn't adequately respond to the question.

It took me at least 2 hours after the exam to start talking in complete sentences to my wife, the elusive Donna.  She encouraged me that I took it and finished it - not that she didn't think I wouldn't or couldn't but she cheered me for getting it done.  I think she was as relieved this round was over as much as I was.

One thing I noticed that's different from my undergrad days: I still remember the information I studied.  Back in my BS days, or is that BA?  I forget...I remembered what I studied for the length of the test (sometimes less) and then let it all slip away once I survived the exam.  This time it's staying with me and it's actually re-framing how I understand the Bible.

Now that that's done I'm starting the reading for my next module that's due by February 15th.  2662 pages.  10 books.  10 papers.  100 quotes and notes.

And once I get my grades I may wish I was waiting again.  I have so much to learn.

Happy Holidays.

P.S.  For those wondering about fundraising to Educate Brian - we have now reached the $1200 mark!!!!  Woohoo!  We're moving on up to the $10,000 overall that I need to raise and the $4500 I need to raise by the end of this month (December)!!!  Thanks to all of you who have given so generously to help me get educated!

Monday, November 28, 2011


Tomorrow morning I'm going to take an exam.  Other than at the doctor's office I haven't had one of these in decades.  My prep for this exam has been mostly procrastination.  And then a little more procrastination.  Eventually I tried to get into "study" mode and I've tried to recall how I did this 30 years ago in my undergrad days.

Back then we'd spend some time picking out the right play list of records for the stereo in our dorm room.  Yes, LPs.  Big, black, in cardboard sleeves with great covers.  Then we'd get some hot chocolate going as the first album started to play - usually Bruce Cockburn.  My room mate and I would start to talk over our notes (if we had the same class) and that would remind one of us of something more interesting which would lead to a major theological discussion - "who would win in a fight, Daredevil or Batman?".  Batman, of course.

Eventually we'd get onto the subject and the material at hand and give it a go.  Memory devices.  We'd come up with some winners.  I've done the same for this one.  I've come up with memory devices so incredibly clever and memorable that I can only recall the first 3 letters of any of them.  Then we would quiz each other.  By this time we'd switched over to a Phil Keaggy album, maybe Jeff Johnson or possibly the Bob & Doug Great White North Album with special guest Geddy Lee.  Eventually I'd ask my room mate Tim a question and finally realize that the thoughtful pause was actually the sound of him sleeping.  More often it would be me who passed out in mid-reply only to wake up for our 7 a.m. class with notecards stuck to the side of my face by the drool that'd leaked while I slept.

I'm not sure that any of these approaches will work at 48 but I'm determined to figure out how to study for this before I fall asleep tonight.  And wake up tomorrow with my notecards stuck to my face.

I have so much to learn.

Big thanks to all who continue to contribute to Educating Brian.  I've raised about $1000 now out of my goal for $10,000 to educate me.  Every gift of $5, $25 and $500 is helping and I thank you for that.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pushing "Send"

I'm down to one last week of work on my current module.  After Nov. 30th I will have one module out of four done.  For good or bad.  This process has culminated in me hitting "send" as my assignments are submitted for grading.

Each time I finish a paper my finger hovers over the send key.  For a long, long time.

Part of me is resisting the idea of being judged.  Not for some high minded notion but out of fear that this will finally be the revealing moment that I don't have a clue and continuing ed might be for anyone else but definitely not for me.  The other day my parents asked me if I'd be content with Cs or Bs.  Up 'til then I hadn't even thought of that.  I was working more on a pass/fail basis.  Either I can do this = A or I can't = F.

Prior to this experience I would have been able to say confidently that I am aware of my insecurities.  This process, however, has introduced me to the mass of insecurity just under the surface.  The mountain I knew, turns out, was actually a well known Irish landmark named, Tip O'theiceberg.  And each time I push "send", my hull scrapes against it and I become concious of how thin my shell really is.

I'm down to one last paper to submit.  It's been done for a few days now.  It's been re-done every days since and sometimes twice in one day.  After this is my exam.  I think I'll have to rely on my elusive wife to push send that day.

I have so much to learn.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Editing OR The Death of Ideas

I'm in editing mode.  After discovering that my 8 page (max) paper was really 17 pages once I applied double spacing I've been killing some perfectly good ideas.  I'm cutting paragraphs like bit players in some Hollywood blockbuster are left on the cutting room floor.  I'm watching words that I've picked out of thin air, crafted and put on the screen behind that damn, flickering line that keeps imploring me to add more, fall to the floor.  I pause for a second to think and that line sits there, throbbing, pushing me to come up with a word it's never revealed on the white screen before.

And I slowly become aware that I'm losing it...

17 pages are down to 8 now.  Plus title page.  Plus bibliography (please God, don't let him count the bibliography...).  And words cover the floor, some whole phrases, some paragraphs - there's even one whole page that sitting under my thinking chair, dejected and plotting - i fear - to give me a paper cut.

I have so much to learn.

p.s. Much thanks to the generous contributors to Educating Brian!  Money received by paypal, gifts sent to SSU, offerings at church - I am grateful and I am humbled.  This dream is coming true one dollar at a time!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Double Spaced

This morning I learned an important lesson.  I wrote to one of my teachers about an assignment that is almost due.  The assignment page we were given said 1000 words/4 pages.  I hit 1000 words by page 2.  And kept going.  So I wrote and asked if that was either/or.  He kindly replied that double spaced papers will hit 1000 words on page 4 but he would be a little flexible for me.

Here's the problem: I thought I was double spaced.  Turns out the setting in Word that I thought was double space - well - wasn't.  A little investigation this morning and I now see he difference.



This is good.  Really helpful as I move forward.  Except that the 8 page paper for another prof that I've been working on cutting back from 11 to 8 pages is now, in double space as required, 17 pages long.


Bang head on desk.

So I'll be spending Sunday afternoon editing while I hear the sound of NFL football coming from the other room.  The room I'm not in.

I have so much to learn.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fund Rising

I'm not sure what I expected when I asked for help Educating Brian but I didn't really expect this.  I'm humbled by almost daily notices of people willing to and wanting to invest in my education.  I'm grateful for expressions of support and encouragement to pursue this dream.  I appreciate every single offer of help, from those kindly passing on links to my blog to the $5 donations to the hundreds of dollars donations.

Part of my education in all this has to do with the kindness of friends, the generosity of strangers and the willingness of other people to make an investment in the future.  Out of my desperation I reached out for help with little expectation and in my need I'm discovering the power of friends.

I've still got a long way to go to my goal of $10,000 but the journey has started and I'm getting by with a little help from my friends!

One of my old friends sent the link to this video to me.  It resonates.

p.s.  there are a bunch of ads on here now.  Sorry about that but it's another way to raise the funds that Student Loan says I must have banked away and the Bank says I don't have enough of to get a loan.

Monday, November 14, 2011


It's amazing how hard it is to get past the blank page of Word.  I've got a paper coming due that I've started about 10 times now.  Actually, I've started to start it 10 times.  Not once have I gotten past that first blank page.

I write most of my weekly sermons/talks out - word for word.  I don't deliver them that way but I've got the text there - I'm used to filling up blank pages.  Somehow the idea of this 5-8 pages of double spaced verbiage has left me more anxious than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  I know what I want to say but seeing it in print in front of me is daunting.  Once committed to print it will become at risk of judgement.  A grade.

There is an awareness growing inside of me that deep down I'm going to do this wrong.  I'm not afraid of people disagreeing with me.  I'm not afraid of a low grade because the prof thinks my point is rubbish.  What's affecting me in this assignment is the same thing that creeps up and paralyses me in other endeavours: I'm afraid I'll do it wrong.  My fear is that I'll have missed the point entirely and turned something in that is not what the assignment is asking for.

I could blame the 30 years since my last assignment like this.  But the simple truth is that this dogs me all over the place when I'm trying to satisfy a request that I feel is ambiguous.  Generally it's not as ambiguous as it feels, it's just that I don't want to fail to meet expectations and telling me to do A, B and C makes me feel much more in control than telling me to describe the scene outside my window.  What do you want to know?  Are you asking for something poetic, literal or scientific?  Should I keep it simple and straightforward or should I drag out the thesaurus?  And my mind is off and running and paralysed all at once.

One thing that's becoming clear in this process is that educating Brian is about a whole lot more than the books I'm reading or the lectures I'm taking in.

Today I will get at least one paragraph on this blank screen and I'll give myself permission to fail because trying and failing sounds more satisfying than failing to try.

Do you have any favourite tips on getting past the blank page?    

Friday, November 11, 2011

30 Years Late(r)

Homework.  I left that behind once and then I had kids.  Once they were old enough that I couldn’t help them with their homework because I didn’t have a clue, I was done with homework again.  So why would I willingly put myself back into a situation where I’m doing homework, my own this time, again?

My original plan was to go from undergrad to grad right away.  Then life intervened.  I talked with a prof in those days who told me that as long as I was open to learning I’d always be a student.  I think he was right but that insight became all the excuse I needed to let the study I was interested in give way to the job I needed.

And then years went by and then decades and it became much harder to convince myself that going back was even an option.

Just over a year ago I came to a “dark night of the soul” that lasted a whole season.  In the midst of that process there came some clarity.  I was searching for answers about my future and I was coming up empty.  Piece by piece I was getting disassembled, it felt like God was taking my world apart.  In the midst of great uncertainty came this one clear step: go back to school.

I like to think that my undergraduate studies have taken me 30 years to complete.  I know there’s a depth in my reading that didn’t exist 3 decades ago.  Life has given me some perspective that I seriously lacked when I was 20.  Suffering, disappointment, relationships, unexpected satisfaction, grace and hurt have all marked this road I travel on.  For me, now is the time and though it’s 30 years late(r), I’m ready for it again for the first time.  Besides, how long is too long to wait for a dream to come true?

Thanks to all my friends who are helping me on this journey!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It Started In The Shower...

I was standing in the shower thinking about being rejected for my student loan and personal loan for opposite reasons when I had this idea.  People have started turning to the internet to find investors and donors in everything from movie projects to music projects to start up business projects...why not turn to my wired world of family, friends, contacts and the friends of friends (the facebook kind or the real kind) and to find people willing to invest in me and my education.

I started pursuing a Master's Degree this fall from St. Stephen's University (SSU).   I put it off for almost 30 years.  I felt like this was the next right step for me at this point in my life and if not now, when?  So it all started  this past October.  I'm taking the Module Course which means I'm on campus two weeks each semester for 2 years.  The next Module is the travel module.  SSU is big on exposing students to cross-cultural experiences for history, culture, information and the elusive pilgrimage component.  This travel module will take me and my class to the cradle of civilization.  We will visit Egypt, Jordan and Israel.  We will trace a path from the Pyramids to Mt. Sinai and up into Israel where we'll eventually explore Jerusalem.

I'll be reading piles of books in preparation of the trip and writing piles of papers on my return.  Next fall I'll take my 3rd module and the following spring will be my 4th and final module.  Then my thesis or project.

Here comes the appeal...

Will you invest in educating Brian?  If you do, here's what I offer:

1) For a person willing to loan me the entire cost of my education I will repay your loan at an interest rate much better than the bank is currently offering.  Email me at and I'll offer you a competitive interest rate.

2) For those willing to freely donate to this cause:

Donations from $5 - $49 - I will post "Live Blog" updates here at for you to keep track of what I'm up to, learn what I learning bout and interact with me as much as you want in comments in this 2 year journey.

Donations from $50 - $99 -  I will post "Live Blog" updates here at for you to keep track of what I'm up to, learn what I learning bout and interact with me as much as you want in comments.  I'll send you a personal postcard (but not too personal!) from Egypt or Israel if you send me your address, to express my appreciation.

Donations from $100 - $250 -  I will post "Live Blog" updates here at for you to keep track of what I'm up to, learn what I learning bout and interact with me as much as you want in comments.  I'll send you a personal postcard (but not too personal!) from Egypt or Israel if you send me your address, to express my appreciation.  I'll let you see all my grades and send you a photograph  of me being educated in Israel.  I will also send you a personal note of thanks on my return to Canada with some good stories that won't be published on my blog.

Donations from $300 - $500 - I will post "Live Blog" updates here at for you to keep track of what I'm up to, learn what I learning bout and interact with me as much as you want in comments.  I'll send you a personal postcard (but not too personal!) from Egypt or Israel if you send me your address, to express my appreciation.  I'll let you see all my grades and send you a photograph  of me being educated in Israel.  I will also send you a personal note of thanks on my return to Canada with some good stories that won't be published on my blog.  When I graduate I will send you a signed copy of my thesis/project, a picture from my graduation, I'll dedicate a blog post just to you during my education and will give you a call and personally thank you for your investment in me and my education.

Donations over $500 - I will post "Live Blog" updates here at for you to keep track of what I'm up to, learn what I learning bout and interact with me as much as you want in comments.  I'll send you a postcard from Egypt or Israel if you send me your address, personally expressing my appreciation.  I'll let you see all my grades and send you a photograph  of me being educated in Israel.  I will also send you a personal note of thanks on my return to Canada with some good stories that won't be published on my blog.  When I graduate I will send you a signed copy of my thesis/project, a picture from my graduation, I'll dedicate a blog post just to you during my education and will give you a call and personally thank you for your investment in me and my education.  I will strongly suggest to my son and daughter-in-law that their firstborn should be named after you.  I will personally come to wherever you are in the world - if you're up for it - take you out for dinner and tell you as much about this experience as you want to know.  I will reveal the top10 most embarrassing moments of my education journey.  I'll include your name in every book I ever write.

How much do I need to raise?  I need to raise $4200 CAD immediately for the upcoming semester (15 days of journey).  The remaining two semesters will cost $6000 in total.  That's $10,200 if you're counting and I'll keep this blog updated on my fundraising progress as well as notes from the adventure.

(NOTE: I'm willing to negotiate, modify or consider options, including car washing, dog walking, leaf raking, house concerts where I preach instead of sing, just about anything else you can come up with.)

So, that's the deal, if you're interested you can email me at or leave a comment here and I will contact you.  Unorthodox times call for unorthodox measures.  Please join me on this crazy pilgrimage!

For more info about me you can check out my blog.

If you know me and want to leave a testimonial in the comments below for potential investors to consider that would be great!

Live Blogging...the Masters Course

Day 0.5  Arrived to the University last night to begin my two week module for a Masters.  Got to my room around 10:30 and met a couple fellow students.  Discovered from conversation there was another set of books and assignments of which I was completely unaware.  Note to future self - don't reply to emails without actually reading them first.  Fired up laptop, found email from August, read, despaired.  Up 'til 2 a.m. reading textbook loaned by fellow student who apparently reads his emails and their attachments.

I used yesterday.  I'm not proud of it but I did.  2 cups of coffee.  Not even good coffee.  I'm a whore.

Will report of first of day actual class later where I will be heard to say in front of the class, "No, you didn't get an email from me with my assignment for today that was due a week ago, your records are correct."

Working on plan to check off item from university bucket list.  Friday night I'm sneaking a girl into my room.

Class starts in 2 hours...

First session is behind me.  This was the class I didn't read the email for and so didn't have read the textbook or do the paper that was due before the start and worth 20% of my grade.  I probably wouldn't be happy if I wasn't starting from some kind of hole.

Introductions all around this a.m.: ourselves, our program, our profs.  We're a diverse bunch and thankfully I'm not the oldest student in the room.  But I'm also definitely not the youngest.  I confessed my fear of being found out to be a poser and being sent back to undergrad school.

It's mostly a room full of introverts with some of us who enjoy occasional moments of extroversion.  This will make getting to know each other very interesting.  And really, really slow.

Class #1 was all about the Story and coming back to the Text as it was written, or maybe better to say, as it was read and heard.  The prof is someone I really respect.  I didn't even know he was going to be here (remember that email i never read?) but I've read one of his books and was very impressed.  This morning he's introduced some big ideas and started this process of recovering the Story or the Text rather than the texts.  Seeing the big picture rather than all the little pieces we've broken it down into over the last few hundred years. This perspective raises a lot of big questions for me, good questions, and I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.  Now I just have to finish a couple more books, write a few papers and type up my notes within the next 24 hours.

to be continued...

Pen.  Check.
Paper. Check.
Everyone else taking notes on their Mac books.  ...
Essay to turn in.  Check.
Prof doesn't ask for it.  Check.
Forget book that class is discussing.  Check.
Forget book that everyone is sharing a quote from and discussing.  Check.
Sit in warm sunshine and listen to people discuss interesting and important ideas and know this feels good.  Check!

Just finished a book tonight and the follow up 3 page report on the book.  I'm so tired I'm afraid to look at the paper again in the light of morning to find out that nothing I said made even remote sense.  I could be wrong but I think I can feel my brain cutting some new channels and forming some new pathways.

Or it could be a stroke.

Good night.
Posted by Brian

This morning's session was our "Modern Basket Weaving 101" or whatever course you've taken that required no books, no prep and therefore would be so easy you could sleep through and get an "A".  I went to "Spiritual Direction" prepared to hear some lovely sounding words about prayer and growing deeper with God thru prayer.

3 hours later I'm left shattered.

Lorna, the prof, led us in a simple Ignatian exercise on gratitude followed by a little Lectio Divina.

Basically silence punctuated by the slow reading of a piece of Scripture, in this case a Psalm.  We listen to the Pslam and then we listen for God to speak to our hearts through a part of that reading.  Silence.  Then it is slowly read again and we listen some more.  Silence.  Then we share what we feel like we've been hearing or we pass.

I'll be honest and admit I went into the exercise with extremely LOW expectations.  Through the exercise it seems that God has chosen to finally talk to me about something I've been yelling at him about, whining to him about, pleading with him about, giving him the 'silent treatment' about and generally pestering him about with no result.  Suddenly God whispers to my heart convicting words, strong words but words full of a love so hot that it melts my stony heart.

I could spend the rest of the day pondering what happened to me this morning.  Instead I'm off to an afternoon of Narrative Theology and getting my mind blown while my heart is exposed.

Live Blogging...Masters Day 2 pt. 2

This afternoon's class reminded me of the time someone explained to me that boys and girls had some fundamental differences.  I didn't understand everything that I'd just taken in but I knew for sure that from then on my whole life was going to be affected by that knowledge.

I broke down and had another cup of real coffee at the break time.  Paying for it now as my body tries to figure out what to do with all this caffeine.  But currently awake and getting ready for one more session today.  This one on Church History.  Next decision: Take the books or Don't take the books?  Second decision: If I take the books should I get a hand truck to carry them?

Live Blogging...Masters Day 2 pt. 3

Thoughts from tonight's class...anyone know a way for me to come up with $8000 quick.  Does not necessarily have to be legal.  Inbox me.

My head and heart have never felt both so full at the same time.  Need to write some more papers before bed to empty my head at least!

Live Blogging....Masters Day 3 it begins...
Here's a prayer we were given yesterday that resonates deeply with my life in this season.  I'm making it my daily prayer for the conceivable future: (and even for the future of which I cannot conceive!)

Lord, I will trust You, help me to journey beyond the familiar
and into the unknown.

Give me the faith to leave old ways
and break fresh ground with You.

Christ of the mysteries, can I trust You
to be stronger than each storm in me?

I determine amidst all uncertainty always to trust.

I choose to live beyond regret, and let You recreate my life.

I believe You will make a way for me
and provide for me,
if only I trust You
and obey.

I will trust in the darkness and know
that my times are still in Your hand.

I will believe You for my future,
chapter by chapter,
until all the story is written.

Strengthen me with Your blessing
and appoint to me the task.

Teach me to live with eternity in view.

Tune my spirit to the music of heaven.

Feed me,
and, somehow,
make my obedience count for You.

(excerpts from, "A Call to Risky Living")
The Prayer of St. Brendan the Navigator, 486-575 AD
Celtic Daily Prayer: From the Northumbria Community,
Harper Collins Publishers, 2000, pp. 191-193

Live Blogging...Masters Day 3 pt. 2

Morning class is over and so is lunch.  We were rambling around the 16th and 17th century this morning.  Part of our conversation had to do with the arts and the ability for "verse to arrest what the sermon may not".  What have we lost in the Church by elevating lecture over the other arts?  We looked at Teresa of Avila, George Herbert and got stuck with George on our way to Blaise Pascal.

I came here expecting information, instead I'm encountering transformation.  I spent most of the morning feeling weepy and nearly burst into tears during our reading of some of Herbert's poetry.  I would blame it on being over-tired but I have slept well the last two nights.

Here's a taste and one of the bits that nearly did me in.

by George Herbert

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
        Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
        From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
        If I lack'd anything.

"A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here";
        Love said, "You shall be he."
"I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
        I cannot look on thee."
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
        "Who made the eyes but I?"

"Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them; let my shame
        Go where it doth deserve."
"And know you not," says Love, "who bore the blame?"
        "My dear, then I will serve."
"You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat."
        So I did sit and eat.

Live Blogging...Masters Day 3 pt. 3

This afternoon we were back to the Old Testament Story.  I decided to show I was a cool as the rest of the kids so I brought my laptop over with me.  I couldn't plug in where I was sitting so the battery ran out in 3, 2, 1... So I end up sitting there with a laptop I'm not using with my pen and paper on top of it.  I'm becoming that old guy we had in class when I was back in my college days.  No one has called me sir or mr. yet, no pat on the head or offers to help down the steps but I can feel it coming.

I over-shared in class this afternoon.  Another sign I'm becoming that guy.  I'm so charged up by what I'm studying, the things we're reading, the insights others are sharing and the thoughts all of this is provoking that it's hard not to over-share.

Here's a taster of some stuff that's coming out of this process for me:

God, perfect and full, made us for his good pleasure.  He/she found expression for the joy he has in being himself/herself in the act of creating image bearers - beings who would be the exact reflection of himself - Male and Female.  The Story says they were created with purpose - “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”  This is important, this matters.  The end of the story is revealed from the very beginning.  We were not made to pass through life and get a heaven bonus when we die.  We were made for Eden, heaven on earth, to reflect the glory of God.  It begins with people and place and the Story is that we are finishing the work that God started by extending paradise and filling it with more Image Bearers.

Mankind opts for a different Story.  Love requires a choice and when faced with the opportunity to choose love, mankind chose fear, shame and disconnection.  Don't be harsh, we keep making the same choice over and over again with God, each other and nature.  God had given Man his word and Man did not trust God and take him at his word.  But God refuses to give up on the Story and even in the face of this betrayal he calls them out of hiding, covers up their shame and promises them hope.  A child would be born that would crush the deceiver in the garden but would himself be wounded in the process. Crushing the deceiver would restore the image that has been broken and continues to be broken from DNA strand to DNA strand.  The Story hasn't changed, its ending is certain but at present we are in the middle of the Story and we're invited to be part of the restoration of eden project that God has under way.

God tries again with Noah.  Noah does the same thing Adam did.  God tries again with Abram/Abraham who does the same thing as Adam.  God tries again with Moses & Israel who over and over again do exactly the same thing Adam did, exchange the true image they were created with for the lie.  God tries again with David and this time it looks promising until David looks down and sees bathing Bathsheba and trades in Eden building for Viagra, adultery and murder.  God keeps calling us back to the Story and we keep wanting to write our own ending.  So now God interjects himself into the Story to be the progenitor of a people who will have a new DNA.  He comes to solve the unsolvable problem as Jesus. 

So he lives as the exact representation of the Image of God - Adam again - but this time he doesn't choose against God - even though it costs him his life.  Now the Eden project actually stands a chance because the sin problem is eradicated, the serpent's head is crushed though it wounds Jesus, the promised child who all those genealogies were looking for.  It cost him everything but provides us the fresh beginning that cannot be stopped.  It makes time run backwards now so we feel like we're living forward but we are really all growing younger and bit by bit the damage is being reversed and the Story is getting back on track.
We don't obey God to avoid a fiery end, that's the wrong story.  We obey God because he's written the music that we want to play.  Obedience isn't a burden, it's playing the melodies and harmonies of Eden, it's keeping  in time with the Rhythm of God.  It's making sweet music together.

Now Jesus produces his own offspring - the followers of Jesus, pregnant with the very blessing of God, his Holy Spirit, the pure expression of God's love and delight in Himself - empowering and transforming us into the same image bearers that Jesus himself is.  So Jesus plays Adam and the Church plays Eve and we are fruitful and we multiply, not by force or coercion, that's another story, but by love.  We continue the story and sometimes it costs us our very lives as well but little by little we recreate Eden, the Kingdom of God, the land where no one goes hungry, where everyone can find a home, where no one lies to you and no one feels the need to lie about themselves.  A place where sick are healed, poor feel rich, broken are mended and old are made new. 

This is the Story and every man, woman and child on earth has been invited to be part of this Story that will have the happy ending that God always intended it to have, where the lion lays down with the lamb, where peace reigns, where there is no fear and nothing to fear, where locks are meaningless and gold has lost all value other than it's colour.  This is where we are going and nothing can stop this Story.  We who follow Jesus, who are born of God, invite everyone, everywhere around us to join this Story that they are already in by being the restored image of God on earth, cracked to be sure but just as surely being restored day by day.

This is our story, this is our hope, this is our invitation.

Live Blogging...Masters Day 4

Today started last night for me.  We'd brought Blaise Pascal up yesterday and many people in the class had a positive reaction to the reading we'd done in his book, Pensees.  I didn't.  I found it boring, disjointed and bland.  I was thinking about this last night since we were due to discuss him this morning.  I decided to check the online translation against my printed Penguin Classic.

Turns out the Penguin did me in.  The sections I was supposed to read were completely different online than in my printed copy.  The online version fit in to our course.  Turns out I had been reading, in my printed version, the scraps of incomplete ideas collected at the back and what was almost a bibliography at the end of the book.  So last night I did some power reading and came away with an entirely different experience of Pascal.

Favourite quote: "The knowledge of God is very far from the love of Him."  And this from a man arguing for reason.
Take-aways from this morning:

Someone in class can strongly disagree with my take on things and say exactly the opposite of what I've said or even say I'm wrong and we're still friends when we get up from the table.  Even if they think my idea sucks it doesn't mean they think I do.  This is bliss.

Pastoring is more art than science.

People in New Zealand wrestle in heart and head with some of the very same things we wrestle with on P.E.I.

Story, story everywhere - how did I not see this so clearly before?

People from California and Arizona, Australia and New Zealand all freeze before Canadians do.

And one more poem from Herbert.  For all, but especially pastors:

The Pulley

   When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
“Let us,” said he, “pour on him all we can.
Let the world’s riches, which dispersèd lie,
   Contract into a span.”

   So strength first made a way;
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure.
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
   Rest in the bottom lay.

   “For if I should,” said he,
“Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;
   So both should losers be.

   “Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness;
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
   May toss him to my breast.”

Live Blogging...Masters Day 4 pt. 2

Pensees from today...

There seem to be two kinds of people in the world now, those who whiten their teeth and those who don't.

My head feels like ground that has sat under a 4 day rain.
Nowhere left for the water to go, it just stands on my head.

This afternoon was rich.  Lights go on like old school camera bulbs around the room.  Flashes of brilliance making me blink in wonder.

A very old story comes to life.  No longer Other.  I discover that I am in this Story, this is our Story and it always has been.  It not only changes my view forward but it re-frames everything that has ever happened in my past and it makes sense of my now.

The forest.  The trees.  It is possible to take one in without missing the other.

If you know caffeine makes you blurt things out and feel anxious, one cup is probably bad, the second is just plain stupid.

Live Blogging...Masters Day 5

Title for today: When You Learn a Heresy

It wouldn't be an overstatement to say that this morning's session was my Luther moment.  As Luther sat translating the text of the book of Romans as a Roman Catholic, this self-abusing German monk has an "aha!" moment.  (no connection to Alan Partridge) He didn't leap up and start the Reformation but the dramatic changes that would come into his life could be traced back to that solitary moment of discovery.

This morning was like that for me.  A visiting lecturer from the U.K. taught us on the Image of God language that informs Genesis 1 and is repeated through the rest of the Bible.  As I sat listening, dots were connecting, things began to both fall into place and fall away from my system of belief.  And like Luther, there is something present in me and something developing that I know full well will sound like heresy to my generation.  But more than that, will dramatically change the trajectory of my life.  (and yes, this scares me)

So, what do you do when you learn a heresy that you know is true?

I'm packing up today.  This will be my last post until Monday probably.  I've revised my plan to sneak a girl into my room for the night.  Instead I'm getting picked up after my last class today and this elusive girl is taking me home to her place for the weekend!!! Now that's University life baby!!!