From the End of the Earth

January 31, 2020 Leave a comment

Antarctica. This vast continent of ice and rock has been drawing me towards her shores for the past seven years and now she has forever changed my life.

To give an idea of scale, the leading edge of this glacier is 120 feet tall.

When Bob Kuhn and I were completing a three month trip around the world in the global south we shared our last supper in Aukland New Zealand. Bob was going to meet Renae in Palm Desert and I was leaving for Kauai to be with Brenda so we could unpack that experience with our wives.

Bob and I left the restaurant talking pensively about our trip and how it was sad to be splitting up the next day. In the midst of this we both said, “We should have gone to Antarctica.” It was the only continent that we have not travelled to together.

From that moment on, we would frequently look at each other and say “Antarctica” giving it a special power to invoke hope and vision. This year, we did it. We are here, and the impact of this adventure will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

My journal is filled with notes and observations that will provide fodder for future blogs and keynote addresses. I’m presently quite speechless about what we have experienced here. Others have described visiting Antarctica as like going to the moon. We are looking at the immensity of a part of the world largely untouched by human beings. What we are seeing is a dramatic series of contrasts between ice and stone, appearing just as it has been from long long ago.

“The thing that is most beautiful about Antarctica for me is the light. It’s like no other light on Earth, because the air is so free of impurities. You get drugged by it, like when you listen to one of your favorite songs. The light there is a mood-enhancing substance.”

― Jon Krakauer

It is going to take some time of reflection before I can share more, but I will.

Sure glad we came in their summer.
Categories: Observations

Four Years – Not Like Three

December 29, 2019 12 comments
Martin Sanders
Dr. Martin Sanders

I was in Northern Ireland with my close friend and ministry colleague Martin Sanders on the fourth anniversary of Brenda’s death.

Martin’s wife Dianna died five years ago also in the month of August and we have been walking with each other through the grief the journey of grief and it has been so good to share life together.

The fourth anniversary of Brenda’s passing did not feel like the third. Being in Ireland this year was the first time away from my family on the anniversary. The family are doing well. This summer we had been together talking at Barnabas about how we were doing so I am comfortable with that – I just miss them when I’m away.

On the morning of the twelfth, Martin and I were invited for “a cuppa” by Dr. Arthur Peebles. (That is Northern Irish for coming by for a “wee cup of tea.” ) There we were, three doctors together in a quiet well lit Irish sitting room sharing together about the loss of our soul mates. Arthur lost his Ann four years ago and he and I have spoken of this on previous visits. Martin’s Dianna died five years ago August 22nd, and of course I also experienced the second loss of my fiancé Ruth.

We are all reasonably intelligent men and understand that the experiencing of grief is normal, but that doesn’t mean it’s simple. As we shared we discovered it hasn’t been easy for any of us. Often the most common shared experience was the longing for the companionship we once shared with our wives.

Science has demonstrated another dimension of why we crave companionship so strongly. When your loved one is alive, the comfort of their very presence sets off neural reward activity in your brain. After they pass away, adapting to the loss is compounded by the disappearance of this stimulus/reward activity. Over time, we learn to cope with the death and don’t expect this same reward. But if you struggle with complicated grief, your brain continues to crave it.

Dictionary.com defines craving as something you long for, want greatly, desire eagerly, and beg for.

We have come to take the perspective that God made us to crave so we’d always desire more of Him.

Categories: Observations Tags: , , ,

It’s Been a Deep Dive

June 25, 2019 7 comments

The day hung on me like a millstone. I could feel it pulling me deeper and deeper into memories and feelings.

It was the one year anniversary of when I was to remarry to Ruth Blake. Most observers called it a “GOD” connection and in just eight months our love for each other threw our lives into visions of hope, inspired our faith, and provoked so much laughter. We felt like teenagers and were so happy. Emphasis on the word ‘was’.

Inconceivable

If you are new to my story, Ruth died just 26 days before our wedding day also from cancer. This slid me onto a downward trajectory emotionally, physically, spiritually.  It was inexplicable. How could I possibly face this twice in my life? It rocked me to the depths of my soul, leaving me feeling unbalanced, and plunging me into a deep dark place in search of how I could possibly live my life again.

 

As I shared in my previous post, I have experienced a remarkable healing and a new perspective on all of this. I didn’t drown in my sorrows – although I was certainly sorrowful. Losing a wife to cancer after 40 years of relationship then losing a fiancé of eight months – inconceivable! (I know, you cannot read that word without ‘hearing’ the voice of Vizzini from Princess Bride).

I have talked to other widowers in the past year who cannot believe I am still standing. Yet here I am, able to only in Christ alone. But being able to stand does not mean that the anniversary of our wedding day did not linger on me . It was after all, the death of a dream.

Memory Muscle Cramps

The night before our ‘anniversary’ I had friends over for supper. I enjoyed the cooking and great conversations around the table. But as I was cleaning the kitchen and putting away dishes, my mind-traffic was all about how nice it would be to be entertaining and cleaning up with Ruth. We had dreams of how we would entertain regularly, inviting others into our home. I thought of how she would have loved the young adults gathered here – young adults were her passion and her ministry. Those memories are like experiencing a muscle cramp, a reminder of the death of a dream.

Loss involves pain, and that is unavoidable. Our pain is proportionate to our love, so if you love someone deeply it is going to be more painful should they die. While I have experienced a lot of pain this past year I’ve also learned a great deal. Here are some of my reflections:

Learnings on Grief and Loss

  1. Death is a reality of life. The most precious commodity we have now is our time, and we can give that to others as a gift. When we do, be fully present, and let them know they have been heard.
  2. I realize that true love transcends all things physical and is what sustains us through our lives, with or without our loved ones.
  3. Many people journey through their own sometimes brutal and perplexing life issues. Each day forward provides an opportunity to do at least one good thing for those around me. I can choose to live each day, loving and encouraging others.
  4. Multiple losses creates an opportunity to re-evaluate: Faith, grace, friendships, family, how we spend time, what we invest in. Don’t waste that. Set some time in your planning for reflection and being intentional.
  5. Men suffer more from being bereaved. In a 2001 study by psychologists Wolfgang and Margaret Stroebe they found that men actually suffer more from death of a loved one. So men stop trying to be stoic, admit you are suffering and enter into the healing that follows.
  6. Find some time to laugh. I have seen how laughter is healing. When I’m together with my sons and we get telling stories about their Mom we often end up in joyous laughter at the memories. Even though we still miss Brenda, her influence and life lives on through the joy of her life.
  7. Lean into the pain. We oscillate a great deal on this journey. Some hours avoiding the grief because it hurts, other times wanting to talk about it and draw near. Stay with it until you sense God’s presence with you.
  8. Death of a loved one gives you the opportunity to unzip your soul and let the pain do its work. Do this with a few trusted friends or family. Keep them up to date on how you are journeying and when it hurts. Trust them and allow them in – they will benefit as much or maybe even more than you will. The irony of grief is that the person you need to talk to about how you feel is the person who is no longer here.
  9. I am a pastor, a mentor of Christian leaders but through this season of loss in my life I have a new understanding of what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Over the past year, I have come to know that I can: experience grief but without despair; sorrow but without defeat; sadness but without hopelessness. As Christ followers, we grieve genuinely but hopefully because our grief is temporary. Our grief will come to an end and we (Brenda and Ruth and myself) will be reunited before the Lord together – forever.

The irony of grief is that the person you need to talk to about how you feel is the person who is no longer here.

Pearls

My mother loved pearls. Brenda loved pearls and was seldom seen without them. So I got looking into them one time and found that ‘pearl divers’ are a real thing. It’s a job! They have this amazing ability to swim for a long time underwater with no equipment. They scour rocks and sea bottom for bi-valve mollusks like oysters that just may have a pearl inside. The most valuable pearls in the world are found in the wild, and are often at the deepest depth for these divers.

To help the divers stay deeper they put on weights like a belt enabling them to sink down faster and deeper. There they are then able to stay on the bottom longer extending their search – and that is where they find pearls of great price.

This is like a metaphor for me as I feel like God strapped some weights to me last year causing me to sink to the bottom, but while there I have discovered some pearls.

So the next time you sink to the bottom in life, take a look around. God is there with you and he will reveal to you more of his splendour, grace and love.

Have you had an experience when you hit rock bottom, but then discovered there was some treasure of great price to be found?

What are some of your reflections on loss in your life?

Learning to live with the love Ruth left behind.

May 28, 2019 23 comments

Today is an anniversary. Not a happy one. It was one year ago that my fiancé Ruth Blake died just twenty six days prior to our wedding. Her death to me was sudden, unexpected and threw me into a downward spiral.

“I should know enough about loss to realize that you never really stop missing someone-you just learn to live around the huge gaping hole of their absence.” – Alyson Noel”

Following just three years after the death of Brenda this was more than anyone should face. Ruth and I had enjoyed a joyous eight month relationship that made us feel, and often act, like teenagers.

After Ruth’s passing there were times when I felt betrayed by God. My heart ached for months. I went through cycles of sadness followed by anger as I nursed my resentment. As much as I had loved God, I now began to want nothing to do with him. Bitterness was beginning to set in. With the recent experience of my grief journey with Brenda I knew it would not be possible to be reconciled. It was up to me to deal with my grief and move on.

After Ruth’s memorial service I left for Northern Ireland at the invitation of my friends Suzi and Tim in Port Stewart. I chose to get away. Actually, I was running away from the pain but it was through that visit I experienced a healing. Only the Lord could have changed my resentful, angry spirit. Tears flowed like cleansing rain and my negative emotions were washed away like refuse from a storm.

“Lord, thy will be done for both Brenda and Ruth.” This simple prayer set the course for experiencing the verses of Psalm 147, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” As I prayed and honestly acknowledged my feelings, the Holy Spirit shed light on a perspective I had not considered before. This was not all about me. God chose me for Ruth, to love her unto death. Under God’s grace, when I think about Ruth’s cancer and her death a new emotion has replaced my anger: compassion.

This it is now a new season. Walking together with Ruth’s family and finding great strength in the community at Barnabas Landing. Our coming together and building up of one another to love and grace reminds me that there are times when a person needs community more than ever. I appreciate watching my children, who have also lost a mom, pray for and love Ruth’s kids as they share that grief is not about learning to live without Mom, but to live with the love she has left behind. Brenda and Ruth both left a lot of love behind.

”The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.” – Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler

Today I am in Budapest speaking to leaders – exactly what Ruth would want me to be doing. When I return, I am going back to Keats Island, to Barnabas rejoining the staff there. I am beginning a new mentorship initiative at Barnabas for young adults in September (www.barnabaslanding.org) something that I know has both Brenda and Ruth smiling.

Why am I crying

March 15, 2019 3 comments

It’s a game, a sport. There are winners and losers all the time in atheltics. Why do I have tears?

pic credit Team Logo Style

My team, Trinity Western University Spartans Women’s Volleyball, lost our first game in the Canadian national championship to our cross town rivals UBC. If you follow me on social media you know this is my team. I am known as “One Sport Carson” at the univeristy.

You can say, “But Carson, one team had to lose.” Yes, and that’s the reality of sports. But today, deep down, I believe it should not have been my team that lost.

I have cried a great deal in the past four years experiencing great loss in my own life. Through this have come to recognize that there are different kinds of tears. Sad tears. Shrieking grief tears. Uncontrolable sobbing tears. Angry frustrated dry tears. Tears you cannot stop that seem to last forever. I’ve got a cold, tears. Hormonal tears. Lovingly surprised tears like when you receive an unexpected visit from a loved friend. Symbiotic tears of compassion. Scientists have actually studied the microscopic structure of tears and found that our tears are indeed different.

No microscope was needed to tell me that my tears today were tears not of grief for the loss, but of heart felt compassion for the team.

This is the end of the season. For the team, their volleyball season is wrapping up. For me, it is also the end of a season. I am completing my contract with the university shortly and moving on to a new adventure. I wanted my team to win the nationals as this was my last year. That might have been part of my tears, but I know from whence these tears came.

Celebration after winning the Canadian Western Championship 2019

#SpartansWVB is not just some athletic team. It is a group of women for which I have utmost respect. For their athleticism, scholarly accomplishments, humour, and service. But most importantly, I love their character. The team has become a community. They laugh together. Today, they cried together. They enjoy hanging out with one another and support each other through lows and celebrate accomplishments together. These women are going to change the world on and off the court as they live out their callings.

A large smile comes across my face as I walk across campus and have our tallest women calling my name and waving hello. It’s not hard to spot them in a crowd. This routine started after I travelled to China with the team four years ago.

After the death of my wife Brenda, and then suffering another loss with the death of my fiancé Ruth last year, many from this team have reached out in caring for me. They ask how I am doing, send me notes of encouragement and pray for me. When my granddaughter comes to watch games, they indulge a proud grandpa by allowing Ellie to get a picture with them.

Ellie being recruited. #futurespartan

I shed tears today not because this is just “some team” that lost. To me, they are Meaghan, Kristin, Alexis, Dora, Michaella, Hilary, Olivia, Ansah, Ashtyn, Micaylee, Sedona, Jessica, Alison, Avery, Savannah, Brie, Emma, and Mikaelyn. They wanted to win today, especially for their team mates who are in their last year of elgibility. But that didnt happen, and there were tears. So feeling like I am an extension of the team, I teared up too.

Next year, I’ll be back (he says with an Arnold Schwarzenegger accent). I love this team unconditionaly – win or lose. I’ll support my TWU volleyball team. We are all Spartans.

Volleyball

invented by men, perfected by women

Categories: Observations

A New Season

January 17, 2019 20 comments
Barnabas Landing, Keats Island

After all I have been through…

At the end of April 2019 I will complete my role assisting the president and my closest friend Bob Kuhn at Trinity Western University. I have been spending time praying and asking God what He would have me do in this next season of my life – wondering my future role after all I have been through.

During the summer I experienced a remarkable renewal in my life. I’m whistling again and want to do something! Hope welled up within me once again and I began to dream – but what would it be? There were plenty of opportunities – but I wanted to experience a fresh call.

Bob Kuhn, when I was talking to him about this, said that it was highly unlikely God was going to call me to do anything drastically different than how He has used me all my life – mentoring people. His statement sat with me and was a major influence in my decision about the future. In a remarkable series of events I know what I am going to do now. I am going to focus on mentoring and will be working with my friends at Barnabas Landing on Keats Island. I’m joining the team as Special Assistant to the President (a title I have come to love from my time at Trinity Western University).

Keats Island – photo credit Robert Dunning

Those of you who know me well are aware of my family’s relationship with Barnabas. It holds a very dear place in our hearts and we have been engaged there for decades. Brenda always described it as her favourite place on earth – and she had seen a lot of the earth in her lifetime. So, in the new Station building being built our family have sponsored a room in her memory.

Then, there is the more recent loss in my life, that of Ruth Blake. I was engaged to Ruth and she too was taken from us by cancer just less than a month before our wedding. Ruth is Rob’s sister and was a key element of the ministry to young adults at Barnabas.

What will I be doing?

I will spend 50% of my time working alongside Rob Bentall. We will be investing in an initiative where up to a dozen young adults will live on the island for a guided mentorship experience. The participants will be called Barnabas Landing Stewards and together we will learn what it means to live as Christians in a post Christian world. From September until April we will live, work and grow together in community.

In addition the Barnabas Landing mentoring initiative will hold retreats for the baby boomer generation teaching how to recover the role of elder and how to mentor. The Stewards will assist in the training. From May until September I will be working with others creating a mentoring flow that I am very excited about.

The other 50% of my time I will be able to do more writing, executive mentoring/coaching with leaders and organizations, pastoral counselling, and conference and retreat speaking on God’s pursuing love and grace. I also love working with Truefaced and other boards I serve with.

The thought of being able to welcome friends and family to visit on the island thrills me – and of course my grandkids can come anytime!

Ellie, Liam, Georgia, Grandpa, Roland, Mac, Landon at Applegate, Barnabas Landing

New Rhythms

I am also excited about the creation of new rhythms this next season will usher in. It will settle out over time but presently looks something like this:

  • September to April living on Keats Monday through Thursday and back into the city with family and friends Friday to Sunday.
  • Between May and September I will be going to Ireland for a month for creative time, and restoration. I also plan to spend some weeks out on the ocean and of course preparing for the next intake of Stewards.
  • Daily rhythms will involve more quiet time, focus on health and the encouraging of others.
  • And of course…being on and near the water as much as possible.

Following is the release that Barnabas have sent out. I’ll be writing much more about this in the future. – Carson

For Immediate Release

January 17, 2019

Barnabas Family Ministries Appoints Carson Pue to Lead Mentoring Initiative

Keats Island, BC – The management and staff of Barnabas Landing are pleased to announce that Rev. Dr. Carson Pue has accepted the appointment to the role Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director Rob Bentall.

The appointment fills an important role after the premature death of Ruth Blake, Rob Bentall’s sister and Carson’s fiancé. Ruth’s passion was ministry to young adults and it seemed clear to all that this vision was not to stop but rather be enhanced. A mentorship program called “Barnabas Landing Stewards” has been developed and Carson will act as the director.

The Barnabas board is very encouraged to have Carson Pue join the staff team. He knows Barnabas well, and his values and expertise around mentoring and community align well with our vision and will enhance young adults and our staff. The Stewards will also be helping teach Baby Boomers how to be effective mentors in this new initiative. Carson will be a great encouragement as special assistant to Rob Bentall, coming alongside with skills in organizational leadership, fundraising, and pastoral help in maintaining the spiritual core of our ministry to families of all ages.

“I am not sure I could have thought up such a timely, meaningful way to serve those I love at Barnabas,” says Carson Pue.  “My love, passion, and vision for young adults has grown while at Trinity Western University and I feel called to do all we can to encourage them moving into adulthood and learning how to be and live as Christians in a post Christian world. What better way to learn and grow than by living together on an island in the Pacific.”

Carson will assume the role of Special Assistant to the President in May 2019. While Barnabas serves as his center, Carson will continue his executive mentoring and leadership work with boards and Christian leaders. Barnabas Landing Stewards will start the first cohort of guided mentorship in September 2019 through April 2020.

Rob Bentall says, “I can’t believe how God has directed and brought all this about. I am thrilled to have Carson as a new addition to our team and I believe that this will forward our ministry to strengthen, educate and encourage families for decades to come.”

ABOUT BARNABAS LANDING

Established in 1986 as a non-profit Christian ministry, Barnabas Family Ministries is dedicated to strengthening, educating and encouraging families through Christian retreats. Barnabas Landing strives to create a place where young adults, couples, families and Christian leaders can retreat from the demands of life.  In this atmosphere of rest and authenticity, we believe relationships and faith can flourish. It is place to refocus on what matters the most—your relationships and faith.

For more information, please visit www.barnabasfm.org

For information on the young adult mentoring initiative called “Barnabas Landing Stewards”, please visit www.barnabaslanding.org.

Why Carson Pue Welcomes 2019

January 1, 2019 12 comments

When I think about the past year I barely have words. Twenty eighteen began with emotions of being in love again, and the delights of a teenage crush with Ruth Blake. Our engagement in March of last year gave birth of new hope for a future together with a wedding the end of June. Her death from cancer in May shocked all around her. As I sat with her for those eight days in hospital I felt nothing but love, however that was to change. How do you explain two deaths, two loved ones in such a short period? How do you possibly understand, and deal with, the death of dreams?

In the weeks following Ruth’s memorial service I found myself on a downward trajectory. It was extremely hard. Even though I had served God most of my life, I was done. We no longer had a working relationship (he says smiling as he reflects on that thought).

After the darkness…

Those two paragraphs represent the darkest first half of 2018. But it was not to remain like that. Through an invitation by my friends Tim and Suzanne in Port Stewart, Northern Ireland I escaped everything here and ran into the arms of their friendship and love. What I was not anticipating, or seeking, was God’s pursuit of me.

While there with Suzi, in my darkest lowest moment, I experienced “the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God “ as Cory Asbury sings. “Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine.” I cannot share the whole story of healing I experienced. It is after all an Irish story and that would take at least an hour!

Needless to say, I returned a different man. I’m whistling again! I have energy, hope and have shared with friends that I feel like I am twenty years old, just became a follower of Jesus, and want to change the world.

Cory Asbury sings Reckless Love

The second half of last year was filled with more hope. looking forward and dreaming again. I spent time out on the ocean with friends going further north than I have ever gone before to The Broughtons. I also went back to Ireland with a best friend and Jeremy and Shari. It was an amazing time together – and of course we got to see Suzi and Tim again.

Having a photographer along helps capture the trip! White Cloud Productions

As I anticipate 2019 there a things that I am going to do differently. My contract at Trinity Western University completes at the end of April when the President completes his term. I have so appreciated my time serving the university and it has rekindled my love of young adults (and watching women’s volleyball LOL).

What’s next?

My contract completion creates a transition point and I am envisioning a new focus and lifestyle for myself. In the coming year I see myself mentoring young adults; coaching executive leaders in both business and ministry where I can add value and encouragement; writing more; and intentionally nurturing my deep friendships. I also plan to take a tour to Ireland again – maybe two – to trace the footsteps of St Patrick. And of course maintaining my passion for Africa will be continuing to serve the Abundant Leadership Institute in Kigali Rwanda.

After a long break due to my circumstances, I will be opening up my calendar for speaking at conferences and retreats in 2019 and 2020. You can bet that a theme for this year will be the pursuing love of God. I will be making an announcement with more detail shortly.

Making room…

Our family have been looking at reflection questions from the Muskoka Woods Leadership Studio and thinking about the things we would like to focus on in 2019. One of the question adds: “What would need to be simplified, discarded or delegated to make room for these?”  It presupposes that if we are going to do something new, we need to make room for it.

So that leads me to ask you, if you are going to do something new this year how will you simplify, discard or delegate to make room for these?

Categories: Observations