Beer, God and the Culture of Fort McMurray

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Here’s an article I wrote that was published in “Fort McMurray Today” on Friday January 4th. It was supposed to coincide with the opening of a highly anticipated microbrewery, which has had to delay it’s opening due to construction issues. But here’s what was published.

Like most everyone else, I’m a newcomer to this city. With only eight months behind my belt, I’m newer than most! And as a guy whose job it is to help folk in our city see where God fits into their lives, I’m fascinated by the openness of folk in our city to the spiritual on one hand, but the strong reluctance to actually do anything with that. What’s that all about? I’m fascinated by how friendly we are with one another, how open we are to the diversity of our city, but how quickly we put up a wall if we sense anyone imposing their own perspective on us. What causes us to close down so quickly?

A new microbrewery, the Wood Buffalo Brewing Company has just opened in our city. Microbreweries have a way of uniquely expressing some of the values of a cities’ culture. That certainly is the case here. I’ve been following their development on Facebook, watching the contest they created for naming their craft beers. The names that won are clearly revealing: Lift-Kit Lager, Overtime IPA, Black Gold Stout and Gold Digger Golden Ale. It’s all about what we do here, how we make our money and what we do with our money. It’s all about the passion to work hard and play hard.

And I’m all for working hard and playing hard! Especially playing hard with good friends. I get that you have to work hard to be able to play hard. It’s all part of a yearning deep within us to experience life to full, life that is marked by deep friendships, good times and ultimately a sense of purpose.

But here’s the kicker. That sense of purpose so often eludes us. Good times can so quickly become not so good. And deep friends can sometimes turn around and stab us in the back leaving us incredibly hurt. The passion to work hard and play hard will only take us so far.

This is where God fits into the picture. The life you deeply yearn to experience will only be fully realized when you choose to embrace God in the midst of working hard and playing hard. Without Him, there will be that sense, that ache, that something is missing. A bishop by the name of Augustine way back around the year 400 said that our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Christ. So true!

In the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes the writer says that it is good for people to be happy and to do good while they live, that each may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all their work, that all of this is a gift from God (3:12-13). But that writer also says that God “has set eternity in the human heart” (3:11), speaking to that deeper yearning, that deeper sense that there is more to life than just working hard and playing hard.

Let me challenge you: if you will take the time to look within, you’ll find that God shaped void that exists within you. A void that no matter what else you do will remain empty and even ache a bit, until you open up your life to the One who created you and desires the best for you. That void is the desire that you would experience life, life in all of its fullness. It’s the yearning to live the life you’ve always deeply desired.

So yeah, work hard and play hard. But in the midst of it all, make that decision to embrace the love of God for yourself that leads to the life you so want. And again the writer of Ecclesiastes would say to us: “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come” (12:1). Basic really, the sooner you embrace Him, the sooner you get to experience life to the full.

Work hard, play hard and in the midst of it all embrace God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. The Scriptures would tell us that is the route to life in all of its fullness which can be experienced no other way. And while you’re at it, go check out our new micro-brewery … responsibly!

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5 Responses to "Beer, God and the Culture of Fort McMurray"
  1. Paul Cairns says:

    Love to lift a pint of Black Gold Stout with you sometime Doug! Hope to run into you again sometime soon.



  2. Pauline Phibbs says:

    Wonderful editorial comment and I believe Fort McMurray is blessed to have you there. It is a wonderful city and it is full of great people, many young and eager to glorify the almighty dollar and the “fun” that money can buy.

  3. A Bell telephone installer friend of mine from years ago used to paraphrase Augustine’s comment as: “Inside every one of us is a God-shaped hole that only God can fill!” Truly true.

  4. Deanna Hamlyn says:

    Loved this article. The sooner you connect to Him, the sooner you see the miracles around you that are happening every day. Thank you for writing such a lovely piece.

  5. Doug Balzer says:

    Great post Doug! Glad both you and the micro-brewery are getting established in Fort Mac!

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