Monday, December 22, 2008

Viewing of the Nativity Story

On Sunday, December 21st, on a cold and snow-filled day, members of Calvin CRC gathered in the fellowship hall to watch "The Nativity Story." With lots of popcorn and juice to fill the stomach, we settled down at 6:00 pm and took the story in. Though it is one person's interpretation of what might have occurred, and not quite Biblically accurate on some points, it sure gives you a good idea of the emotions that must have been occurring during this awesome and bewildering time for Mary and Joseph. The joy of being chosen as the mother of the Messiah. The scandal in the community as the news of a pregnancy before marriage began to emerge. The fear of a king about the birth of another King. The difficult journey to Bethlehem, and the surprise of Mary and Joseph as the shepherds came to pay homage to the King of Kings. It's a great movie for that, and all who came enjoyed it. I just hope the children didn't have sore stomachs after the evening. They went through ALOT of popcorn, and gallons of juice. : )

ETM Christmas Party

This past December 16, the ETM group gathered in the basement of Calvin CRC for their Christmas party. They were supposed to bring food and drink in keeping with the Christmas spirit and they didn't disappoint. They were also supposed to bring a white elephant gift. For those of you who don't know what that is, it's a gift they no longer needed around the house. They were also supposed to bring in 1 or 2 items for Ottawa Inner City Missions for their Winter Program. Below are some pictures of the evening. Enjoy them, as well as the commentary that goes with's all true....honest. : )
We began our evening by getting into 4 groups. Each group had to use an existing Christmas Carol tune, but make up other words for it in keeping with the Christmas season. Here you see Jonah deep in thought, trying to figure out the first line.
Here's another group using their Santa Hats in the hopes of being inspired by SOMETHING !!!
The first group (the group that won, actually) really got into the spirit of the event. You can see the great hand actions that went with the song based on the above 3 pictures. Some real PTL action at the end.
Sam's group was a bit more subdued. They had a good song, but not the emotion necessary to get the crowd moving with them.
Now Bethany's group was even MORE subdued. Though Jonah seemed to be trying to get the group moving with his actions. He tried to no avail.
Finally, it was Ken's and Janine's Group. They decided to use me as the subject of their lyrics. I can't get into what they were, but it had something to do with Jingle Bells, Ronald Smells...well you get the picture. (BTW, they came in LAST!!!)
We then moved on to our white elephant gift exchange. They looked so nice all in the middle like that.
Ben was getting a bit anxious because we were taking too long for him. That deer in the head light look again. It's ok Ben. Relax.......
Shawn received a beautiful gift. A heart shaped jewelry box, and a pink.....something or other on a stick. The girls loved it.....Shawn....not so much : )
Jonah picked Ben's gift to unwrap. A mistake for sure. It seems that Ben and Red Green have the same love for duct tape. The wrapping was only a disguise. It took Jonah 10 minutes to unwrap that gift. I can't imagine what happens in Ben's home when they have to unwrap his Christmas gifts.
Christopher was REALLY interested in what Ken was about to unwrap. He got all wrapped up in the moment....get it....
Now, Christopher got David's gift to unwrap. Seems like David likes hockey tape instead of duct tap. Different medium, same effect.
This dog was the hit of the night. It was traded several times before Janine received it. It played a great song and it's ears flapped like Dumbo's. Ethan, Janine's son is going to love this thing. How did he like it Janine ?
Joy took a moment to contemplate just why she was unwrapping these crazy gifts, and how to get rid of what she had for something else she wanted. A pensive sort of expression, don't you think?
Finally, someone gave a practical gift. A candle.
We ended our evening with all that sugar induced Christmas food. Even real egg nog....mmmmm
A good, fun, and great social time for all as we ended off our 2008 season together. We also managed to collect many great items for Ottawa Inner City Missions. Toiletry items, hats, mittens, coats, etc. I brought them to OIM this past week, and they were very thankful for the gifts, which will be given to those homeless people on the streets this winter.
As we enter into the final days of the Christmas Season, may God richly bless all of you. It has been a great season so far, and I look forward to lots of great times with you all in 2009.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Youth Group Trip to Montreal - The trip that almost wasn't

For the past couple of years I've taken a group of Youth to the Montreal Seafarer Centre around Nov/Dec. I do this in conjunction with the delivery of Parcels that are prepared by our church for those on ships during the Christmas season. Many other CRC's also prepare gifts. In the past the gifts were quietly taken by one or two members of Calvin to the Centre. I thought it would be nice for our young people to see just what this Centre is all about. What better way to do that than when the gifts need to go there. This has worked quite well. Above you see those who went this time around, along with myself, Chad, Janine and their son Ethan. We loaded 65 parcels and ourselves into two vans and left the Calvin parking lot by 3:45 pm this past Sunday.
Though we may be a smaller group, we get along well, and are continuing to build relationships together. Here, two buddies, Sam and Shawn greet you. In the background you get a profile of Megan, and her friend Hannah is behind Shawn. Lots of talking takes place on trips like this. Topics like MATH, movies, music, and MATH come up alot.
I am an organized kind of person, (ok, at times a control freak actually!) so I had planned that we would arrive in Montreal by 6:00 pm and then spend two hours as the centre, and leave by 8 pm to be back home by 10 pm. Those were my plans anyway. God had something else in mind. Just before 6:00 pm, about 10 minutes from our destination, traffic came to a screeching halt. Seems a transport truck jumped the highway on a bridge and plunged into a river. We were stuck for 2 hours in this mess. Not much we could do except continue to socialize. Shawn showed me something new last night. Apparently you can get an attachment for the Ipod that acts like an FM transmitter to your radio. He plugged it into one of my auxiliary DC connections, I set the dial to 88.1 and presto, we have all kinds of music at our disposal. Chad's van was right behind us, and apparently they could also get this music in their van (provided they stayed within 20 ft of my back bumper). So, for 2 hours we listened to music, laughed, and learned more about each other.
We arrived at the Seafarer Centre at 8:30 pm. Here you see us unloading the parcels to the centre.
Chad working hard, as usual.
Each time we come, Michelle, the CRC Chaplain at the Centre, takes some time to explain to us what goes on there. It's always informative, and this year there were many more questions to her than there have been in previous years.
The place was hopping with seafarers, which was really neat to see, but disappointing for us in that we couldn't stay long due to bad weather approaching and it already being 1 hour past the original time we should have left.
Here you see us taking some time to listen to Michelle. Chad really got into the Q & A time. He, along with all of us, would really have liked to have stayed longer. We hope we can do that next year. Once again I learned that God sometimes has other things in mind when we make our plans. We grew as a group, and maybe that was what God really wanted from us in this trip. I was thankful that those who came did so because they wanted to. I only hope we can once again return to Montreal and spend some time getting to know those who come through the doors of a great ministry supported by many CRC's in the Eastern Ontario area and beyond.

Calvin Christmas Party

This past Saturday night, 40 people gathered in the fellowship hall of Calvin CRC for our annual Christmas party. This event began several years ago as a way to gather together younger couples and couples with young children for a time of celebration of Christ's Birth, and fellowship. It has now evolved into an open invitation to anyone over the age of 16 years to come out.
The evening was once again lots of fun.
Below are some pictures, which I'll comment on in the form of a pictoral narrative.
Enjoy. : )
The evening begins at 5:00 pm. Doug, Louise, and myself took some time to set up the fellowship hall to set the mood. Soft lighting and proper presentation are very important to set the tone as soon as guests arrive. Above is the end result of our creative minds. I thought it turned out pretty nice, if I do say so myself (oh, yeah, I just did: ) )
Here is a more panoramic view of the fellowship hall just before the guests arrive. What you can't hear is the soft Christmas music being piped in. Take a moment and imaging before you move on.
As people arrived, they were invited to partake of coffee, hot apple cider, or punch.
One of our members, Bonnie, decided to bring along these cute deer antlers. Louise modeled them for us.
Leo is quite a card. Each year he wears this beautiful Christmas tie. I keep wondering where he keeps the batteries to light it up.
Some of "the boys" gather together and compare the weeks events.
Once gathered together, I opened with a reading of the Christmas story from Luke 2, prayed, and then we ate. There was LOTS of GREAT food. A diverse menu from different cultural backgrounds. I tried a bit of pretty much everything. Yummy !!
There was so much choice, for some it was very hard to decide. Bonnie, our resident joker, just couldn't figure out what else to take. Hey, where'd the antlers go?
One of the goals of a time like this (if there are actually goals to be had) is to fellowship together. Nothing does that better than gathering around a table with food.
After filling up on the main course, we took some time to digest before dessert was presented. We began with singing some good old Christmas Carols together. All done accapella. It sounded very good. In honor of some of our senior guests present, we ended with the Dutch Hymn "Ere Zij God".
We then moved on to a "fun" activity. I must admit I was a bit apprehensive about how it would turn out based on last year. You see, last year I presented a "Christmas IQ Test." Thirty multiple choice questions based on the facts of the biblical narrative. Nothing to tricky, but designed to show us how much we read into the Christmas story. It proved to be a "lively" time to say the least. Theological debates sprang up at various tables, and I thought my job might be in jeopardy (well, not really : ) ) .
This year, I thought I'd do something a little less controversial. A simple one pager with letters on it that represented the first words of popular Christmas Carols/Songs. Simply figure out what the letters were for the titles of the songs. Sounded simple enough........
Not with a Calvin CRC crowd! As I went through the songs with them, people began to realize that some of the carols were not necessarily from their hymnbook. They were simply popular carols. That got some of them going! They couldn't get those titles because they couldn't think of anything, and as you know this drives the more competitive ones crazy. I pointed them to the instructions which did notify them that the titles could be carols or popular songs. Many didn't even read the instructions.......go figure!!! : )
The first picture above is myself explaining what to do. The second is some of the group intensely figuring out the answers. Lots of dialogue and debate, which was fun to watch.
Since we expended SO MUCH energy on that game, people were now ready for dessert. Out came great dessert creations. The one I liked the best was a caramel pumpkin pie. An experiment by Margaret. It was REALLY good, as were the other sugar filled creations.
Finally, we came to the part of the evening that I actually like the best. The gift exchange. I love it because it's one of the few times I get to witness grown adults revert back to their childhood years of "mine, mine" or cheating.
We each brought a wrapped gift of no more than $5. We gathered in a circle and prepared to begin....but let me back up a bit to give you the context of how the game actually played out. It seems that living in a Gov't town does rub off on people. As we were cleaning up from dessert, and I began to get people prepared for the gift exchange, there were some back room discussions going on regarding the rules.
If you've ever done a gift exchange game, you know that there are about 25 different ways to do it. Some use cards to pick people, others don't. Some have you unwrap the gifts as you go along, others let you wait until the end. Well, I had decided that this year we'd begin with one person, and that person just keeps that gift, wrapped. The next person has the choice to take the gift of the first, or pick from the pile. This would go on until all had a gift. Then one last exchange for anyone wanting one, end you would then unwrap your gift. Simply enough, eh. !
Not in Ottawa : ) . Bonnie called me over, backed by 4 others of the group. I called this, the Calvin ambush event! : ) They wanted to suggest another "option" for the game. Instead of keeping the gifts wrapped, could we unwrap the gifts? Well, I pondered this option for the moment, and then decided to have some fun with this, just as they were doing with me.
I suggested to them that this was MY party, and that I wanted to do things MY way for this game and would that be ok? I received some blank stares, and then they began to do some more back room discussing. As they did that, my heart softened and I realized that as the Youth Pastor of the church I also needed to appeal to the youthfulness that was being presented by several present who were, well, let's just say, past their youthful years by a bit. (tee, hee).
They came back to me and said they were ok with my demand, but I could tell they REALLY wanted to have the gifts opened first. I relented, and gracefully accepted their initial offer.
Now, on with the game !!!
Here you see Jan getting ready to pick a gift. He was one of the older members who came. It was nice to see a span in age at this event. It is always my desire to see the generations mingle. Ministry isn't always about separating out different groups in a ministry context, though that is appropriate at times. We can all learn and grow from each other and events like this allow for that to happen. It's just not always easy getting the different ages to engage, but I love a challenge. :)
As the gifts began to be unwrapped, it became evident that chocolate was the predominant gift of choice. Note to self: Suggest NO chocolate for next year, and see what other creative gifts begin to pop up.
Here Cheryl gets ready to pick a gift. A couple of notes about Cheryl (forgive me Cheryl, but you give me so much material to use : ) )
As we began the game I had another thought. Just to get at those who tried to sabotage my original rules I decided to change up the rules from time to time at the beginning. This really caught Cheryl off guard. "WAIT, JUST WAIT A MINUTE!" were the words I soon heard. "So, what EXACTLY are the rules anyway!" I was trying not to laugh out loud as I redid the rules on the fly. Take comfort Cheryl that both Bonnie and Margaret also struggled with the subtle rule changes that occurred out of nowhere.
Cheryl also got a really cool gift, at first. A tape measure. Seems her kids were using her old one as a ramp for marbles, and it broke. (It also seems that they taught my kids this little game and now I'm down a tape measure : ( )
She lost that tape measure several times during the game, and hammed it up quite well that she really wanted that thing back. Though she didn't have it at the end, the true Spirit of giving showed up that night, and someone gave it to her anyway.
You can tell that Irene was REALLY enjoying the part of the game that allowed you to steal from someone else. Not exactly the true spirit of Christmas, eh, but thankfully, we live by grace! : )
Annette made two lovely flower arrangements. They were a very popular item. My wife kept losing hers, but strategically gained it back again. Keith, pictured in the foreground, had a very difficult night. Pretty much EVERY gift he obtained, he lost. I think he was pilfered from at least 15 times. He took it well.
Some gifts were wrapped way to well. This one being unwrapped by Gerry had a ribbon that was very tight, and very unbreakable. Gerry ended up getting creative, taking the wrapping off, leaving the ribbon on.
In the end, we all had lots of fun and fellowship, which were the primary goals for this Christmas Party. This picture of Leo and Echo symbolizes the many friendships that exist within our church community. For that I am forever grateful. We may not always agree on everything as a community, but there are many deep friendships that continue to grow, and new ones are always developing through fellowship times like these. In all of it, we give God the glory and celebrate the gift of community he has blessed us with. If you missed the party this time around, there is always next year. We'd love to see you come out and enjoy an evening together as the Calvin Church Community.

GEMS Jewels

Every other Thursday evening (the same as the Boys Club) girls from grades 2 - 6 meet in the basement of Calvin CRC. They gather to hear stories of the Bible, do badges, crafts, and other fun events. About 12 girls and 5 counsellors gather together to have lots of fun and get to know each other better. As you see in the pictures below, the night that I happened to be there, the girls were being very sweet. Or should I say creating something sweet : ) ! They were working on their baking badge. The final creations look very good actually. My daughter (who has a wonderful sweet tooth) just LOVED this evening. It looks like the other girls had lots of fun too. I'd like to thank the ladies who come out each week to help give these girls a time of learning, discovery, fun, and fellowship together. They too ALL love coming, and your sacrifice of time does not go unnoticed. Thanks again........and I'll get you all back for pumping my daughter full of sugar just before she came home that night. (Whew!!) : ) If you'd like to know more about our GEMS program, simply email me at and I'll be glad to answer any of your questions.
The finished product of lots of hard work for their baking badge. They look eager to eat them, don't you think?
A close up of those delicious cup cakes. I didn't even get to have one : (
Hey, I thought you were supposed to be making icing for the cupcakes, not the furniture?
A collaborative effort brought about this delicious result.
The group hard at work doing their craft/Bible study time....well, most of them anyway. Someone's taking a break and eating their badge work. : )