Archive for Caronport

Books on Spiritual Formation — A Few Recommendations

I am teaching THEO 112 Introduction to Spiritual Theology this semester in the college. And one of my goals is to give my students tools to help them to grow and flourish in Christ over the next four years at Briercrest. What follows is a few choice books from my ever-growing list of books that I would recommend if someone asked “Where do I start reading?” These books have been chosen based on their accessibility/readability.


bonhoeffer life together  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together/Prayerbook of the Bible. I am using Bonhoeffer’s book as the textbook for the course, and the students are doing two assignments based on it. First, they are reflecting on and constructing a theology of the Christian life in response to Life Together. Second, they are going to pray the Psalms and respond to Bonhoeffer’s thesis that the Psalms are the prayers of Jesus.






grenz created for community   Stanley Grenz, Created for Community: Connecting Christian Belief with Christian Living. This book is a little dated (1996), but it is a book that is accessible while still being academic.







a-long-obedience  Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society. You can’t talk about spiritual formation without referencing Peterson. This book is written to a lay audience. I would also highly recommend Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading. (I contemplated adding Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places to this list, but it better fit in a seminary-level course on spiritual formation rather than in a college-level course/a small group study in a church).





forgotten songs  C. Richard Wells & Ray Van Neste, eds. Forgotten Songs: Reclaiming the Psalms for Christian Worship. This is a good complement to Bonhoeffer’s Prayerbook of the Bible. I would especially recommend this book for pastors/churches that do not currently incorporate the reading/singing of Psalms in their regular worship services. The introductory chapter opens with a fantastic quote from Willem VanGemeren on the Church’s neglect: “Though no Old Testament book has been more important in the history of the church than the book of Psalms, we are in danger of losing it, partly because of lack of use of the psalms themselves and partly because of lack of use of the skills required for understanding them.”

An Easter Catechism: Living in the light of the Resurrection

Raphael 1499-1502 via

It’s been nearly four years since I last preached a sermon. That changed this month, when I was invited to preach at St. Aidan Anglican Church in Moose Jaw on May 4th, 2014. The audio of the sermon has now been posted. Feel free to check it out here.




Graduation Blessing: A Husband’s Prayer For His Seminary Wife

Grad letter and writers blockToday the seminary held a “Blessing of the Grads” chapel service. Each grad was honoured to have a blessing read out from a loved one. What follows below is Charles’ letter to me. I am so thankful for  a husband who has supported and actively encouraged this educational journey.


Amanda, as I have watched you tackle the challenges of graduate study while dealing with the challenges of work and home, I have been continually reminded what an privilege it is to be your husband.  You have been and continue to be a blessing to me and to our children.  My prayer is that God will open doors for you to develop the immense potential that we see in you.  My prayer is that our children will learn to understand what an amazing mother they have, and will look to you as an example of what a powerful woman of God can be.

Lord, make Amanda an instrument of Your peace;

Where there is hatred, let her sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is error, truth;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.


O Divine Master, Grant that she may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.



A Year of Busy

To say that this past year has been busy is an understatement. But, here I am, one week until graduation. Looking back, it’s been amazing journey.

In the last year I have:

  • Had baby #3
  • Proposed a thmeandbarthesis on Barth
  • Had major surgery and spent a week in the hospital
  • Made and sold over 100 jars of homemade jam at the local farmer’s market
  • Started working on my thesis
  • Got a job as a graduate instructor (translation: grading, grading and more grading)
  • Continued to work on my thesis
  • Presented a scholarly paper on the theology of rest at a seminary-sponsored colloquium
  • Completed my thesis
  • Successfully defended my thesis

And now, the end is near. The grad ceremony is next week. I have been given the privilege of standing before the seminary as valedictorian (technically co-valedictorian as there was a tie for highest GPA).

To all those who have been so supportive on this journey: Thank you. To the parents — my mom, and my fantastic in-laws — thank you for coming and helping out with the kids. To Julie, who has been like family, thank you for caring for my children a couple of days a week so that I could write. To dear friends Sherilyn, Ellen and Kelsey, thank you for sharing in the stress and joy and emotional ups and downs. To my husband Charles, thank you for encouraging me, for sacrificing, and for working so hard to provide for our family. And to my three children, thank you for brightening my days with smiles and for teaching me about the simple beauty of the Gospel.



Canada: The “Meh” Factor

Wikipedia defines the word “meh” as “an interjection, prescription often an expression of apathy, indifference or boredom.” It is commonly used to express an extreme lack of enthusiasm or positive emotion. This can be a reaction to something you experience. For example, if someone asks, “What did you think of the latest Harry Potter film?” replying “meh” would mean something like, “I didn’t hate it enough to walk out, but that’s about the best I can say.” “Meh” can also be your response to a proposed course of action. If someone asks, “How about pizza for dinner tonight?” and you answer “meh,” it means, “I won’t bash your head in with a crowbar for suggesting it, but I am in no way on board with this plan.”

As I read up on Canadian history, two things strike me. First: pirates. Specifically, Newfoundland pirates like Peter Easton (who captured the Sheriff that England sent to arrest him) and the Kirke brothers (who captured Quebec). The first Governor of Newfoundland was a pirate (David Kirke). That’s just awesome. And the awesomeness continues among the Saskatchewan pirates.

The second thing that stands out is the number of times that Canadian history has been shaped by the power of “meh.” On many occasions, Canadians have been asked (or commanded) to take certain actions (sometimes by other countries, and sometimes by other Canadians), and they have responded with “meh.” Not really responding with outright rebellion or gunfire or massive protests, just an extreme lack of enthusiasm. And that “meh” has created the Canada we now know.

This is a partial listing of some of the prominent history-shaping Canadian “meh”s:

** In February of 1763, France signed away its North American holdings (except for St. Pierre and Miquelon and some of Louisiana). A few months later, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 established the “Province of Quebec” with James Murray as Governor. The Proclamation was a very good deal for “Canadians,” but a very bad deal for “Canadiens,” and Murray also faced considerable pressure from English Protestant merchants to put the boot down on those Frenchies, lest they start getting ideas.
Murray’s reply: “Meh.”

** In 1775, the Americans were taking a very “non-meh” approach to gaining independence from Britain. During the build-up to the Revolution, the American colonists invited Canada to send delegates to the Continental Congress, and sent the following:

“By His Excellency, George Washington, Commander in Chief of the Army of the United Colonies of North America. To the inhabitants of Canada: Friends and Brethren, the unnatural Contest between the English Colonies and Great-Britain has now risen to such a height that Arms alone must decide it… Come then, my Brethren, unite with us in an indissoluble Union, let us run together to the same Goal.”

The Canadian reply: “Meh.”

** As American and British troops fought it out, and American forces pushed toward Quebec City, Quebec Governor Guy Carleton believed that the French Canadians (grateful that the Quebec Act of 1774 permitted them to be kinda sorta half French in their laws and practices) would rise up and happily defend their British overlords from the rampaging Americans.
The Quebec reply: “Meh.”

** During the War of 1812, General Hull marched into Upper Canada, expecting Canadians to happily throw off the yoke of British rule and join the Union (which makes sense, since Americans are composed of 50% Cool, 45% Awesome, and 5% Chuck Norris Jokes, so who WOULDN’T want to be American?).
The Canadian reply: “Meh.”

** Last on our list: when it came to relations with the British Empire, Wilfrid Laurier was the “Meh” Heard Round the World. Joseph Chamberlain proposed a Council of the Empire in 1897, so that military and economic power could be consolidated. Laurier said “meh.” And he kept saying “meh.” Military unification? “Meh.” An imperial common market? “Meh.” Boer War? “Meh.” His critics started calling him “Sir Won’tfrid.”

There we have it. The Canadian “meh” is a powerful thing, not to be taken lightly.

What do you think? Does “meh” still resonate in the Canadian heart? Is this the hidden answer to why Canada did not join the US and Britain and Australia in the 2003 invasion of Iraq? Is this the hidden answer to why the 1995 Quebec referendum was defeated? Is this the hidden answer to why so many of my students get to the end of the semester and STILL haven’t picked a paper topic?

Written by Dr. Charles Hackney. Associate Professor of Psychology at Briercrest College and Seminary.

(This Flashback Friday article was originally posted August 2, 2010.)


Summer Is…


…the smell of bug spray and sunscreen and sweat.

…a father spending hours pushing his little girls on the swing set.

…floppy hats with big brims.

…half the town gathering out on the field two nights a week to watch the kids play soccer.

…BBQ chicken on paper plates.

…tractors in the farmer’s field from dawn until dusk.

…squealing children running through the spray park.

…little green army men getting run over by the lawnmower.

…catching ladybugs in an empty peanut butter jar.

…sunday afternoon picnics.

…roasting marshmallows and hotdogs over an outdoor fire pit.

…a never-ending battle against the weeds in the tomato patch.

…prairie sunsets that fill the never-ending horizon.


A Month (or more like 6 weeks) of Busy

I’m just coming out of a brief season of busy. This season of busy meant little (read: no) blogging. At first I felt guilty, ask as if I was somehow disappointing the blogosphere. But, that soon gave way to restful relief. It was nice to unplug. It was nice to not say anything, and to not get involved in the latest dustup, controversy, or argument. It was nice to say, “my voice is not needed in this.”


It’s bigger on the inside.

In the real world, I was finishing the research for the first chapter of my thesis.

I was spending hours outside, enjoying the sunshine and the complete lack of snow and cold and winter.

I was making 120 jars of jam for the farmer’s market this summer in Caronport.

I was rejoicing in the arrival of our new vehicle, which we are geekily calling the TARDIS.

I was going to a Paul Brandt concert.

I was going to see Star Trek Into Darkness, and giving my husband the shock of his life by daring to suggest that ST:ID was so much better than Star Trek: Wrath of Khan. (The look he gave me was epic: a cross between “I’m so disappointed in you” and “that’s it, you’ve officially lost all your geek cred.”)

I was watching episodes of the “Doctor/Donna” season of Doctor Who, and getting hooked on two new shows: Sons of Anarchy and Broadchurch.

And most importantly, I was introducing our two Jane Austen heroines to the newest addition to our family: our little spaceship captain, named after the best captain in the ‘verse.

But now the month is over, and it’s time to get back to some semblance of the routine. Indeed, this mini-vacation has shown me that I miss blogging. I miss the rhythm and routine of writing regularly. I miss the dialogue and conversation and the exploration of ideas. And, selfishly, I have noticed that without my regular blogging, my other writing projects (like my thesis) suffer. I need to write creatively on a regular basis. I need that half hour or so a day to just play with ideas, and put them “out there.”




The Winter That Wouldn’t Die; Community; and God’s Amazing Blessings

It was a simple enough plan. I had an appointment in Moose Jaw (the city closest to us, ed about 15 minutes down the highway) and Chuck had to go to Regina (about an hour further). We got a babysitter for the girls, ailment and the plan was to go to my appointment, order and then continue on with Chuck to Regina. While he did his thing, I would do errands, shopping, and have a little bit of “me” time.

We set out at 2:30. As soon as we got on the highway, we knew it was going to be bad. The wind was blowing; the highway was snow-covered and there was zero-visibility. I sat in the passenger seat clenching the arm rest, and praying that we didn’t run into a semi, or slide off the road. We made it to Moose Jaw, and decided that Chuck would just drop me off at my appointment and keep going to Regina, in the hopes of outdriving the weather. For him to sit in MJ for an hour waiting for me, would mean that the roads would probably be worse by the time we were ready to set off for Regina. We agreed that I would either find a ride back to Caronport, or just hang in MJ until 10:30-11 when Chuck would be on his way home. Hopefully, the weather will have cleared by then, we said to ourselves.

I finished my appointment and walked up to the McDonalds. When I arrived there were several messages from Chuck. He was 1 km outside of Regina and in the ditch. The tow company said it would be hours until they could come and get him.

Thank goodness for free wifi. With my iphone and facebook I jumped into action. I posted a message on facebook and on the community email seeing if anyone knew anyone in Regina who could go rescue him. A flurry of messages and conversations ensued. Within an hour, a seminary student in Regina (who I don’t think I’ve actually met) offered to go get Chuck and take him to his appointment. Not only that, the student then offered Chuck a place to crash overnight, as it was obvious that the roads weren’t going to be getting better anytime soon. With Chuck taken care of, I took a deep breath.


Now how was I going to get home? I checked the road report. The highway between Caronport and MJ was closed. That’s how bad the weather had become. Crud. A flurry of conversations on Facebook ensued, and a friend called our pastor in Moose Jaw and asked if I could hang out at their house. Within half an  hour, the pastor had picked me up and had set up the guest bed for me.


In the meantime, I was talking with the babysitter. Don’t worry, she said, I’ll just crash on your couch. The kids were taken care of.

The kids were at home. I was spending the night in MJ, and Chuck was spending the night in Regina. Definitely not the plan, but we were safe.

The next morning I got a ride back to Caronport with someone who was headed to campus. The road report said the roads were driveable. We quickly learned that they were only technically driveable. They were ice-covered. We didn’t drive faster than 40 km/h, and at several points it was safer to drive on the rumble strip on the edge of the road, than stay on the ice. But we made it.

Chuck got a ride back out to the highway to where he had left the car. It was gone. The RCMP had towed it in the night, but a snow drift was building beside it and spilling into the right lane of traffic. Off to the tow company to retrieve the car. Once there, the tow company put it on a flat-bed and had it towed to a garage recommended by the seminary student who had come to Chuck’s rescue.

It was getting close to 11. And now there was nothing Chuck could do but wait for word on the car. And he waited. And waited. And waited.

Finally, at 4:30 word came down. The car was beyond repair. It would have been over $4,000 to fix the 21 year old car. There was no point, and even the mechanic was honest enough to say as much.

(The timing couldn’t have been worse. We were only 7 weeks from getting a new car. My mom is coming out at the end of April and selling us her nearly new mini-van.)

Chuck just needed to come home. He had been gone 24 hours, still in the clothes he had worn the day before. He was tired and stressed. We decided the easiest thing to do would be to rent a car for a week. Enough for him to come home and give us some breathing room for a few days to figure out what to do next.

Off he went to find a car rental office. He then went back to the garage, and emptied out the 92 Lincoln. Car seats. Winter gear. Paperwork from the glovebox. All the random stuff that inevitably accumulates in a car. Good-bye Lincoln. The garage offered to have it sent to the scrap yard. Taking pity on Chuck, they also didn’t charge for their services.

Thankfully, the roads were completely clear when he made his way home. He came home and collapsed. We talked about our options.

We couldn’t afford to rent the van all the way through April. But if we could find someone willing to lend us a car on Monday and Thursday nights so he could go to Regina, we could survive. It would mean not going to our church in MJ for a month or so, but it wouldn’t be a problem to walk to one of the two churches here in Caronport. And Chuck could even do the grocery shopping on Monday nights on his way home. We could make this work.

And then we looked at the weather report. More snow was on its way from Thursday through Sunday. All we could do was laugh.

Even though it was a stressful couple of days, and it will probably be a stressful couple of weeks, both of us could recognize God’s blessings in the situation. From amazing friends who pitched in to help us, to the fact that it could have been so much worse (Chuck could have been stranded in the middle of nowhere, I could have been with him and had no way to get back to the girls on Tuesday morning, etc), God provided for us.

And even today, as it threatens to dump another 10-15cm later tonight, I am amazed at the glimmers of God’s goodness. The three-year-old has declared today to be a summer day and is spending the day dancing around in her bathing suit. Chuck is prepared, and has packed an overnight bag just in case he can’t get home tonight. We have groceries in the house in case we can’t get out all weekend.

I’m teaching my last class related to my internship today. Our opening Psalm, that was chosen weeks ago, is going to be Psalm 136. The repeated response that runs through each verse has been looping through my head for two days: “His love endures forever.” Whatever else happens, whatever stressful situations crop up, none of that negates the fact that God’s lovingkindness endures forever. God is good. And I am thankful.

The Work of the Holy Spirit in Spiritual Formation

Holy Spirit Stained Glass

Holy Spirit Stained Glass (Photo credit: hickory hardscrabble)


“The wonder of prayer is the incoming of the Holy Spirit, try to the help of the [person] who is praying. It is the Spirit’s sighing, nurse which, to be sure, is in our moth; yet as his groaning, who creates out of the [person] who is sober or drunken or finical…out of a [person] of that kind, the Holy Spirit makes a person who actually, really prays.”(Karl Barth, The Holy Spirit and the Christian Life: A Theological Basis of Ethics, trans. by R. Birch Hoyle (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993), 68

I’m doing the first lecture of my internship today in the college, freshman-level, Spiritual Formation class. Prayers would be appreciated.

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Women and Vocation Panel Discussion

Last year, medicine I was invited to participate in a panel discussion on women and vocation. The theme was Women in Academia. Last night, here I was invited once again to participate on the panel. This year’s theme was Spiritual and Biological Parenting. There were four panelists in total. Three of us were mothers and the fourth panelist was a woman who has served in youth ministry for 25 years and did not have kids of her own. We talked about challenges, joys, and attitudes. We talked about how parenting fits or doesn’t fit with God’s calling on our lives. What follows is my main point that I made in bringing my perspective. It is a mash up of the notes that I took in advance and the comments that I made off the cuff while participating in the discussion.

I think one of the most dangerous messages in the church today is that a Christian woman’s highest calling is to be a wife and mother. This is at the least bad theology, and at the worst heresy. A Christian woman’s highest calling is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Anything else is nothing more than an adjective. And so, that means that if my husband becomes more important in my life than my relationship with Christ then I have, in a way, committed idolatry. The same goes for my kids. If they become my all-consuming, then there is something wrong there. Now this isn’t to say I don’t love my kids and I don’t give them my full attention, but they are not, and will not be, the sum of my existence.

Especially given the life-stage I am in (mom with pre-school kids), I see a very dangerous trend where moms spend 24/7 with their kids and have no identity apart from them. On so many levels this can be unhealthy, not just for their Christian faith but also for their marriages. What happens when the children leave home and it’s just the husband and wife together again? Will they have anything in common? Will they even know each other? And the problem is that many of the “Christian” parenting messages out there seem to promote this absolute, obsessive imbalance as being “biblical.”

That being said, if I would to try to explain how being a parent fits within my calling to be a disciple of Jesus, then I would say that my children are precious gifts that have been entrusted to me by God, and my job is to be a good steward of the gifts that He has given me.

My identity and calling are not dependent on my being married and having kids. As someone who struggled, and still struggles, with infertility, I have had to learn that whether I am single or married, have kids or don’t, that doesn’t change my calling. I am called to be a faithful disciple of Jesus, to follow where he leads, and to obey the Holy Spirit as he works in my life.My identity as a disciple of Jesus is grounded not in my marital status or the number of children I have, but in the person and work of Jesus. I am not more Christian because I have kids, nor I am less of a Christian if I don’t have kids.

Are there ways parenting and my vocation conflict? Well, when we’re trying to juggle class and kids, Chuck’s job, and the cost of babysitting, it feels like a swirling vortex of conflict. But at the same time, this short term pain and chaos has a long term benefit. By pursuing my calling, by getting my degree I will be able to serve and provide for my kids (and coming from a single-parent home, this is hugely important. Too often women don’t think about the “what if something happens to your husband” be it divorce or death and you are on your own to provide for your kids?) and be a model for them of what it means to be an obedient disciple of Jesus.