2001-2010 Decade in Review

2001: Shave my head for the first time, work as a youth pastor at Red Willow Community Church in St Albert AB (Events: Just Shoot Me, Gerta's Eclipse, and fall retreat in Nordegg), canoe the Mackenzie River in NT, camp at Elk Island National Park, attend plays at the Citadel Theatre, travel to Halifax NS for Peter's wedding and Cormier Village NB after a 7 year absence, wake up to news of attack on twin towers on radio, spend Christmas in Smithers BC.

2002: Amber graduates from U of A, church trip to Guatemala and touring afterward, Pépère passes away, continue pastoring at Red Willow leading prayer meetings, leading worship with Kurt and getting kids to YC, substitute teach and then teach language arts and media part time for Edmonton Public Schools, camp at Elk Island, travel to Hope BC for Tey's wedding and Moscow ID for Bethany's wedding, Christmas in Lacombe AB.

2003: Finish my first year teaching at Winterburn School, Amber teaches for six months in Calgary, taken temporarily by Quixtar, cycle across Canada (5858 km) with 8 friends/family, move to Montreal QC and teach science and math at Greaves Adventist Academy, attend the Lord of the Rings trilogy screening at the Paramount Montreal, spend Christmas in NB.

2004: Travel to VT, CT, MA, and NY in the spring, sponsor school yearbook, begin Zaakistan blog, eat very well at various parties in Montreal, run through NDG, friend Stephanie passes away, teach summer session, buy first iPod, drive across North America with stops in NB, MI, WI, and SK, move to Spruce Grove AB to teach music, band and math at Living Waters Christian Academy, impregnate Amber, take Spanish classes, put on school Chrismas concert, host family Christmas.

2005: Put on school spring concert at LWCA, mail out support letters to work in Guatemala, Amber gets huge, enjoy 4 couples friends meals, begin playing Settlers of Catan, Blaise is born, pack up and move to Red Deer, travel with baby to Hazelton BC, Squamish BC, Moscow ID, Montreal QC, Cormier Village NB, move to Tactic Guatemala with Impact Ministries to manage the child sponsorship program, produce promotional material, and guide short term teams, deliver relief supplies to Lake Atitlan following landslide devastation, sell Ester Buck, buy Kia Rio, travel to Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, Antigua, and Copán Honduras.

2006: New school opens in Chicoy, we are robbed while at church, move to house at KM 185, complete first film, turn 30 years of age, visited by Saison, Mom, Papa and Red Willow team, travel to El Salvador, Honduras, Lake Atitlan and Tikal, hike the falls at Chilascó and Pacaya volcano, produce promo video, database, website and slideshows for Impact Ministries, listen to Stanley Cup Edmonton Oiler playoff run online, Amber gets pregnant, screen Strength and Honour: Cycling Canada Coast to Coast at the Montreal International Film Festival, travel to Montreal QC, Cormier Village NB, then Christmas in AB and BC with family.

2007: Two new schools open in Purulhá and Mocohan, we achieve Guatemalan residency, deliver and install 90 ONIL stoves, endure 2 month cough, Acadia is born at home, visited by Will and LWCA team, hike up Purulhá mountain, continue to produce promo videos, guide teams and manage sponsorship program, buy and care for goats with René, join Facebook, Tactic is flooded, take course from Chalmers, deliver 640 pairs of shoes, April spends Christmas with us.

2008: Drive through Petén, Belize, and Quintana Roo to spend holiday with family in Playa del Carmen Mexico, visited by Salomé, Shane, Peter, Red Willow team, Alan and Justin, cycle to Salamá with Garth and Walter, travel to Rabinal, back country near Tactic and with group of friends to Rio Dulce, receive interviews with World Vision Mali and Bearspaw Christian School Calgary, move to AB, buy car and home, niece Abigail and nephew Kai are born, travel to Smithers and Hazelton BC for weddings, teach Bible, Spanish, PE and media at BCS, Amber's sisters live with us.

2009: Begin attending New Hope Church, continue teaching at BCS with math added to the subjects, drywall the basement, spend summer holidays in NB, NS, PEI, BC and AB, buy year passes to Calgary Zoo, attend Leonard Cohen and U2 concerts, start small group, Kylik, Alanna and Indigo winter with us, endure -58 C (with wind chill) in Edmonton, host big family Christmas.

2010: Join Whiskeyjack/Dragonfly Cohousing, begin playing Stone Age, attend Pastor John's book meetings, host Amber's family visit, watch the Vancouver Olympics, Camp with family in Rocky Mountain House, travel to Smithers BC, speak at Katepwa Baptist Camp in SK, celebrate 10 year wedding anniversary in Waterton Lakes National Park, attend several amazing concerts, start teaching Calculus and stop teaching Spanish, cycle to work, April visits from Syria, spend Christmas in Edmonton with my family.

I praise the faithful and ever present God for this blessed decade.


It's a Wonderful Life (Part II)

As I watched George Bailey dream and then watch his dreams slip away to responsibility over and over again, I was reminded of all the dreams that I have abandoned or watch fade.

I was going to be a classical guitarist and then become an orchestra conductor but my hands began to cramp up and my passion for it dissipated. I changed majors.

I was going to become a lawyer, but the challenge of more years in university following my B.A. made me shrink away.

I was going to make films, but the high costs, the easy access that the whole world has to making cheap films (difficult to have your films screened), the low funding (none), and the massive amounts of time involved and need for a collaborative team that are not readily available have dashed this dream.

I was going to work in development in nations suffering from any one of many results of the fall, but after 3 years in Guatemala and a deeper understanding of how transformational development works, I've learned that now is not the time for me to be working overseas.

I was going to travel the world over as a musician, as a tourist with a substantial income, as a film maker, as a development worker, but with a teacher's salary and a family to support, travel is a long way away.

Long hours could be spent dwelling on what I've lost. In fact I could spend my life regretting the demise of these dreams. Instead I have to recognize what I have gained, not lost. I have tremendous friends and family. I have a wide skill set in music, math, development, theology, and film making. I have had incredible opportunities to travel through Europe, the Pacific Islands, North and Central America. I enjoy a fun teaching job at a great school with terrific students. I am a part of a wonderful church. I get to watch great films and go to superb concerts in Calgary. I have a God who invites me to participate in the restoration of the world. And I don't have to go through life alone - I have a beautiful and devoted wife who I love to be my companion and the opportunity to nurture two amazing children.

I have a wonderful life!


Top Music Discoveries of 2010

I've listened to some great music this year. Much of it has come from artists with which I was previously acquainted (The Arcade Fire, Neko Case, Daniel Lanois, Switchfoot, etc.), but a lot of new (to me) musicians have come across my path, for which I am very grateful!

Mumford & Sons I wasn't a fan to start. I had to listen to these guys quite a bit before I really started to enjoy them. My pastor, by preaching a sermon on this British folk band, had me listening to them.

I'm Not There (Soundtrack) I've been a Bob Dylan fan since I was born, but the cover songs on this album are absolutely gorgeous - in particular Iron & Wine/Calexico's version of Dark Eyes and Mira Billotte's As I Went Out One Morning. Stunning!

Paper Tongues These guys opened for Switchfoot this spring. I picked up their EP and it got some heavy rotation in my car. It's not what I typically listen to, but the vocals are amazing and the band is really tight. Great dancing music.

Calexico This SW Roots/Rock band makes fusion sound good. I saw them open for Arcade Fire a couple months ago and we stood right in front of their brass section. Beautiful melodies and some groovy grooves.

Owen Pallett This Ontario violin virtuoso released an album under his own name this year after several under the name Final Fantasy. He's a strange bird and his music can be stranger, but he's incredibly gifted and the music buried itself deep into my brain. Stuart McLean put me onto him by featuring a song on the Vinyl Cafe.

The New Pornographers I'd heard of this power pop band before and the name kind of put me off so I never paid them much attention. My worship leader invited Amber and I to go see them at MacEwan Hall in the spring and so I listened to their latest album, then bought tickets. It was one of the best shows I've ever seen, and their Together album is definitely worth picking up if you haven't already.

The Mountain Goats This guy opened for The New Pornographers and it could easily have been the other way around. He had some pretty devoted fans. I found his latest album, The Life Of The World To Come is a lot about dying and grief and just plain beautiful. I walked out of the concert with one song of his in my head and it stayed there for months.

Bon Iver I heard a song of his on CBC called Flume and immediately picked up the album. Such soothing and heartfelt acoustic tones!

The National Chris introduced me to these last two bands. The National is all about anthems, dark sing along songs. Precious.

Hayden I listened to this Canadian folkie while I worked on my Escher puzzle last month and I've been addicted to the soothing tones ever since. Message from London is my favorite song at the moment.


It's a Wonderful Life (Part I)

10 days ago I attended Ignition Theatre's production of It's a Wonderful Life at The Matchbox in Red Deer. The story is presented as a radio drama so the set is sparse and many of the 16 actors, one of whom is my mother, play several characters. The acting is fantastic and special mention must go to Ryan Mattila who plays an extraordinary, earnest and discouraged George Bailey.

What struck me about the play the most was the overtly Christian message despite the fact that George Bailey is not a church-going man and the wonky expression of the government and behaviour of angels. A principal import is that of common grace - the idea that there is goodness in all of creation and God continues to work miracles, righteousness and grace through humanity, despite human depravity. But even more was communicated; one of Clarence the angel's lines is “The Kingdom of Heaven is spread about the Earth, but man doesn’t see it.” This infers God's direct intervention in the world through His people.

The play by nature is very melodramatic - during a bank run, George has to forego his honeymoon and use his savings to pacify the mob, George saves his brother from drowning, George save both the reputation of a pharmacist and the life of a client, George yields his college tuition money to his brother so he can keep the Building and Loan going, etc. But I think it lovingly communicates George's life as a sum of his sacrifices and good works just as each of our lives will be summed up as well.

Acadia's Favorites

Colour: Gold with green and purple sparkles
Dinosaur: Parasaurolophus
Food: Spaghetti
Show: Toopy and Binoo
Animal: Baby Turtle
Outdoor Activity: Playing Soccer with her Pink Soccer Ball
Indoor Activity: Playing with her Brother

The evening

I bought a couple sets of strings last week. I put a new set on my guitar on Thursday evening and as I tightened the G, it snapped. Dismayed, I cracked open the other set to pull out that G only to find seven strings. The extra was a G!

Earlier that afternoon I was given a gift card to SuperStore from the parents and students at my school. As I walked to my car after work, I saw that my front bumper was hanging dangerously low (I have no idea how it happened). As my mechanic is kitty corner from the music shop where I was going, I thought I'd stop in and see if I could get it in the following day. Instead, Ryan had the shop guys bring it in for a quick fix - which they did completely in about 25 minutes. I was charged for 0.3 hours. The total for the guitar strings and work on my car was the same as my gift card.

Just like Episode 22, Season 5 of Seinfeld.


Wikileaks - Crimes come into the Light

Yesterday morning, after hearing about Wikileaks in the news for the last few weeks, I thought I should check out the official site at wikileaks.org myself only to discover "Safari can’t find the server 'www.wikileaks.org'." Later, I heard on the news that "someone" is jamming the Wikileaks site. I had however found a mirror of the site and found a couple of the links that worked (and still work as of the writing of this blog): nyud.net and wikileaks.de for example.

As the site is under attack there are limitations, but you can download the Iraq War Logs (a 354 MB spreadsheet) torrent file and watch the leaked video Collateral Murder. The Iraq War Logs detail violent encounters of the US military during nearly the entire invasion and occupation.

The video (the short version is embedded below) was leaked after the US military kept it secret for over 3 years despite Reuters' request to have it released because two of their reporters had been gunned down in the unprovoked attack.

I won't describe what happens in the video. It is brutal. It is the sort of thing God sees daily, so I encourage you to watch and sense what He senses, except He made both the victims and the murderers.


Teaching Calculus

This year I picked up Math 31 in my teaching assignment. It is an introductory course to calculus that only students with
a: high post secondary ambitions
b: a love of math
c: lots of spare time
consider taking. All of my students fit into categories a and b.

I've loved the challenge and content of calculus since I took my intro class in grade 12 and I am enjoying revisiting these amazing concepts after a 12 year hiatus. The real joy is working with such dedicated students. The class average is an impressive 90%.

At the moment, my class is finishing their chapter 3 test on related rates - lots of furrowed brows, focused stares, sketching and calculator buttons being pushed. Such fun!!