Friday, December 22, 2006

Last post of '06

We are going to be heading out for a mother long road trip.
Saturday we leave for Caronport to hook up with my brother and then on to Steinbach to take in my other brother's Christmas eve service. Then back to Mom and Dads for a late night Christmas in Winkler. We will hang out there for a few days and take in the Friesen gathering (first time in eons) and then boot off to Red Deer (with a stop in Regina - tourism capital of the bald prairies). We will stay there till we leave for Fairmont over the first week of '07 - do some skiing, and chill.
Hope the ASTRO makes it - always fingers crossed on the long trips...
Couple things to take care of this year yet on this blog:
A big shout out to Garry Siebert. Garry is good friend and volunteer in youth minsitry here since before I began here at Coaldale. I am going to miss doing ministry with this gifted and kind brother when all is said and done here. Garry is a man of strong convictions - but those convictions are alwasy tempered by a deep desire to hold steady open relationships without conflict. His grace to people in this is a huge example to me. It always amazes me to see how kids who used to be in the youth group comment and ask about Garry. I think it is plain and obvious how much he pours his heart into the people he surrounds. Garry is the manager of Boss Lubricants in Lethbridge - a position that he deserves and that fills me with pride. Thank - you Garry for being faithful all these years. Thanks for being a friend.
Another big shout out to Mark. Mark chose to identify me as a mentor in his life. It hardly seems right since I have learned so much from him over the years. Mark and Bonnie were in town these last few days and it was like we never skipped a beat. I will shed many tears over not being able to do ministry with my friend. But someday we will reunite in ministry together again. I was a part of discernment meeting that Mark called related to one of his courses. This has to be one of the toughest things for someone to do. You open yourself up to being very vulnerable. Mark I am so proud of you. I stand amazed at the picture of Jesus that I see in you. You have no idea how much I miss you when you are gone.
I am going to miss seeing other friends at Christmas as well. Gil and Shelley, Ryan and Naomi, Eddy and Petra, you have a treasured place in my heart.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

video game violence and children...

A friend of mine, sent me this article on the effects of video game violence and I have to admit that my initial reaction was unfettered scepticism. The article (read it here) is essentially an interview with Gerard Jones the author of Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence. I think that Jones makes some very interesting statements not just about why children need make believe violence but about how new cultural phenomenon are perceived in public. Quotes:
“A lot of people are just sort of primed to see each new mass cultural phenomenon as a threat. Any time it’s new, there will be a period of people asking, "What is this doing to us’ Is this the end of the world’" As it becomes part of the landscape, people build up an intuitive sense that real life goes on as it was going to; it isn’t changing much. Then the alarmists cease to have the same effect.”
Basically, I guess Jones’ argument looks at the progressive acceptance of cultural phenomenon which are initially generally held suspect.
There was a day when elders from our church patrolled outside the movie theatre to ‘catch’ anyone who might even darken the door of such a disreputable establishment. Today, Christians will flock to see the Nativity in these same theatres.
We’ve seen a lot of research that points to how video game violence, first-person-shooter games, and sexual representation affect children toward mimicking behavior. My oldest son rented NFL Street last week and on Monday I rented crutches for my second oldest son after a game of football where my oldest son tackled him. I see a connection between the two especially because my oldest son does not generally have a strong interest in football. I think it is silly for us to think that what we ‘consume’ will not affect us – which we can somehow stay completely detached to what we see.
But we are no more attached to negative or evil influences than we are to positive ones (or seemingly so). It’s weird how this works. If we hear a ‘worship’ song that tells us that God solves all our problems – we don’t make too much of it. On the other hand if we hear the f-bomb in a song we get all sorts of bothered. We think well at least the first one is a ‘worship’ song it can’t actually be that bad. But the other song is by some woman in a skimpy dress so there can be nothing in that song that holds any truth. And sure lets admit that if we keep listening to songs with the f-word in them we will be affected by that one way or another. But I listened to a testimony recently that claimed that he had come to realize how God want to solve all the problems in his life – if he would just give them to him. Where did he get that theological perspective? Hmmm.
ACDC used to be the messengers of the Devil (Hells Bells) KISS were known as Kids In Satan’s Service. Back-masking was the big deal. These bands were on the sidelines (fringes) of society (certainly in Christian circles). But today there songs are thought of with a strange fondness. You know: “These are the songs that we were banned from listening to when we were kids.”
So I am left with some questions: Should some things always and forever stay wrong? Will we eventually accept everything as acceptable behavior? Is it healthy for us to constantly be ring the alarm bell over every new cultural phenomenon? How do we help youth make wise decisions about what they consume?

Friday, December 15, 2006

the Christmas Picto-RANT

(As usual the pictures are supposed to represent a word or concept - at times admittedly it is a stretch. In many places clicking on the pictures leads you to a related story...)
It's that

again. Time to let you know what I am

A Few Suggestions to Help You Observe Christmas To It's Fullest

(and prepare for a good new year)

Make sure you give everyone on your list a
failing to do so could prove costly.
(failing to include all the appropriate people on the Christmas photo could evidently prove to be somewhat incendiary)


No need to worry about how much

or you ingest before you climb behind the because
won't be organizing too many (full story)

You might want to consider an

to throw in as a stuffer for your favorite minority or disenfrachised person(s). After it seem in these days. Made popular by...and and most recently...

---it's all the rage. (the 'hot' Christmas item this year) Yeah I know you thought the "it" gift was the


Finally some last minute gift suggestions for all those tough people on your list...

for the mini-golfer who is tired of the worldly influence of the typical windmills and loop-de-loops...

and you may as well throw in a sleeve of...

and it not just important for the teenagers in your life to listen to the right music - it pretty much should be pumping out of one these

how about for the retirees on your list who are looking for that special 'inspired' get-away. The Pickle is proud to present:


of course there is always that one person on your list that seems to have everything. Well we even have a suggestion for that person(s)...


Don't worry too much Christmas is still pretty


On a more serious

I've been wondering about

Jesus' birthday to another day of the year.
It's not that I think that Jesus is embarrassed about his age.

It's just so little about Christmas is really about Jesus.
Giving each other
is great and even a wholesome Godly activity that exercises kindness.
I just wonder how disturbed the God incarnate would be about how, the gathering around the

with all its excesses has become central to our celebration of his

Maybe Jesus wouldn't mind a quieter where the celebrations would see Jesus' identifying with the in need around them.

You know we could become mini-Christs and who knows what would happen

Hey Jesus... party on man!

Senior's Moment

We (senior high) were at the Sunny South Lodge (Senior's residence) yesterday singing carols for the residents after which this conversation takes place:
Senior Gentleman (SG): You know I was born near Russia. (Many of our seniors emmigrated from there)
Me: Oh yeah, tell which part?
SG: Estevan, Saskatchewan

How True!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

the normalization of fake...

Check out the Schlog:
So I’m wondering if things get dumbed down, bastardized, injected with artificiality first of all when pragmatism or profits become values we cherish more than quality, truth, craftsmanship, investment of time and on and on. Then, I wonder, if the fake stuff begins to become the norm when one person grows up having never tasted the real thing. Fake is normal.
and then shaun goes on to say...
And studying the history of the Christian religion for the last couple years has convinced me the faith of my fathers is not the faith my father shared with me. WHich isn’t his fault. It evolved long before he was born, and still is, in both wonderful and disastrous ways. He grew up thinking it was the original recipe. But as I’ve had tastes of authentic Christianity I’ve become less and less thrilled with the more profitable and pragmatic brand manufactured for mass consumption. read more...
This got me to thinking about Christmas. I have been very disturbed by Christmas generally, this year. My impression is that XMAS is pretty far from Christian. Of course the Christian pretense is there. Austensibly we are celebrating the birthday of the central figure of history - let alone God in the flesh. There just seems to be so little about the holiday - its traditions, celebrations, observances - whatever - that seems to actually honor the person we seem to be honoring. And honoring this person would seem to be an important thing to get right.
Just like the guacamole that Shaun talks about I wonder if the central ingredients in this day (XMAS) are lost to all the preservatives that make/keep the holiday more feasible.

And you open the other side (a response to everett(e)

open the other side
pass through
clasp the knocker without invitation
convince yourself
it is not a revolving
door–welcome mat suggests you wipe your feet on
the inside

and you open the other side

leave me out in the winter cold
dirty dancing
standing on the corner
begging to go down into somebody’s need
to feed my need
for the delightful sigh of the lover who

opens the other side

who walks along the highway to distraction

an aside: (you gave me an orienteering course – you growled at me when I got it wrong – I lost my bearings)

who doesn’t have to pretend that the beaten path is too conforming
deforming the façade that plays out in the
fix the destination or
fix the compass

and you open the other side

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

minority rights r us...

From Rick Mercer's Blog:
I have heard rumours that in the future the Conservatives plan on devoting every Thursday in the House of Commons to more votes on minority rights.
So far they have planned motions debating whether the Chinese should be allowed to drive, whether women should be allowed to vote and whether turbans should be allowed in... (read more)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Women and coffee...

This morning before dancing off to church to sit in on Edgar’s Senior High Sunday School Class on morality, I happened to catch a segment on CTV’s Good Morning Canada. The show ran a feature on a special coffee being roasted by Cuppers Coffee & Tea (Lethbridge) called Café Femenino. I happened to have a cup brewed from a recently roasted batch while I was restocking my coffee shelf for Christmas yesterday.
The coffee is wonderful. Big chocolaty tones and some wonderful upfront caramels right away – no hunting and pecking through your taste buds to find it. And of course the coffee is smooth – Al is so gentle with this roasts making sure they do not wander across the forbidden boundaries of the Starbucks burn zone. But then the coffee is also outstanding because it bears a mighty redemption behind it. Oh yes as you will have already seen if you went to the site. This coffee fights for women – those who are being taken advantage of, abused, used, and reduced to property. A dollar from every pound sold roasted goes to support the various agencies that this cooperative has selected for global affect. Not only that the coffee is grown and processed by Peruvian women and sold to companies who meet strict standards (Al said he even had to have a woman sign for delivery of the product when it arrived to prove that he had women working for him.) So anyone interested in a pound?

Friday, December 8, 2006

advent reading...

"Gracious Lord, give me the patience to wait between the asking and the answer. Fill me with the joy of sweet anticipation! Amen."
-Following the Star (a daily online advent devotional guide)

Dear God
In the confusion of the time that is ahead I want to learn to wait.
Everytime I think about the future (post June) I am filled with questions. And
I'll admit that I am addicted to the answers. I think of the impending chaos
that I will throw my family into in the next few months. That's right I did this
- it was/is my decision. Shoot I know you had a hand in this but in the end,
after all is said and done - I decided this. And I'm scared...
...honestly, love is such a fragile thing that people share. My
instincts are to protect it - to clear the coming chaos for my boys, my wife,
our family, our marriage. I apologize for how I have pushed you aside. I also
want you to know that I find it difficult to know how to trust you. I am greedy
for control.
I want to learn to wait - confidently wait!

try this one

here's my best:

It's Friday...

I have figured out how to end my ministry here at Coaldale MB Church with a bang…
Follow me on this one:
I am pulling inspiration from here: LA Times article on Brad Stine (you might need to register to read it but it’s free)
And of course here: Nacho Kung-Fu
Actually I gotta say Shaun Groves really planted the seed here:
To work up to my big finale. I am going to set up a wrestling ring on stage and wrestle a bunch of junior high boys and once I have them pinned I will take on any lily-livered girly men in the audience who have not already left (either voluntarily or by ambulance). After which I will take an effigy of the Devil and set fire to it. ‘Cause just like the song says I am growing a pair.
Shoot there are some killer quote in that LA Times article that I laughed at while I wait or Joel to show up to take me out for coffee.
But on a more serious side…
…what a freaking circus. I hope this is not what Matt Redman meant when he said he was going to become, “even more undignified than this…”
Anyways, maybe you can help me think of good name for my wrestling persona.

Those British sure are skiddish...

Terry Sanderson, the president of the National Secular Society, said: “Fundamentalists on both the Christian and the Muslim side are creating this kind of nasty, extreme propaganda and aiming it at young people. I’m not into banning things or censoring them, but I think most Muslims and most Christians would recognise that this is crude and despicable hate-mongering and give it a wide berth.”

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Diego MSN conversation 3

Diego: So how was lunch?
Dale: Not bad. We missed you. I got your email though
Diego: Okay so clear this up for me.
Dale: I’ll do my best. First of all we need to recognize that Yoga itself is a spiritual pathway most closely associated with the Hindu religion (although it has some strong connections to Buddhism as well). Yoga’s main philosophical principal goes sorta like this: God is inside of you because you are God and concentrating on yourself puts you in touch with the God in you.
Diego: Whoa – that is a pretty bold claim…
Dale: Well sure it is and really you have to know that I am way over simplifying the practice of Yoga but…
Diego: Okay so that would definitely go against the Christian belief that we are all sinners – rotten to the core.
Dale: Yup pretty much. But here is the other thing. Most of the yoga exercise programs that are out there are quite different from the actual Yoga practiced within the Hindu traditions. In fact many of the gurus of Yoga would be embarrassed with the way Yoga has been cheapened in our North American culture.
Diego: Kinda like we are embarrassed by some of the people who call themselves Christians on TV and stuff…
Dale: Exactly. So we have to careful that we don’t assume one is the other.
Diego: But isn’t it kinda like drugs. You know you start with pot and it leads to acid and then to crack and then to Meth? You know…
Dale: Well, that is one of the main arguments that Christians have used over the years, to convince themselves that doing yoga is wrong. The idea is that you start innocently enough in the exercise form of yoga and then drift in to the deeper ‘stuff’ of the actual yoga teachings. And to be sure this is something we need to be careful about. I can’t stress this enough: If you are going to allow yourself to be ignorant about all this stuff or even just let your curiosity get out of control, it might be easy to get sucked into all kinds of stuff you don’t intend to. I mean just look at how materialistic everyone is these days. We start out at Christmas with the idea that we need to show love to people by giving them gifts and we end up with people being trampled trying to get the best deal at Wal-Mart on Black Friday. You gotta know that some kind of progressive crap is going there…
Diego: So are you saying to stay away from Yoga in any form because it will lead you to investigate the deeper forms?
Dale: Well, no. I’m just saying that we can’t underestimate the power of suggestion that some of these things tend to have. So a lot of it has to be an analysis of your own personal boundaries on this stuff.
Diego: Okay point taken. But I am still not clear on this…
Dale: Uh, maybe this can help. Mark Oestreicher posted a pretty good response to some critics who accused Youth Specialties of getting to cozy with Yoga. Anyways read the whole response here but check this out: “Sure, yoga, I suppose, could focus on Hindi or Buddhist gods or something – but it can also focus on Christ. We received a couple stomping-mad complaints about the yoga at the National Pastors Convention, saying “putting your body in those positions invites Hindi gods to enter your body.” I’m sorry – this just sounds like heresy to me. If we don’t believe Hindi gods actually exist, then why are we concerned about them entering our bodies? And even for those who would say this is about other dark spiritual forces in the world; well, as believers, we have no fear of them. So the whole “don’t put yourself at risk by doing these stretching exercises” argument is just lost on me.”
Diego: That makes some sense to me. If we don’t believe that these gods exist what are we afraid of?
Dale: Exactly. Again this isn’t the whole answer on the topic but it’s a start.
Diego: Just curious have you ever done yoga?
Dale: Me – No! Are you kidding about the only yoga position I could do is the beachball and its just no that popular.
Diego: LOL!

uuuhmmm how i love cats!

ht: Yvonne

La Lucha Libre

To light my way...
One of my Grade 8 Students made this wood burning project for me in Woods class!
You're all jealous!

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Diego MSN conversation 2

Diego: The other day I was talking to a friend who has just started a workout routine to get in shape. It sounded really good but…
Dale: But you were afraid to mention it to me lest I thought you were pestering me about my weight?
Diego: No – well sorta…actually it was that the workout routine contained yoga exercises as a part of the training. Aren’t we supposed to stay away from yoga cause of it connection to cults and stuff?
Dale: Hmmm! This one is tricky. There are a couple of ways to look at this and a bunch of things to consider.
Diego: Are you saying it might be okay to practice yoga or other meditation practices?
Dale: Back the cart up. Let me suggest a few things to consider and then we can keep talking about this…
First, here’s a quiz. Ready?
Diego: Sure!
Dale: How do you usually pray? I mean what position is your body in when you pray – usually?
Diego: I don’t know. I stand, sit, kneel, slouch – whatever. Usually I close my eyes. But if I am alone I usually like to sit cross-legged on my bed and hold my hands open in my lap or holding my Bible.
Dale: How do you think your physical posture affects your prayer?
Diego: Well I find if I allow my body to move with what I am saying or feeling at the time there seems to be a greater connection for me to God. I know it weird but…
Dale: Does closing your eyes make your prayer more effective?
Diego: No, I don’t think God listens to my prayer more when my eyes are closed. But I do feel like I can concentrate on my inner thoughts and lose the distractions if my eyes are closed.
Dale: Good point! Let me tell you a little story: I grew up in Nicaragua and as a missionary kid I attended a lot of church services. When someone prayed in church it was way different than what we are used to up here in Canada. I mean as soon as someone would start praying other people would start talking out loud – thanking God and agreeing with the person who was praying and saying other stuff that the person who was praying might have forgotten to say. Plus they almost always stood and often had their hands up in the air. Sometimes it got so you couldn’t hear the person who was ‘praying’. So growing up – I remember thinking that the really good prayers were the ones where people got excited like that. My prayers were good – the ones I prayed on my knees beside my bed or at the dinner table – but the real good ones were…
Diego: Sometimes I wonder if it would be better if we got a little more excited when we prayed.
Dale: Sure. But I would say my ideas as a child were off the mark. I would say that there is no position that makes us more or less likely to pray well. Now I know that Yoga is way more than just a position of prayer, but I think we need to start by just saying upfront that as a physical body position it really is no better or worse for me spiritually than standing sitting or anything else.
Diego: I get that. Sometimes I pray while I’m driving to school and listening to the morning show on Fliesch 92 fm. Regardless of what music is playing I still feel pretty close to God. So it’s all good?
Dale: Well it would be premature to stop it there but we should pick this up again tomorrow at lunch.
Diego: Pizza Hut with Jodi, Kayla, and Avery?
Dale: Yup!

it's nice to see smart people...

...making music with God in mind. Shaun is one. Some readers of this blog have been writing about music and arts from the Christian perspective. here and here. they've had some good things to say and asked some good questions. Shauns take is an interesting mix to it all.
You don't have to tell us everything. You can paint dots
and not details.

Why do you do youth ministry...

here's why...

Emotions R Us

Just heard this website plugged on the CBC noon hour show here.
Here's the basic gist of the thing. From what I know this website takes the emotional pulse of the blogging world and fits it into a pretty powerful database. I'm just startingto explore this thing but apparently you can search specific locations and see what the emotional barometer is reading. You can also develop an emotional forecast of sorts. the iterface is funky too becuase it is set up (and intended as an art project of sorts)
anyhow I'll keep playing around on it over lunch here (actually lunch happens after one oclock for me since I am usually at the schools till then) and let you know what I find...
Here's a quote from the websites mission:

Since August 2005, We Feel Fine has been harvesting human
feelings from a large number of weblogs. Every few minutes, the system searches
the world's newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases "I feel"
and "I am feeling". When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence,
up to the period, and identifies the "feeling" expressed in that sentence (e.g.
sad, happy, depressed, etc.). Because blogs are structured in largely standard
ways, the age, gender, and geographical location of the author can often be
extracted and saved along with the sentence, as can the local weather conditions
at the time the sentence was written. All of this information is saved.
result is a database of several million human feelings, increasing by 15,000 -
20,000 new feelings per day. Using a series of playful interfaces, the feelings
can be searched and sorted across a number of demographic slices, offering
responses to specific questions like: do Europeans feel sad more often than
Americans? Do women feel fat more often than men? Does rainy weather affect how
we feel? What are the most representative feelings of female New Yorkers in
their 20s? What do people feel right now in Baghdad? What were people feeling on
Valentine's Day? Which are the happiest cities in the world? The saddest? And so

Monday, December 4, 2006

The Closest Book Meme

Saw this on YSMarkO’s blog who got it from here

The rules are:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next four sentences on your blog, along with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest!

Alright I am surrounded by books on my cluttered desk at work here so I had to actual get very specific about this one.
I recently had a copy of A New Kind of Christian returned to me by someone who wanted to ‘evaluate’ Brian McLaren’s theology. So here goes:
“What are short-term mission trips but modern examples of the missionary journeys of Paul and his entourage, or of Celtic monks’ adventures? In a way, they are also like pilgrimages – journeys undertaken for a spiritual purpose.
What are small groups and one-to-one mentoring relationships but echoes of ancient training methods, before we slipped into the modern misconception that the best education takes place via theoretical monologue in sterile classrooms? Small groups and mentoring-filling with give-and-take, personal as well as intellectual interaction, formation as well as information – recall the old images of the apprentice training with his master or the disciples following Jesus throughout the land.”
Interesting little quote actually given some of the discussions that I have been following (like this one)
So now its your turn…

Diego MSN conversation 1

Diego: Dale tell me something… when you look at all the different religions they seem to actually be trying to get people to do the same thing. All religions ask people to practice kindness and patience. If I’m right even Buddhists have a concept of suffering that seems similar to our idea of ‘taking up our cross’. It seems that so much of the things that Christians are supposed to be doing are being taught and done by other religions and often even better than we are. It seems hypocritical for Christians to claim that their way is the only way when it seems so similar to so many other religions.

Dale: Diego, you’re right there are huge similarities between what other religions teach and what Christians teach. This Irish play writer dude (George Bernard Shaw) said something once that kinda says the same thing that you are saying, "There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it."
Personally, I think you’re wondering about stuff that basically scares a lot of Christians off. They don’t really want to think about how similar things might be. So a lot of them put up some pretty huge walls against other religious perspectives. Its too bad really cause I think that too often that approach leaves us looking pretty naïve.
I have heard a lot of Christians talk about how evil the Koran is for instance and that it encourages young men to sacrifice their lives for their faith. And I’ve heard lots of Christian people making fun of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons because of some of their seemingly weird rituals and practices (and to be perfectly honest some of that stuff tends to freak me out).
But let’s stop and think about how our own religious ideas and practices look to other people. For instance, let’s take communion. Most Christian churches celebrate a form of the Lord’s Supper. But when you look at it isn’t the idea of eating bread and drink wine or grape juice that represents Christ’s body and blood pretty much a cannibalistic sort of ceremony. We think it is pretty normal though. But I’ve heard that when Christians start teaching about Jesus in some of these tribes in South America, Africa, and South East Asia that have struggled with cannibalism – the communion ceremony presents a problem for them. So my point is that there are many ways that Christians criticize other religious positions while our own practices might actually present big problems for other people.

Diego: Yeah but aren’t there a lot of place where the virtues that are taught in the different religions are almost identical?

Dale: Yes. For instance, Mormons practice generosity and service to those in need in ways that often put us to shame. There that Buddhist thing you mentioned that believes in suffering and personal sacrifice being the road to nirvana or enlightenment. The Hindu ideas about contentment match those of the beatitudes that Jesus preached about.

Diego: So doesn’t that make you think that maybe we can just pick and choose the ideas and practices we want to follow? Don’t we all eventually end up with the same result even if we call that result something else?

Dale: Sure it makes me wonder that. I think anyone who looks carefully at how the various religious/philosophical perspectives are structured will see fabulous similarities to many Christian ideas.
But for me the fact that so many of the other religious paths share so much in common with Christianity is a very reassuring thing in confirming that the Christian perspective is accurate. Some people say well other religions are just stealing concepts from Christianity. That seems like a pretty ignorant and arrogant statement to make. In fact there is lots of evidence that Christians have often stolen ideas and practices from other religions and adopted them as their own. And even if somehow you could prove that all the other religions were just copycatting Christian that wouldn’t be a very solid argument to stand on. But if so many of the practices lead us to very similar results there must be a reason for this similarity.
The Bible describes a longing that everyone has for God –even though people may not recognize it we all have this sense that we have lost some important part of ourselves. I think that the Christian ideas have an answer for the problem of loss that all of humanity struggles with. I would suggest and I think this fits what the Bible teaches: We have lost a relationship with the Divine and we desperately want to get it back. We’ll do anything almost to recover what we’ve lost. The only problem is that if we think we really aught to behave better than we normally do - - we have to admit that something extraordinary needs to happen before we can realize our deep desires. In the Christian way of thinking this extraordinary thing is that God chose to become one of us. So instead of us having to work our selves up to God – he comes down to us.
Basically, it boils to something like this. Many of the other religious viewpoints try to change the human behaviour problem that exists because we have lost contact with the Divine but Christianity is unique in actually offering a relationship with God that addresses that core issue of loss. So the similarities between religious practice confirms the idea that we have lost touch with the Divine. Really that is why the Christian idea of heaven is such an exciting concept to me. We get to be complete with God again. But I digress.

Diego: So tell me what should do with all these other rituals and religious practices that seem to bring us the same results as the Christian ones? Should we write them off and dismiss them or what?

Dale: That will have to be for another time. I will call you about the hockey game.

How to handle the problem of pluralism…

MADONNA: I am a Kabbalist. There is definitely a Kabbalistic approach to life or
a Kabbalistic point of view, but it's not different than a lot of other
teachings. I study Hinduism; I study Buddhism; Taoism.
KING: You believe in
a supreme being?
MADONNA: Absolutely. But I also believe that all paths lead
to God.
So it takes Madonna to speak out loud what is commonly in western society. It’s true our culture is comfortable embracing the idea that all religious perspectives are equally valid. This is where we run into a problem because Christianity traditionally maintained that its path is the only one that leads to God. John 14:6 (of course there are many more that are quoted from both the old and new testament) is the typically quoted verse that most Christians use to defend the idea that their set of beliefs and religious practices provide exclusive access to the Divine. For Christian this position – that they are the only one’s who are right – puts them in a very interesting place in society. Either they are the big bad bully on the block or they are considered the half-witted fool in the corner. In both cases a less than attractive position for us to be in as the light of the world.
Recently, I have had some interesting discussion with several people about the affect of pluralism. What I’ve done is synthesize these into an email/msn type discussion that I want to share with you. Please feel free to respond and provide correction to my position or ideas or to even suggest other veins of discussion in this whole topic. So join in the conversations.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Emerging church...

For those of for whom the Emerging Church movement has provoked questions, problems or even derisions…
And for those of you who for various reasons might feel inclined to find affinity with this stereo type of the Emerging Church movement…

“Here’s the urban legend: The emerging movement talks like Lutherans – which means they cuss and use naughty words; they evangelize and theologize like the Reformed – which means, in the first case, they don’t do much of it, and in the second, they do it all the time; they confess their faith like the mainliners – which means they say things publicly they don’t really believe in their hearts; they drink like Episcopalians – which means – to steal some words from Mark Twain – they are teetotalers sometimes – when it is judicious to be one; they worship like the charismatics – which means with each part of the body, some parts of which have tattoos; they vote liberal – which means they all move to Massachusetts come election time; they deny truth – which means Derrida is carried in their backpacks.”

Scot McKnight has written a wonderfully articulate paper on the essentials of what the movement is about. This paper was presented at Westminster Theological Seminary. His challenge to all of us is to allow the movement to define itself.

“In order to define this movement, there is a correct method to follow.
Which is where I want to go now: to define a movement we must, as a courtesy, let it say what it is or describe it until the other side says “Yes, now you’ve got it.” To define a movement, we must let the movement have the first word.”

So read it. In the first part of the paper McKnight exposes the conclusions of D.A. Carson and other critics for what they are - speculative projections of doom. As I read McKnight's paper I was struck by the idea that in many instances it seems that Evangelicalism has had to prop up the image of a formidable opponent as a threat to evangelical orthodoxy in order to defend and perpetuate its own schema.

I follow McKnight’s blog: Jesus Creed as well.
Ht: Mike King

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The song...

when Alberta feels like Manitoba for a day or two..

Uncommon Grounds

by Mike Pendergrast
Coffee prices climbed slowly but steadily after they were finally freed from price ontrols in 1946. By 1947 roasted coffee retailed for more than 50 cents a pound; yet economists and pundits expected a postwar recession any minute. "The popularity of the five-cent cup of coffee has made it an established institution that's here to stay," declared one newspaper prophet. The next year, when many restaurants began charging 7 cents, angry patron broke mugs, stole silverware, and dumped cream and sugar on countertops in protest. some coffee firms began to advertise that their brand required less grounds to brew a strong cup. One disgruntled coffee man concluded facetiously that if prices continue to rise, "we may yet see coffee so trong you won't have to use any at all to get a delisious aromatic, flavorsome cup."

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

worship song mad lib...

Let’s give this a shot:
We’re gonna use the power of the blog to write a ‘worship’ tune.
Here’s how it works:
1. In order pick the next item to fill in.
2. Write the word you want to fill the requirements and post it in the comments beside the number you are filling out.

1. (Reaction)
2. (Divine Attribute)
3. (Reaction)
4. (Divine Attribute)
5. (Verb)
6. (Verb)
7. (Title)
8. (Noun)
9. (Verb)
10. (Verb)
11. (Body Part)
12. (Verb)
13. (Body Part/Noun)
14. (Period of Time)
15. (Verb)
16. (Body Part/Noun)
17. (Period of Time)....

When all 17 items have been filled, I will publish the song and maybe even a YouTube of me trying to sing the song…

If you need a little help here are some suggestions for some of the categories.
see, hear, feel, touch, taste, realize, acknowledge, praise, comfort, run, hold, forgive, live, accept, die, shout, sing, dance, tell, bleed, cry, call, stand, believe, trust, say, take, abandon, forsake, wash, live, dwell, find, rejoice, proclaim, walk, clothe, smile, tremble
Body Parts
hands, feet, face, eyes, heart, spirit, lips, ears, wounds, tongue
wind, nails, cross, hill, mountain, valley, stream, sea, river, lightning, tree, stone, grass, bird, field, child, shelter, throne, angels, world, storm, thunder, tears, temple, sake, might, power, above, deaf, dumb, shadow, presence, sins, grief
I, You, Your, His, Lord, God, we, Savior, Redeemer, Messiah, Lamb, Lion, King, Shepherd, Keeper, Alpha, Omega, Beginning, End
Period of Time
always, now, forever, tonight, tomorrow, yesterday, never, thousand
amazing, wonderful, bigger, mighty, righteous, holy, clean, powerful, loving, merciful, full of grace, kind, caring, good, worthy, just, incredible, small, weak, alone, tired, angry, peaceful

Monday, November 20, 2006

someone heard my cry...

You know how I've been belly-aching about 'Christian' music for a long time. Well, the nice people at the door have heard my yammering...
check this out!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Metaphors and phrases ‘speakers’ should not use in youth talks…

I was at a retreat this weekend and I heard this phrase:
“Instead of reading the Bible we should let the Bible read us.”
Now I think I understand this convoluted phrase and I think I understand the motivational intention behind it. If I have it right it goes something like this:
- - We should let the concepts in the Bible provide evaluation of the content of our lives. - -
More or less on the surface this seems like a fairly decent statement assuming that youth understand what you mean.
That is where the first problem arises. All too often it seems that in some parts of the evangelical Christian experience, there tends to be a propensity to transform these metaphoric ideas into literal realities. (Especially in the case of impressionable young people.) (As an aside: I used to do ‘devotions’ like this: I placed the open scriptures on my face and promptly fell asleep – allowing the Bible to read me?!?) Unfortunately, it seems many ‘preachers’ all too glibly throw these Christian ditties into their talks in an attempt at deepening/heightening the spiritual intensity of their message. Without adequately giving contextual and figurative explanation to these phrases, the real meaning is lost. They become merely spiritual phraseology for youth to bandy about. (Is there any lack of this?) So for instance when one young person uses the phrase with one of their compatriot youth group members, they mutually understand that the speaker is merely referring to a heightened state of spirituality. And can you imagine the confusion for someone outside of the compatriot faith circle when they hear this phrase?
And if the first problem is that very few of the people who use this phrase will actually intend what it means. The second problem is equally obtuse. We assume that it is possible for us to actually do what the phrase intends.
My suggestion is that allowing the Bible to ‘read’ our lives is almost completely objectively impossible. First of all, in order to allow the Bible to read us we must read it – first! We bring all our personal preconceptions and inclinations to that reading. (Hardly an entirely a reliable way to extract the truth inside Scripture) In an individualistic world it must be said that a phrase like this is especially dangerous because it suggests that we can trust our own interpretation of the Scriptures and then without prejudice allow it to evaluate our behaviour.
Now, I realize that I may be reading too much into this but…
I think in general we must get away from our public predisposition to using these ambiguous metaphors…
And to be completely I have used my fair share of spiritual hype talk metaphors but it is something I am trying to exercise from my speeches, talks, and discussions.

The Mennonite connection to the Holy Spirit

hey mom and dad stay strong against the thick tongue :)

Thursday, November 16, 2006


This is a story that has sort of melted together for me in the last few weeks.

I teach a ½ hour Bible lesson to Grade 4 children every Friday afternoon. On the first day about half of my 15 students volunteered that they had divorced or separated parents. This is a story that I have written based on some of their sharing, and my imagination.

Nancy is nine. She just took off her bracelet…

Nancy still remembers the day Dad told her that Mom was going to live in another house. Mostly she’s used to it now. Some things are still strange. Her Dad’s girlfriend, Susan, kisses her on the cheek every night. And when she stays at her Mom’s house she can tell that Mom’s been drinking a lot.

She doesn’t much mind the new friends that she is learning to call brothers – at least there is someone younger than her in the house now.

She remembers how at first after ‘the divorce’ she used to think that maybe it was her fault. She really wishes she could have been a better person so her parents wouldn’t have fought as much. Mostly, she’s come to accept that this is the way things are. It’s different but it normal.

A few months ago Dad’s girlfriend suggested that they should go to church on Sunday. Nancy hadn’t been to church for a long time. Of course at Christmas they go to Grandma’s church and her Dad makes her wear a fancy dress. She knows that she has been baptized. She’s seen pictures. She’s in the white dress and the pastor is holding her. Mom and Dad had told her this was very important. She really didn’t know why until they started going to church.

The first Sunday it was weird but she found out that some of her friends from school went to church too. It wasn’t long before they were going to church every Sunday. That’s when Nancy noticed a change in her Dad. The first big deal was that when he came to tuck her in one evening he wanted her to pray to God. She told him that she did not know how to pray.

So he prayed.

And Dad seemed different altogether and she couldn’t quite figure it all out.

One night he overheard Dad talking to his girlfriend.

The next morning all the guessing was gone. As Dad drove her to school that morning he asked her if she would like it if he married Susan. He explained that since they had been going to church he had realized that his relationship with Susan needed to be more committed. He said that getting married would be better for Nancy. Nancy was confused. Would she have to call another woman Mom?

All day her brain spun.

When she got home she talked to Susan. Susan told her that she knew she would never really replace her real Mom but that she loved her. Then she said something strange. She said, “Your Dad and I just want to do what’s right – what Jesus would do.”

She had to admit she had really started getting excited.

That was a month ago.

Yesterday, her Dad walked in a told her he wasn’t sure that he could marry Susan. At least not in the way they had hoped. He told her it was complicated but it had something to do with the church they were going to.

Dad dried all day. For the first time, that Nancy could recall, Susan seemed angry…

That’s why Nancy took off the bracelet – the one Susan had given her on that day a month ago…

Nancy wasn’t sure she really knew what this all meant.

Nancy is nine.

In John 10:10 it says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

more guns and such

Steve Argue has a great article in THE JOURNAL OF STUDENT MINISTRIES about putting an end to war imagery in youth ministry. Here’s a quote:
“Some youth leaders argue that Christians are called to the public square because we’ve let “them” dominate it for far too long. But I believe it’s time to admit that the church has lost its positional status with earthly powers (i.e., governments and political parties) and confess that we’ve craved endorsements from the wrong authorities. Some seem to want to “get the power back” or “fight the power with power.” But teenagers must see—through our example—that embracing the way of Jesus comes through serving our world, living by sacrifice, and demonstrating unconditional love. The Sermon on the Mount takes priority over ideological debate. If we believe we’ll win the battle in the public square, we’ve already lost. The public square is too small and has too narrow a vision. God desires to bring healing to the whole world.”
There is a lot of fear about the onslaught of pluralism in our culture. I think many Christian families are worried that they will lose their children to the ‘anything-goes’ spiritual climate. I think their fear is real and well founded but not because our culture’s pluralistic philosophies are so powerful. No I think it is precisely because we have modeled and handed over to our children an essentially neutered religiosity. And it is only natural that in light of this it would be critical to “Draw The Battle Lines”. So often we have reduced Christianity to a set of ideological principles that need to be defended.
The more that the public square is overtaken by opposing positions from our own the more threatened we become. Retreat, retreat
Speaking of retreat – I am going on one this weekend hmmm.

i guess...

Garry and I have to stop doing wedgies seeing as it apparently leads to general chaos. Good thing nothing like this ever happens at places like Bethany College...

Monday, November 13, 2006


Just finished an hour or so of tears. After I got home from youth tonight, I talked to the boys about the sense that Char and I had that God was asking us to step out in faith and to risk more than we are comfortable with. Of course the two oldest boys (who were the only one’s up at the time) struggled with it cause they assumed that it meant we were thinking of leaving Coaldale. My leaving the church was not their choice and so I bear a lot of guilt about the decision because when I look through their eyes it seems pretty selfish of me (why couldn’t I just hang on a bit longer etc., etc.,). Anyways when I went to ‘tuck them in’ I could tell they were still struggling with it. I talked and cried with each of them individually and tried to reassure them that Char and I love them and that we don’t want to hurt them. It’s hard for them to think about leaving Coaldale when this is all they have ever known. It’s hard for me to ask them to take this step of faith when its not one they have chosen for themselves. We continue to be very committed to making decisions about our future together as a family but eventually the buck stops at me and Char. I am still pursuing a number of local options that I am excited about but even those options seems to require a lot of faith and risk and hope. It would be so much different if all I was risking in these decisions was my own skin but now I realize the broader implications of my own personal decisions.
What makes me cry is that I see in my boys the same emotional struggles that I faced as a kid with the frequency of moves that my family made in my early childhood. I don’t regret those struggles at all cause I think they made me a stronger person. I think that my parents struggled to watch their children walk through these changes. But as a parent I am finding it so counter intuitive to ask my children to walk into personal difficulty. Especially, because I sense so much of these decisions revolve around me.
I am convinced that the decision to resign was the right one but there is very little about the consequences of that decision that is easy or smooth. Tomorrow I meet with some people in leadership to discuss the rationale for my resignation. I pray that goes well.

a little shoot em up...

Thursday, November 9, 2006

more blender stuff
this would make a great christmas gift...

more on Red Letter Christians...

"The purpose of this gathering was not to create a religious left movement to challenge the religious right, but to jump-start a religious movement that will transcend partisan politics." -TONY CAMPOLO
read the whole article here...
from what I can tell this movement is far more politcally focused than theologically focused.
more on who these people are here

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Thoughts on Nicaragua

Char and I were sitting outside of the convention center. As we were sitting there one of the grounds keepers came up to us and we struck up a conversation and I’m not sure exactly how but we started talking about Nicaragua. This guy was pretty set on the idea that if Daniel Ortega got elected the president of Nicaragua that it would be a bad thing. “After all,” he said – “he’s a socialist.”
Now I’m pretty much out of touch when it comes to Latin American politics but for what its worth here’s a few perspectives:
Most of what I’ve been reading both in the local new media: (See: La Prensa, La Noticia, El Nuevo Diario, brush up on your Spanish before you go) and in other publications (See: The Economist, NPR, CNN, and Time) give a pretty similar picture of Ortega.
Ortega has claimed that he has changed: “My idol was Sandino, and also Christ. I was brought up a Christian, but I regarded Christ as a rebel, a revolutionary.” He claims to have had a conversion experience and is embracing the Catholic church which shunned is former communist regime. Ortega was a war president rising to power as the most articulate of the 5 leaders of the Junta National, he fought the U.S. backed contras for most of his presidency. Some of the articles I read even suggested that Ortega might be leaning strongly to a form of liberation theology popular in many parts of the Latin American Catholic church.
Of course most of the reporting give cautious hope at best that this new leaf is little more than wily electioneering on Ortega’s part.
Ortega makes Washington nervous. Ortega still holds strong affinity with Cuba and most recently with Venezuela. From my rudimentary perspective there does seem to be a strongly anti-American block of leadership forming in Latin America that has reacted against the right wing foreign policy of the Republican party. It will be interesting to see if these leaders can develop enough cohesion to manipulate some power in the region.
Ortega’s skeletons mean Nicaraguans should try sleeping with one eye open at least until he delivers on some of the promises of peace and fair trade.
Nicaraguans have long been pawns for political agendas that were not of their own making. If Ortega can help Nicaragua find its own voice on the world stage – he will earn my respect.
So we wait and hold our breath…

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

new youth worker apparel

youth workers are checking out some new duds for this year:
theology seems to be the vestment of choice for a growing number of youth workers and according to some of the presenting/feature seminar leaders at this years NYWC in Anaheim there is an impressive new hunger for that discipline.
For years the gurus have stared down the barrels of their seminar guns and fired warning shots against allowing youth ministry to degenerate into 'fun and games'. Tony Jones figures that more and more youth workers are interested in theology than ever before and they are ready to open their minds to let in competing points of view.
Jones who led a late night theology forum at NYWC said: "In the six or seven years I've been at this, I can say that I've seen the conversation about youth ministry change qualitatively. Youth workers are more serious, more theological, more educated"
Jones also commented that the seminar was more civil than it had been in the past.
I will suggest to you that theology is far too important a discipline to ever loose the reins on. Youth ministry has a cronic propensity to mindlessly importing formulaic methodology.
I also say that the fact that any theology discussion at a youth workers convention that is more civilized may show just as easily that theology has reach the pinnacle of its life cycle in youth ministry. It takes a high level of ambivalence, in my experience, for youth ministers to be able to interact with any amount of civility toward each other. (I mean did anyone bother to notice the repeated flatulence on the escalators - that is hardly civil). I am saying this tongue in cheek somewhat. But if you get the impression that I think that for most youth workers theology is mostly a trend - you've got me nailed.
I appreciate what Tony Jones, Dan Kimball, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, and Donald Miller have done to reawaken the theological pursuit in youth ministry but it is hardly time to let our guard down. Okay, so maybe mr. Jones was just trying to inject some optimism - in an otherwise bleary news day but...

What we did on Monday...

We (Garry, Char, and I) skipped the last 1/2 day of the convention. We took in a tour of the Crystal Cathedral. Wow!
The decadence is astounding! Not many could say that these people have given less than their best to God – at least when it comes to their building anyway. The Christmas set that was erected costs a million dollars to make. It was all really overwhelming
In light of Shane Claiborne’s message it all felt sickeningly gluttonous. Ironically, if Shane could he’d:
“visit the Crystal Cathedral with St. Francis... and then hitchhike to the beach to turn some somersaults and hear him preach to the seagulls.”
I digress…
Then we went to Huntington Beach and spent 1 1/2 hours in the ocean (the first time since I was 10)
We packed up and headed to the airport and ‘enjoyed’ the bumpy ride home…
Much to process…

blend it baby!

ht: shaun groves

I Knew This...

Thank-you Kim Painter
"It won't surprise coffee drinkers to hear that the beverage, at least when caffeinated, also has been found to improve mood and memory, increase safe driving in tired drivers and boost endurance in athletes. Some speculate that coffee might aid weight loss, but that has not been proven."

Ted Haggard...

As most of you have heard Ted Haggard has finally confessed to sexual misconduct in realtionship with a male prostitute. I read the USA Today story. I was mostly unaware of who this man was but obviously he held some significant influence in the Evangelical world. He endorsed a candidate who was against homosexual marriage in the election held today.
Tony Campolo said something interesting about the Ted Haggard issue: "We are all better than our worst mistakes."

At the same time, the National Youth Workers Convetion was picketed by three ardent men who advised that NYWC led to hell. MarkO encouraged everyone to be non combative and to buy the guys some Starbucks. I think that most of the fuel for this demonstration came from places like this (which, ironically were the same sites that were used to suggest that I should not attend this conference.)
NOTE: When I first tried to make some connections with these protestors I was thought I made some connections between organizations but now i can't seem to fidn the links on the web to help me make those same connections. Maybe they weren't there in the first place or maybe they have been removed.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

shane claiborne

Just got out of the Shane Claiborne general session. I wept like I haven’t for long time not out of conviction so much as a deep personal sense of urgency to get on with following Christ into the deep places of faith.
This guy interned with Mother Theresa got a degree under Duffy and Tony at Eastern
I really was not able to appreciate Vicky Beeching. I know many people were. She was the worship leader for this session and quite frankly I just felt like it was more of the spiritual musical gluttony that makes me barf. I left and ordered CD’s.
I sat in on Tony’s seminar. It was good. “How to become a red letter Christian”. He said that even though he considered himself an evangelical he was starting to label himself as a RLC. I really wanted to ask him the question that Gil and I have batted around for a while: isn’t taking on a new label just a form of escapism? I mean I have often wished that I could stop calling myself an evangelical because of the ramifications that this word brings in the public consciousness. Yet I wonder if there is something wrong disavowing something that is so ingrained in the identity of who I am or was…
Any thoughts…


was an interesting day…
Physically, I was bagged most of the day.
In the morning session Matthew Barnett from the Dream Center came and shared his testimony in the general session. Very powerful. Very Assemblies of God. Very Good! His message: give up our preoccupation with success and commit ourselves to make everyone else’s dream become reality. It is inspiring to hear someone who was willing to dive into significant risk.
Char and I talked about this later in the day. Throughout this conference I have gotten the distinct impression that God is calling me into a place of way more risk. This is directly related to my deep craving to exercise more faith.
I went to MarkO’s Super seminar. I was challenged. He mentioned the idea of being Level 5 leaders in the vain of Jim Collins book Good to Great. Collins suggests that if you are not a level 5 leader you cannot become one. MarkO suggested that with Christ’s help we could grow into Level 5 leaders. My suggestion would be that: no honest Christian leader ever suggests that they have ever achieved L5 leadership.
L5 leadership’s most prominent feature is that the leader has professional will and personal humility. Collins uses the mirror/window illustration. An L5 leader looks in the mirror to affix blame and responsibility. The L5 leader looks out the window to others to give credit for success.
I would have really like to push back at MarkO a bit more on the co-dependent martyr complex that often youth workers live in. And what about the need to be honest in the face of the glaring stupidity that can often dominate the function of the church…
More on this whole thing in another post.
I had to duck out early on his seminar – another bone chip decided to work its way out of my mouth. After some medicine I was fine…
Char and I spent some time talking together before supper.
I would love to live in a climate like this again. The vegetation has brought out a longing to live in this tropical kind of place again…
Char has reacted violently against the prolific marketing that is evidenced in the exhibits. It does seem gluttonous.
Mike Pilavachi spoke in the evening session. I have heard him before and honestly I was expecting that this presentation might be a bit weak. Not the case. Mike used the woman at the well to describe how we need to engage people in their own context. How Jesus loves and affirms the sinner. Cares for the one.
Everyone of the speakers have worked the theme ‘Reveal’ very well.
Shawn Groves was great. Check him out. His song Jesus was so good.
I cannot say enough positive about the music that YS has supplied for the conference. Thank you YS for choosing not to bring in the bullshit artists who just want to paint the fairytale versions of this thing we call faith.
I think I am getting a cold.
Oh yeah and I expect that my stupid human trick of putting a towel in my mouth might get up onto the big screen. I am such a sucker for that sort of junk. Thanks to Garry and Darren and Char for getting me into that…

Saturday, November 4, 2006

day one

Day 1 of Convention
Main session was huge for me
Not sure that I have cried so spontaneously before.
Regulars here will know how much of a sceptic I am when it comes to these big production things so…
David Crowder: seriously here is dude who knows something about enjoying music. The way he engages the audience and interacts on stage communicates that he is not taking himself too seriously. At the same time what the band pulls of musically is splendid. At times his lyrics seem shallow and I catch myself doing the over-analytical thing with the theology Geiger-counter approach but I trust him – that’s huge.
Kenda Creasy Dean: although probably not the most flamboyant presenter, was awesome. She talked about welcoming youth into the sideways theological discovery that needs to happen in community. Made me remember why I feel such a strong conviction to advocating engagement of youth in the actual theological and doctrinal direction of the church.
Session 2: Effrem Smith – what can you say about black preachers – fun and intense! Great reminder of the need to be so full of God that he oozes out of us.
Can I tell you about Kendall Payne? Seriously, check out her music. She did a fab job in the opening session…

so yeah

Let me just finish a thought here
I am so proud of Darren. Like so many other former youth group members it is amazing to see these people pursue ministry options. I know I should be more humble about crap like this but seriously. I also very much realize that it really has very little to do with me and that I might have actually been more in the way than a positive contributing force. So it’s not that I am taking credit for these people, its just cool to see people who ‘get’ ministry who are willing to serve. So thank you to each one of you who has made the sacrifice of ministry.

Dangerous Opportunity

Dangerous Wonder
Critical concerns course with Rich VanPelt and Jim Hancock
Some thoughts:
First of all the presentation is very thorough and like they said they have anticipated many of the questions that the material involves. The presentation seems a little too slick though. The way the two ot hem play off each other seems too scripted and precise. It’s clear to me that Jim and Rich are not disingenuous but I am thinking that in a context where their ministry experience and reputation was not assumed or well known they might come off as such. I also understand their intention with the presentation being as seamless as it is – the material will be covered (less time wasted on rabbit trails).
That said I have appreciated the material and the presentation a lot; especially in light of the recent Risk and Threat Assessment seminar I attended.
There were a few areas that I would have liked to push back on:
-with regard to referrals: they very strongly emphasized the need for youth pastors/workers to refer to outside sources. Now this is actually something I think that I do quite a bit of already. And for the most part I agree with the principals that they are teaching. But this is the statement that bothers me. Youth workers are not counsellors they are disciple-makers. Now I realize that we have many volunteer youth workers and other non professional youth workers and for these people referrals make sense as many situations of interpersonal interaction with kids are going to be out of their depths. But the statement seems to make disciple-making sort of an exclusionary function to counselling. Almost as if counselling is beneath disciple-making. And for me I guess this seems like a false dichotomy. How can we expect to be effective in disciple-making if we are not willing to deal with the baggage that kids bring to the table? We communicate a subtle but powerful message that Christian discipleship is about solved problems and issues when our response to kids baggage is to send them away to get fixed. Now Rich and Jim were clear that we were to stay involved in the kid’s lives but… …If we (youth workers) are the ones being approached with the complexities of counselling situations why is the is it that the best we can offer kids is a professional stranger. I guess I am wondering why there are not stricter demands (especially on paid youth workers) to have counselling qualifications in ministry positions. When we train our volunteers, we should make counselling strategies and objectives a part of the package. I think we only heighten the stigma of counselling by making it the kid of thing that only experts can do. Not only that I think we do communicate to kids that we have more important things to do than to deal with their problems.
That said I have and do refer a lot. I think it is crucial to give kids the best resources to deal with the problems that I can – and there are wonderful people who can deal with these things with greater expertise and experience. I wish there might be more collaborative work between various areas of counselling services. My aim is to find ways to ‘sit in’ on counselling sessions with experts.
I also think that this is an area where a severe disconnect has occurred between secular and ‘religious’ counselling. Because so much of religious counselling has been conducted out of ignorance and lack of training, I think many secular organizations (school counsellors, etc.) are suspicious of collaborating with pastors in counselling situations. With good reason they should be reticent of working with people who are going to be largely ill trained and inexperienced.
With regard to setting up a safe community:
One of the statements that came out was that we need to get rid of all sexual, gender, and racist joking. I agree. Here’s a place where I wish I could push back a bit. First of all they said that in order to create be the type of person who people will approach with problems you need to develop a sense of humour. Last spring I ran a wildly successful overnight trip to SABC with my senior high guys. I made a conscious effort to use the language and idioms that I hear from the boys informally in my teaching on male sexuality. The session proved to be quite funny actually. Now I didn’t make any sexual jokes directly but used all the terms and references that are often made in the joking context. What has been weird is that out of that talk alone I have had so much interaction with guys about male sexual issues.
My point is that we may actually benefit from dealing with some of these issues in a humorous way. Humour has a way of speaking truth and intention that ‘serous’ cannot. I am never interested in derogatory ridicule but I think there is a place to allow the power of humour to unlock the door for honesty, transparency and, actually, safety.
With regard to reaction:
At the R&T Assessment training, we told that you should and can never under-react to crisis. Jim and Rich thought that there might a place where an overreaction might be more damaging. That is an area that could warrant some further discussion/investigation. I realize that in the context of the R&T Assessment Training it does not seems reasonable to under react when the schools population is at stake.

A few other notes about the convention so far…
Hooked up with Darren and Judy and saw their offspring. There is a lot of personal pride I feel when I see Darren in ministry for 5 years now.
More tomorrow

we are here...

The trip was an extended process of unfettered fretting. First, was the freak out session at customs when Char’s Bible was too thick! Then we waited at Calgary terminal for 1 ½ hours to get boarded. This was mostly due to Jeff Gullacher’s rocket trip into Calgary. From Coalhurst to Calgary in 1.5
But then at LAX we get on to this shuttle bus to get to our car rental company. Holy Hannibal Lechter I soiled myself. It’s hard to put into words but it nothing short of miraculous that we made the 4 mile trip in one piece.
But we ended up in this sweet Anaheim home. And there is banana tree growing over the back yard fence. Julie the woman of the house is a high school math teacher in a mostly immigrant public school here in Anaheim. I am going to try to get hooked up to make it into her classroom if I can.
Right now I am sitting in the lobby of the Hilton hotel across from the convention center. There is no doubt we are in USA – if you have any questions just check out the nearest gas station. American flags everywhere.
Had a Carls Jr. Burger for brunch I am off to register and get ready for my critical concerns course. Hopefully I run into Marv to thank him for getting me a discount on the registration fees….
10:52am November 2nd