Category Archives: Last Days at UofC

Retirement Sermon, 2014-09-18

The following are the words I shared at the amazing retirement party celebration hosted for me by the Faculty of Science with more than 120 people attending…


This is the first time the University has given me a microphone before an audience this big, and now I am just a visiting speaker. I did manage to keep the sermon at church to 22 minutes last Sunday, so I will do my best to stay brief.

I quote from my resignation letter…
“I have been on campus, in three different roles, since June 1988. All the while I have been immersed in the basement of Science A, it is now time to come up for air and put my gifts and skills to use in a different theatre. The University of Calgary has provided an awesome place to work. I have been challenged and stimulated, as I worked alongside many brilliant scientists, to become a continuing learner, a diverse researcher, a casual teacher, a diligent manager and a stronger leader; and all the while earning abundant financial compensation. I am forever grateful.
As the Science Workshop reforms to meet the future need of the Faculty of Science I truly believe that this is the right time to hand over leadership and management to another.”

Bear with me as I fill in some gaps that many of you will not be fully aware of. Those of you who have had an opportunity to leave me a voicemail will know that I consider there are only 2 questions that really matter in life – Who are you? and What do you want?

Who am I? I came to Canada with my young family in May 1988, and started at the UofC at the end of June as a technician in the workshop, but in 1991 dollars were short and the Faculty slashed the Technical Services. Last to be hired I was the first to be gone.
I stuck around and did some projects on contract, but the summer was not good. I had worked hard, I was angry that I had lost my job, while others kept theirs. Up until this I had managed the universe I had created for myself really well. I was proud, and as the old adage says pride comes before a fall. All of the balls I was juggling began to fall to the ground.
It was a hard time for me, I pushed my family away, I began drinking, heavily, and I got into some trouble. Things came to a crunch one night and I found myself running away, heading north. I stopped for some sleep just outside Leduc, it was 6 in the morning and sobering up I realized I had to let Glenda know that I was going. I had a cell phone, a big clunky one, and I called and explained all.
She responded with “Come home!” I did. I now found myself needing to rebuild the trust that I had lost in a few short weeks, knowing it would take years.

I decided at Christmas I could gain a few points with Glenda if were to take her to church, I did, and there began a journey of discovery. I had attended a Church of England school so many of the stories in the Bible were familiar to me. Psalm 34 in the Bible says “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” As I sought Him, things began to change for me. Out of the blue I was offered a contract with Novacor Tech Centre to install some large equipment, 40 hours a week, a more regular pay cheque, plus some contract work at the UofC in the evenings. Less than a year later, I got a call from John Kendall, then Dean of Science. Fully expecting him to tell me the contract with the University was done because of my abuse of it, I walked into his office prepared to give back the keys. Nothing could have prepared me for what actually happened. He offered me the position of Technical Supervisor for the Workshop. I didn’t have to think for long, it was an amazing opportunity and one for which I was nowhere near qualified.
I had left school at 15, spent time working on pig farms, some months in a cadetship with the Metropolitan Police, leaving to get married at 18. I joined the Army and served as an Instrument Tech for 9 years, I then worked as a research tech in High Power Electron Beam Welding at the Welding Institute until coming to Canada.
I share this because I believe that I got the job as a reward for faithfully seeking the true creator and manager of the Universe. I started as the supervisor in November 1993, then a year later, my faith made an unexpected leap. On November 4th 1994 I awoke to the realization all the Bible stories I had a read and heard were real, that the resurrected Jesus is alive and well and living in people. I had become what is often referred to as a “born-again Christian.” There is no better term.
My life direction changed, my character changed, some of you may recall the early days and see that there have been some changes. I know there have been huge changes, and my life has been transformed.
So, I attribute any success I may have had to my knowing Jesus Christ and my desire to make him real to others, not through Bible-thumping and preaching but through sharing the forgiveness, grace and unconditional love that I have received. If this makes no sense to you I fully understand I was there for years myself. Last Sunday I had to preach on a Biblical text, written by Paul the Apostle it says, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Think about it and don’t perish.

First, and foremost then, I do thank and give the glory to my creator and savior, Jesus the Christ!

I thank my family, especially Glenda, my forgiving and loving wife of almost 40 years, with whom I will now be able to spend many more hours as we work together. I also thank my children, my foster-children, my grandchildren — you have all helped me become a better man.

I thank Dean John Kendall, for cutting my position; you started a sequence of events that changed my life, and then for hiring me back again. (You were working for God and didn’t even know it) I thank Deans Mike Boorman, Sandy Murphree and Ken Barker for their patience and their trust.

Next, I thank, and give glory, to the people I have worked with in the Workshop.
Those who have retired – Dan Spevak, Ted Mani, Jose Lopez & George Kominek, those who have left to work elsewhere, Joel Schreiner and Mike Shewchuk, and those who remain to carry on the good work under new leadership, Bill Stillaway, Colin Branner, Todd Willis, Chris Sykes, Jay McIsaac and Cathy Bartsch. Without you folks making me look good I would have been no-one. Thank you.

I thank all the professors, research assistants, Post-docs, doctoral and masters students, undergrads and staff who brought me many problems to solve, big and small, not just the technical ones, but also the cultural, social, emotional and spiritual ones. You have all helped me grow me in so many ways.

Thank you to the Wednesday Lunch hour Staff Bible Study who for the past couple of years has provided a mid-week spiritual break.

Many of the skills I have learned here are going to be very useful as we head out into the next round of challenges.

What do I want? I want to be more like Jesus so that everyone I meet will experience his love and grace while working more overtly in Christian missions.

I will finish now, hopefully, you have a better understanding of who I am and what I want…
If you want to stay informed about Glenda and myself in the future, you can follow my blog at
God bless.

Last day…

Well, it has come, after a year of waiting, my last day at the University of Calgary, one more commute to go. The day will include a morning of handing over the last of my stuff, emptying my office of personal belongings and an afternoon of interviewing potential replacements, a meeting after 4pm to decide whether anyone is worth bringing back.

Today, I was asked if I would be willing to remain “a person of interest”, available to be called back to share “all that I know” and paid on a daily basis.

After giving 12 months notice, all of my humanity wants to cry out “Sc***w you, I gave you a year and we are here today because of you, it is your fault, I am out of here”!!!

But is that the proper response. Is that how Jesus responds to me? Is that the grace I have received from Jesus, that I am called to share with a broken world?

Does pointing the finger, depositing blame, make my life better? Will I feel that I have done my best, finished well?

How I respond to this situation will make a difference. In many ways it is ridiculous to think that what I do will make any difference but the way I respond will lay a path for the future, my own and the department’s and the Faculty and the University.

Jesus is clear, we are not to “forgive seven times but seventy times seven” and my experience supports his words, that we have more than one chance, our God is a God of second chances

Finishing well and shepherding

This year I am reading through the Bible again. I am using a chronological reading plan compiled by Back to the Bible  that comes with my Olivetree Bible Reader. I am having to rush a bit, doubling up some days, as I started on 22 October last year and I want to finish before we start our Discipleship Training School in September. Time will be full there, daily readings, lectures, chores, and other activities will fill our days. Some days I read more than is prescribed to allow me to get ahead. That didn’t happen today, Luke 10:1 – 11:54 and John 10:22-42, that was 128 verses, all packed solid with awesome teachings…

In Luke: Jesus Sends Out the Seventy-Two; Woe to Unrepentant Cities; The Return of the Seventy-Two; Jesus Rejoices in His Father’s Will; The Parable of the Good Samaritan; Martha and Mary; The Lord’s Prayer; Jesus and Beelzebul; Return of an Unclean Spirit; True Blessedness; The Sign of Jonah; The Light in You; Woes to the Pharisees and Lawyers; then John: I and the Father are One.

I can’t say I did them much justice before breakfast and work. Each story is worthy of a days study and so there is little wonder that when I got to work after an easy 40 minute commute, (I love everyone else’s summer holidays!) I had a hard time recalling much of what I had read.

My commute is often filled with podcasts of sermons or praise music but today was quiet, no radio or other noise to interfere with quiet contemplation, reflection and meditative driving. I spent much of the time thinking about Jesus the Shepherd, the last part of my readings, which came from John’s gospel…

“How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

As I continue to reflect on “finishing well”, during these last days at the University of Calgary, I ask myself – “Have I done works in my Father’s name? Or my own? Have the sheep heard the Master’s voice? Or mine? Have I taken some of God’s glory for myself? I said in my last blog entry that as I have prayed about finishing well God has not revealed tasks and projects in the traditional sense of work but he has revealed people, people who are not “among his sheep” people who have witnessed a touch of God’s grace but do not “yet know and understand that the Father is in me [Jesus] and I [Jesus] am in the Father.” He is the Way, the only way to the Father. Have I shown Jesus? Have I revealed Him?

“If a man cannot be a Christian in the place where he is, he cannot be a Christian anywhere”. Henry Ward Beecher who was an American congregationalist, clergyman, social reformer, abolitionist and possibly adulterer.

Time is short, Jesus promises an abundant life, live it fully.

Olivetree is installed on all my computing device devices has been since I got my first PDA, a Palm Pilot III. Not advertising just sharing a great platform.