Saturday, December 29, 2007

Words for a picture



He leaves again


He leaves longing for the left behind


The comfort of lust satisfied


Over and over again


He leaves the lover


He believes the leaving will not last


He leaves and light deceives him


He leaves and turns


Rolls up his sleeves to look into the deep days of the dark season


When the sun slides away on purpose


Hides from him


Hints of the familiar lost


Then vanishes and deceives him


He leaves


He cannot return


There is no home in the past


He leaves again


And what he leaves is nothing more than


Leaves

What’s wrong with kids these days?

Adult: Young people are living at home well into their twenties and beyond.
Youth: What you trying to get rid of us.
Adult: Aren't you tied a little too close to Mama's apron strings, still latched on to the parental teat?
Youth: Uh, there's another viable option?
A: Well you have a degree don't you?
Y: Worth only a third as much as yours since there are 3 times as many of us graduating with the same thing.
A: You just aren't trying hard enough. I mean no one ever handed me a job out of thin air – I had to work for it – it takes effort.
Y: I can get a job all right – just not one that makes you think I am an adult.
A: Well you do look silly with that stupid uniform from Taco Bell. I mean for a university grad shouldn't you be chasing your career. Instead you show up late for work – 'call in sick' and expect to stay employed.
Y: I haven't decided what I want to do with my life yet
A: Typical – adrift – aimless…
Y: Or maybe the economic and social landscape is changing so quickly that it is just that much tougher to make sense of the chaos left in the wake of fortune grabbing baby-boomers like you.
A: Well maybe things wouldn't be so confusing if you didn't spend so much time getting high and getting laid.
Y: Right. When you did that stuff in the 60's it was freedom. Now it's immoral.
A: That was different. We had a legitimate revolution to fight against the repressive status quo. Every generation has had its war.
Y: We just want peace.
A: If you even knew how to spell it - let alone use it in a sentence.
Y: Come on don't be a "h8r".
A: See what I mean, honestly,
Y: Well right me off if you like. Truth is I'm looking for a few kind souls who can help me find a life with a deeper meaning than the pursuit of a pay check or severance package. I mean the idea of adulthood you have created doesn't even catch my attention. You work your ass off to achieve as much upward mobility as possible, hoarding as much as possible for your self. Busyness has given you ulcers, and heart disease both physically and emotionally. Three wives later and a life mortgaged to foreclosure you keep telling yourself that it will all be worth it when you retire. Exactly, when you have Alzheimer's and two strokes – tell me that your all inclusive cruise to the Bahamas is really all its cracked up to be. So you can look at my faults and write me off. You can call me names or create these elaborate stereotypes of what kind of generation I am. Supported by stats you can tell me I more wicked and wasteful. Maybe you think that if you insult or accuse me enough I might just get pissed off enough to care. And if I cared maybe you could get through to me. Is that what you think? Well you're wrong. If life is what you've shown it to be – if growing up means I gotta live like you. I don't want it - I am not interested. So why should I care that I am not measuring up to an idea of life I am not even interested in. Now please could you leave me alone I need to take this call on my new iPhone.
A: You have one of those?
Y: Yes
A: I can't seem to get mine set up properly.
Y: Have you tried that new downloadable utility from Apple?
A: I’ve heard about it but I can’t seem to get to it with my service provider.
Y: Here let me look at that…

Monday, December 17, 2007

I’m a John…

Well not exactly…

Thursday after my philosophy exam (which I totally nailed) I went to lunch with a class mate. He and I went to the Penny Coffee House and had a lengthy conversation about life and philosophy. Cool kid.

After we were done I walked across the street to get into my truck (RAM-50) and drive home. As I climbed in I saw a group of about 5 or 6 guys in shabby clothes with one girl. I reached down to put the key in the ignition and looked up to find the girls rapping on the passenger side window. Too lazy to wind down the hand crank I opened the door to see what she wanted. She jumped into the truck. Before I could say or do anything she asked me to take her to a shelter on the north side of town. So I pulled out into traffic. To be honest my heart went out to this kid – not more than 17 years old. I have had the opportunity to interact with homeless people on several occasions with the urban mission projects I have worked on. I know that there are many choices that have put these people on the street and many circumstances that are beyond their control that strongly affect those choices. So I decided to take her to the shelter.

No sooner were we in traffic than she spoke up. "Hey mister could you help me out with thirty bucks. I need thirty bucks. I was wondering if you could help me out and I have condoms and everything if you want."

My brain froze. I had just gotten propositioned. Me. ME!

Then my brain goes into overdrive. Millions of thoughts blasting through my brain.

"Sorry I don't do stuff like that." I say half whimpering. Silence.

I'm driving, turning. "Can you help me out though?" she says.

"No! I don't have any money on me."

"I just need 30 bucks for a ride home."

"Where's home?" I'm asking still dazed but starting to organize and rank the thoughts chasing through my brain.

"Coaldale. I need a bus ticket."

"I live in Coaldale." I blurt out - stupid brain is letting me down again. And I follow it up with…

"I could give you ride to Coaldale."

"No that's okay. Just drop me off where you picked me up." She says obviously disappointed and disinterested in wasting anymore her energy on me.

"You know," I say, "having sex with you is worth a whole lot more than $30."

"What…" she seems somewhat reengaged- maybe I have reconsidered.

"Really it should be worth somebody spending their whole life with you. $30 is far too cheap to sell your body."

"Yeah" she says. And it occurs to me that my attempt at a coy counseling tip is lost on her. Perhaps this is due to drugs but likely due to a built up resistance to self righteous jerks trying to guilt her into some sort of change. So I drop her off where I picked her up.

I told my story to police officer who lives in our cul de sac and he scared me a little. He said that I could have been picked up and charged for being in the act of soliciting for sex. A cop who knew the downtown could have arrested me. Now wouldn't that be a pretty different story if I was writing it with a court date pending…

It pisses me off that the law works like that. I was just trying to do something nice. But on the other hand I still wince in anger when I draw on the pictures of the johns in their new SUV's and minivans pulling up beside these wasted pieces of flesh. And it fills me with hopelessness for a world where grace can be a crime and where indecency can perpetuate profound brokenness…

Toothless girl sleep well tonight…

The best part…

The Sunday School Christmas program is the best religious experience of the year…

I love the irreverence. The preschoolers running like steers on stage till the few brave parents have corralled them into a pile at the front of the stage. The monotone singer in the kids' choir can't carry a tune but can sure make a lot of noise. It reminds me about how the incarnation was so unpredictable. Psychology tells us that that the human brain has not reached full development until sometime after age 3 or 4 and then in smaller more imperceptible ways the brain keeps one growing and becoming more elastic throughout our lives. We know that the brain of a child often leaves the rest of body lacking. I remember thinking that that Jesus somehow must have been different – you know that he was somehow a fully developed adult in a child's body. But if we actually believed that we would have to significantly change our theology. I can recognize Jesus up there on the stage and it makes me smile.

I love the effort. Kids, parents, teachers work hard to perfect the production - usually a play of some sort. They schedule extra practices and assign parts to as many kids as possible to. On the surface getting every kid involved seems to give each child an equal chance to shine but really it's mostly a chance for added parental anxiety. And inevitably the kids pull it off. There are always some mistakes. Those are the best parts for me. I almost wish you could practice them. I love how redemptive mistakes force the audience to be. Some kid misses a line and the room goes taught with tension. People fidget, they start to squirm but they are forced to considerately wait or compensate for lines mumbled, cues missed, or false starts. I get incredible pleasure in seeing the audience forced to do what we find so hard to most of the time. Redeem the deficiencies of our world. Because you can't fault the kids for their effort…

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

hope

Ryan posted a good quote here which got me to think a little more about how ironic things are.

We live in an immediate culture. Everything is now. It's almost like a currency. We trade money, time, prestige, power for extraordinary experiential reality of the moment (waiting in line for tickets to Led Zeppelin). This has some obvious dysfunction inherent. With no regard for the future, the only that is important is the now. And right now is only important to give us memories of the most amazing experiences that we can call up in the future. So the future is only useful as a tool for the remembering the past.


Follow me?


So the only thing that should matter is the quality of life as I perceive it right now. Now we are in a pickle because the past is always better than the future and so the present continues to decrease in quality. The only thing we can do is try and rev our engines harder in order to see if we can get close to how good the past was. Sucks!


Enter the concept of hope. Tricky little concept. Too much hope placed too far away in the future can cause you to become distanced from your life right now. (e.g. some fundamental views of heaven) And if you are alienated from your life right now then it really is worth very much. Kinda like working at McDonalds just so that you get to have a life after midnight when you get off shift. You hate working at McDonalds so you really don't care about it – it's a job. Christians with this kind of approach are irresponsible with their own lives and they really could care less about what happens to the earth or the people in the earth.


But hope that is placed too near in the future seems irrational. I mean most of us are pessimistic enough to think that the poverty, AIDS, war problem in Africa won't change appreciably in the next month or even year. It seems we take two steps forward and three steps back. So a person who goes around with that kind of hope is either a super rich activist who can afford to be hopeful or pretty much out-to-lunch.


But what if we change the way we look at hope. Instead of it being a goal or destination, what if it was more like a lifestyle a mode of living and actively looked for opportunities for redemption and restoration. What is hope is not so much a possession that we desperately hang onto but more like a tool that we use to bring about the purposes of the Creator in the world…

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

somebody wrote my theme song

Ojala que llueva café

If only it would rain coffee in the fields,
and a shower of yucca and tea would fall,
from the sky a sprinkling of white cheese,
and in the south a mountain
of cress and honey.
oh, oh, oh-oh-oh...
If only it would rain coffee.

My folks are touching the homeland (Nicaragua) this Christmas and I wish I was a hideaway in their luggage.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Is the incarnation enough? pt. 2

Can you imagine Christmas without the cross? Think about how we might view our faith differently if all we had was Jesus incarnate – God with flesh on. One big problem we would be faced with is that without the cross we would essentially lose our concept of salvation. There would not be a get-out-of-Jail-free card at the end of the game of life that could make up for all our blunders here in this life. And we might wonder if God was really as powerful as he says he is unless he was able to defeat sin and death. But check it out – what actual proof of forgiveness do we actually have in this life. I mean the Bible tells us we are forgiven and assured a place in heaven but has anyone ever actually come back from where ever heaven is to confirm our suspicions? So we place hope in something that we're not completely sure of – we call that hope. What proof do we have that Jesus accomplished anything at the cross without faith? None really.

So without the cross and its significance our faith changes drastically. So some argue the cross is the pivotal center piece of Christian thought and practice.

But what if the cross wasn't.

The incarnation is equally impossible without faith. But its consequences are equally important if not more so. Incarnation forces us to deal with this life as if it is important all on its own without the threat of some super existence we could escape to someday. It forces us to recognize that into the very same world of pain and struggle God descends to be a very local and personal agent of redemption. God comes to show us an example of how to live but also to confirm to us that this life is not some meaningless toil that we should long to escape but a real important existence that is worth the effort. Worth the effort of acting redemptively, worth the effort of acting for justice, worth the effort of reconciliation, worth the effort of enjoying this life's intrinsic goodness. The incarnation elevates our own existence because God was willing to identify. So our life has value. And more value than just making the right decision about which ticket we're going to purchase for our after-life trip. Our life is actually about bring 'heaven' to earth.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Is the incarnation enough?

One of the things that our philosophy professor has taken great delight in criticizing is the belief in the afterlife. Of course this has significant implications for what sort of meaning we attach to the nature of life itself. So searching for meaning becomes a quest for significance, purpose, and quality. It seems most of us have some sort of expectation as to what life should be like. And if our lives don't seem to match those expectations we get bothered by it. Of course, one of the most significant contributions to understanding the meaning of life has come from religion. Religion of most stripes offer explanations about life as it is related to what happens after life ceases. Christianity says heaven and hell await the soul which continues to 'live' past the biological death of our bodies. Heaven if you make the right choices in this life and hell if you make the wrong ones.

Eternity has become the central feature in the Christian explanation of the meaning of life. Eternity might even be the only foundational aspect of most Christian theological tradition. Here's a little test see if you can come up with a solid explanation of the basic concepts of Christian ideas without talking about heaven or hell. Tough right? And when something seems to take such a dominant role in the formation of thought I get suspicious. But to be sure I don't reject the idea of eternity or its implications – I just don't think any idea deserves a free ride – especially when it seems so central.

Secular thinkers will often point to how eternity thinking has caused Christians to disengage from the present world because their focus is fixed on the life hereafter. And they are right. We refer to this world as embodying all that is wrong. And so this world becomes a training ground for what is to come. It's a throw away world where our actions are essentially inconsequential because of the hope of an eternity where we will be transformed into perfection. And it should not surprise us that materialism (mega-church), and poor environmental stewardship, even anti-immigrant sentiments can all be clearly reflected in many current Christian expressions (one's I have been reminded of recently). Because if this world really doesn't matter that much then who cares if we get things wrong 'down here' as long as our insurance policy is thick enough to get us the perfect retirement in the sky.

That's where it seems to me that the story of Christmas can really shine. God becomes one of us. God makes a statement – we are worth hanging out with. And by living with us he gets to show us how to live this life to its fullest potential – right now!

If God was focused on the afterlife/eternity/heaven as his main focus, don't you think there could have been a better way to motivate humanity than by identifying with us. He could select several humans in each generation to visit heaven and then make a documentary for the rest of us. He could give us samples of heaven – little bits of blinding lights and golden bling. He could make so that one of the confirmations of our assurance of heaven after this life was to get some sort of documentation of the fact.

But Christmas suggests that eternity is not God's focus. We are his focus. Right here – right now.


 

Thursday, November 22, 2007

women in the mosques

For years we (Mennonite Brethren at least) have been discussing and debating the role of women in ministry.
In our sociology class we have been discussing the social stratification that occurs through the constructs of religion. One of the huge areas (especially for our prof) has been the gender stratifications that religious institutions tend to create. This is a prevasive issue accross many of the religious vains that exist. It was especially interesting to watch this video in class to get some of the same issues we've been talking about in the MB from the perspective of a Canadian Muslim community.
Zarqa Nawaz, the writer/director of this film, is one of the consulting writers for Little Mosque on the Prairie.
So here are parts of the documentary:

Here's the links to the other portions of this film:
http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=cRAtRQsiuqI
http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=mlx_QrmC9IE
so there you go.....

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Persecution Ulcers

The persecuted church is often represented as a type of ideal. When we speak of the persecuted church we admire their commitment (often in the face of death) to hold to convictions. We envy its ability to reproduce and attract adherents – something that seems to elude even our most sophisticated church growth gurus. And that (its proliferation) in the face of incredible obstacles and restrictions. We have been taught to revere the persecuted church as a good model for the commitment that it takes to really live out the convictions we have about our faith. Our Anabaptist history in fact has made heroes of martyrs like Conrad Grebel and Hans Denk (I always got a kick out of the Freudian echoes in that name).

I will confess that I have always held a small amount of doubt about how strongly I should revere the persecuted. Honouring their commitment to the faith is one thing but elevating them to the status of exemplary gives me pause. That pause comes at the point of wondering about the actual convictions that persecuted and martyred people are holding to. I wonder if we assume that those convictions are accurate and theologically sound. The logic seems to follow that by nature of being persecuted the 'faith' that these people hold to must be more pure because we assume that something worth dying for must be accurate. And we also assume that when persecution comes, superficial and extraneous doctrines and issues quickly fall away to the more central and pertinent issues of theology. I have heard no less from many preachers and teachers.

Consider for a moment the effects that stress (and persecution would certainly qualify) has on the human body. The body functions most effectively under the just the right amount of stress. Too much stress or too little stress leads to pathology (dysfunction). It is true that certain aspects of the body are more active when the body is highly stressed but these same aspects can lead to major problems especially over an extended period of time. In fact one of the common effects of heightened stress is the tendency for the person or animal to give up (this helps to explain stress related depression). So then the question must be asked, "Does the stress of persecution make the individuals more likely to give up in the face of ongoing stress or are things like imprisonment and martyrdom actually an act of resolute determination?" Not only that, what can we say about the convictions themselves? We know that a brain that is under perpetual stress increasingly loses its capacity to reason and make accurate judgements of the stimuli present. This is how, for instance, it is possible for paramedics and police officers to remain on the job while repeatedly facing large amounts of stress. They actually become numb to it. So then we ask, "Can the convictions (the theological tenets) of people under stress be accurate?" Now to be sure, this is hardly an issue of controversy – nobody is jumping up and down protesting theological perspectives of persecuted people very much these days.

One of the reasons the early church (Acts) is revered is because it seems to put faith into its simplest forms and to be sure the pressure and stress that it faced was the forging fire of most of our expanded theological system. In fact it is not uncommon to have Jesus death on the cross characterized as an act of martyrdom which is not entirely accurate. Jesus death in fact was more like a premeditated suicide if understood properly – one that was required for the redemption of sin – not an act of superior moral conviction in the face of extreme opposition.

Now I have to admit that even asking questions about the persecuted church makes me uncomfortable largely I think due to how strongly they have been idealized in my mind. Once again I am likely off my rocker so feel free to pick away…

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I found it

I am posting this for Naomi and Michelle - 14 years ago this was a constant request of theirs. They asked me to perform the "Mistadobalina" dance. It was magic to behold - hehe!

The track is - Mistadobalina by Del tha Funky Homosapien - it made top forty around about the summer of 1992-93

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Retreats

In many recent conversations I have heard youth pastors wondering aloud about the merits of youth retreats. Many have expressed serious questions about whether these retreats are the right approach in helping students grow in their faith. Now retreats can come in two basic types – the spiritual growth type or the social bonding type based on the objectives of the leaders. To be fair both spiritual growth and social bonding happen at both types of events but each one has some basic expectations. You hardly expect to take kids to YC in Edmonton and not come away with some report of kids changing their lives (the church board chairman would like that report on his desk tomorrow Paul). It the 'spiritual growth' type of retreats that most of the questions have centered on in my discussions. Here's the questions I have heard - -

Do we do more harm than good by isolating these kids for a weekend completely void of the natural stimulus around them in their normal life? Does a decision made at one of these retreats actually seem less likely to 'stick' with the kids?


When you look at the problem from the point of view of classical conditioning – we need to raise some important questions. We know that kids some to these retreats full of crappy coping mechanisms to deal with the dysfunction in their lives. Their coping strategies are played out in what we would call defeated Christian discipleship (in the case of pre-followers we might even call them their sinful ways). Kid's behaviour is typically challenged at these retreats. Stop sleeping around, stop smoking, stop being a dick to your friends, stop and follow Jesus. Do the stuff he wants you to do – be nice to your friends, treat others with respect, help poor people etc… Kids normal behaviour doesn't measure up to these convicting pleas from the front/preacher/pastor so they naturally feel guilty – often confess their sin and promise to live a more devoted life. A week or two after the retreat it is not uncommon to find these kids right back in the old groove – doing the same old things – and often worse. Defeated lots of kids wander away. Psychologists can identify this easily as a result of classic conditioning. Kid's normal world conditions them to respond in a certain way. The retreat is an opportunity to eliminate the regular stimulus and give a person the opportunity to cease the bad behaviour. What is tough is that according to classical conditioning we know that merely one exposure to the original stimulus can trigger a recurrence of the original behaviour. Add on top of that the new found guilt that the kid has just acquired on the retreat and we can compound the effect of the negative action with the added stigma of broken promises etc etc.


Of course classical conditioning is not the only thing at work at these retreats but sometimes I wonder if we don't recognize it and respect it enough to develop more effective strategies of discipleship training that can actually help kids deal with the stimulus they find themselves in every day normally…

Older and Weaker


This afternoon I listened to the proposed omnibus bill that will deal with a number of significant changes to the criminal code. Included in this bill is the intention of the government to raise the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16. Now while most people might think this is good thing – I for one am pretty much against it.

Now on the one hand I readily recognize what this legislation is intended to accomplish. It seeks to give greater teeth to enforcement and the judicial system in penalizing offenders with stiffer sentences and generally greater consequences. And to be fair it will like do that. And who in their right mind wouldn't want to 'spank' offenders harder for this type of crime. In my opinion the law is not strict enough in penalizing sexual offenders but…

I'm not sure we are fully appreciating the latent or unintended function of this type of legislation. We have worked hard in our society to establish a more gender equality. We have a long way to go but many strides have been taken to help women gain more social power and relieve the oppression that they have suffered in the past. I'm not just talking about more equality in the work force but in more general ways – women today are the beneficiaries of a sense of common ground. I think this is a good thing. And while I recognize that there are still some who would argue that this equality is a negative thing and that it somehow challenges God design – I think that most people recognize that women were unfairly treated in the past and that the partial redemption of their social status is more inline with God's view of our standing in his eyes. I think that is precisely why this legislation moves in the wrong direction.

I think this legislation suggests that women/girls are actually weaker than men/boys and need to be protected. This is because an overwhelming majority of non-consensual sexual offences are perpetrated on females and although the legislation does not discriminate between genders it clearly is aimed at the problem that exists in one specific part of the population. Girls being essentially…raped. The legislation actually deals with the ability of a girl to make a decision about whether or not she wants sex. Essentially the government would like to suggest that a girl under 16 can't really make that decision and actually know what she is doing. This unintentionally communicates the notion that girls are actually exactly the things we have been working so hard all these years to remove – Girls are dimwitted ninnies that need to be rescued and saved and certainly can't process these types of decisions on their own. So in my mind we take a step backward.

On top of that we essentially extract the responsibility of the girl in almost any sexual encounter if she is young enough. Sex is rarely just the action of one person. There is no question that girls who are looking for sex at 12 and 13 are seriously ill. But I have seen enough provocative sexually stimulating behaviour from girls in middle school (from the way they dress to the way they talk and flirt with boys) to know that girls are still caving in to the objectifying attitudes that still dominate our culture and which fly in the face of the equality we have worked to achieve in our society.

Another factor that goes unnoticed is how this type of legislation affects parenting. My question is if the government wants to step into the role of parenting in deciding what kind of behaviour should be acceptable or not they will inadvertently disable parents from providing the first line of behaviour modification which is essential for youth who need personal connected consequences to affect them rather than the disconnected relationship to the government to force them into some behavioural paradigm. I for one expect that my boys will clearly understand the importance of respecting women enough to honour them with a proposal of marriage before engaging in sexual encounters. I also anticipate that in the back of their mind they should fear the consequences that I would deal to them should they 'screw up'! I expect they will fear that more than any jail term could invoke.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Discrimination

My philosophy prof is quite the trip - - - like most ardent/aggressive atheists he spends a lot of time talking about God. He's a pretty scattered flappermouth (hmmm – I don't know anyone else like that eh?). But Monday this is sorta how the discussion went. We were talking about Janus words. The prof doesn't actually hold to the strict definition of the concept he says that a Janus word is one that has both a value association in one sense and neutral value in another. Normal could be an example of this. Normal could mean the average of collection of measures (neutral) but normal also is used to refer to nothing being wrong (value).



Anywho we started talking about the word discrimination. "To discriminate" actually is a complex Janus word because it not only has a neutral meaning (being able to distinguish between various objects or concepts – value neutral) but it has two covert value meanings (1. Neg. to let irrelevant factors count in some circumstance and Pos. to let all and only relevant factors count). The Negative meaning we all recognize when people don't allow people to be hired based on gender or racial differences. The positive we recognize as connoisseurs – people who have discriminating taste for wine or cheese. As an example of all this he held up this dilemma:



We expect judges to be unbiased in their judgements. We could say they should not discriminate (racist judges would not last long in our system) in their judgements. But in another sense we could say that judges should be discriminating in their judgements (here we mean that the judge should weigh all and only the relevant information about the case to make a precise decision). We would ask judges to care about everyone involved equally – so as to be an impartial judge. But the judge could not be impartial if either the defendant to the prosecution was his/her daughter – we would ask that judge to recuse him/herself for that case. So we could see that it would be ridiculous to expect a parent to not care more for their own kids than for other people in the courtroom. Or in our neighbourhood for instance let's say that Char and I had only $100 dollars for food. You would expect us to spend that hundred on groceries for our own kids. You would look at us weird if we were to decide to divide that money between all the children in our neighbourhood (not to mention that if we really didn't want to discriminate we might consider sharing it with ever kid in the whole world).



Enter the teachings of Christ. Love your neighbour as yourself. Is this to be taken literally? We would say yes? Stuck? Well maybe but then our prof goes on to suggest that God (the supreme judge in Christianity) was definitely not impartial. He chose and paid special attention to the Jews. Our prof then asked if we could really suggest that God was just. He pointed out that one of the central messages of Jesus was captured in the parable of the Good Samaritan yet historically according to the Biblical account God seemed to anything but impartial. So there you go. Wrestle with that one. See if you can come up with some counter proposals or other arguments – just curious how you might respond to that.

salsa time

we turned this...

into over 5 gallons of this

Friday, October 5, 2007

Achievement Award

All you youth pastor/worker types who read this blog take note. It is not very common to see a church youth worker gain access to local campuses. High schools are focusing on security and warding off any hint of proselytizing by religious groups. These conditions make it hard, especially for urban youth workers to gain access to local high schools. And when it happens – which is rare – access to schools is often restricted to attendance in a lunch hour Christian club.

That is what makes this award so much more significant – Mark Dyck has an established reputation with the local high school that he has been listed as auxiliary staff in the school. Huge marks need to be given to the school principal whose insight can take advantage of another pair of eyes and ears on the school campus. Mark shows up whenever he wants to – hangs out in classrooms during class, walks the hallways at lunch, and hangs with kids in the parking lot. He has successfully endeared himself to the staff of the school. His commitment to long term ministry has developed a deep trust even with staff who might have some basic animosity against Christianity.

Mark gets listed as a staff member of the school – see here.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

what I wish

my wife would have been told when she was a little girl...

...it seems to hardly matter how often I tell her that she is beautiful - somebody else's idea of what she looks like seems even more important!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

knowing...


...how eggplant is spelled will not help you find it in the grocery store...

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

proletariat


Is my vane labour in vain?
Are you sure or is it simply the same
Game as whips and chains
Bought and sold - plain
Gimme a job mister please
So I can ease
My family's needs
But here's the proof:
I need a roof
And if I build a roof for you sir
Can I buy it back from you sir
With the cash I get from you sir
And you say you're not my master
Please
And you get my back
broken
And I get paid back
token
And you get your money back
When I buy back what my back bought
If by slave you mean my back has no marks
Then I guess I am not one, right, Mr. Marx?

autumn

Autumn leaves under frozen soles,
Hungry hands turning soft and old,
My hero cried as we stood out there in the cold,
Like these autumn leaves I don't have nothing to hold.

Handsome smiles wearing handsome shoes,
Too young to say, though I swear he knew,
And I hear him singing while he sits there in his chair,
Now these autumn leaves float around everywhere.

And I look at you, and I see me,
Making noise so restlessly,
But now it's quiet and I can hear you saying,
'My little fish don't cry, my little fish don't cry.'

Autumn leaves how faded now,
that smile that I've lost, well I've found some how,
Because you still live on in my fathers eyes,
These autumn leaves, oh these autumn leaves, oh these autumn leaves are yours tonight.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

How do you say that in…


I am reading a book for my anthropology class by Angela Robinson. She has written an ethnography on the Mi’kmaq or Nova Scotia. Bored yet?
Actually her work focused on religion: the affects of European religion (namely Catholic) on this indigenous people way of life and their own religious perspectives. What she encounters is actually quite fascinating…
She describes how language affects the way we perceive our world. The very words we use can affect how we interact with the basic elements of life. English is a noun based language whereas Mi’kmaw is a verb based language. And this has some very interesting implications for religious understanding. She quotes a Mi’kmaw linguist who suggests the important aspects of the difference in this area, “the language is not capable of seeing the world and the universe as any other way except as being in constant flux. So, it would be difficult to pin down any particular dogma and expect Mi’kmaw people to follow it to the letter a thousand years from now. A concept of ‘god’ in Mi’kmaw culture and language is also not stationary. In fact the words, or many of them that we have for ‘god’ are all verbs.”
So what would that mean if God was referred to using verbs instead of nouns?
English Christianity is famous for developing complex doctrinal positions and theological systems. All of that would be very different (if they would exist at all) if the way we referred to God was in verb form. Personally, I have a hard time even thinking about how you would do that. You know what a sentence using the idea of God as a verb would look like in English.
One of the things that I got to thinking about was how we often complain that we have put God in a box and that we need to re-evaluate how we think about God. Well maybe this problem would not exist in the same way if we didn’t have to use a noun to talk about God. Nouns seem more measurable, quantifiable I guess. Verbs seem to indicate flux, action, or movement. I don’t know stuff to think about I guess…

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Exceptional Locals


There is a term in anthropology that describes people who are encountered – typically – early on in the ethnographic field work. These are the people who seem to engage with the anthropologist early but tend to be regarded as existing on the fringe of the social and cultural framework. This was a fascinating terms since I immediately recognized a similar concept (although rarely identified) in ministry contexts.
There have been numerous times when I have seen pastors succumb to the influences of the exceptional locals in the congregation that they enter or begin to minister in. This typically, in my experience has led to significant difficulty in validity of their work as pastors in that context – sometimes it has even caused them to leave. This is a tricky concept to understand in a ministry concept but one that I think gets overlooked because we may have the wrong approach to ministry positions in general.
Many of us who have been in ministry could identify the exceptional locals who present themselves – often asking (indirectly) for loyalty from us. It is difficult to deny these people access to our time and resources because we are in a helping role and are morally responsible for the well being of all of our parishioners. What is also true is that these people are rarely an accurate demonstration of what the general culture or social framework of the whole church is. So taking up the causes of these individuals can lead to focusing in the wrong direction. Building alliances can easily lead to conflict since these people are typically not well attached to the networks of people who form the general culture of the church. But since our approach to ministry is the work of caring we can often miss these important signals about where each church needs direction and leadership.
If instead we were to understand ministry positions as more of an anthropological endeavor we could, I believe, make greater strides in effective ministry that could last a long time. Even suggesting that a minister exist as a 'member' or adherent of a particular context before beginning his/her ministry would be beneficial in gaining a sense of how the whole congregation could be ministered to effectively. Unfortunately we are so program oriented that we demand our ministers to begin the work of caring and leading as soon as they start receiving a paycheck. Too bad really. I know of a few people who have intentionally gone about this approach at the same time as trying to fulfill their expected duties to provide programming and care. These are no less than magicians if you ask me.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I was right.


I think.
The most valuable tool that we can give adolescents as they grow is the ability to value questions. More specifically, it is crucial that we focus not on giving them the information that will guide their lives but the appropriate tools to accommodate the knowledge they will acquire throughout their lives. This is especially true with regard to any spiritual training we seek to engage in.
In my classes already I have noticed a systematic, both subtle and overt, rejection of Christianity as viable in comparison to scientific understanding. Rejection of spirituality in general has been strong but Christianity has suffered more derision. I think this is due to the fact that Christianity, in general, is perceived to be rigid – portraying itself to be infallible and dogmatic. This is especially true since I am taking mostly courses in the humanities – I think.
As an aside: I wonder if the reason some of the humanities seem to be railing against Christianity is due to their own feelings of illegitimacy within the intellectual pursuits of academia. Almost like, “At least we are not so naïve as those Christians who believe in superstitions.”
The attack on Christian belief has been ardent. And I can imagine that students who adhere to ‘the faith’ might find themselves struggling with the often black-and-white nature of the faith they have been given to adopt. And I suspect the hand wringing at the local Christian women’s league is duly justified when they hear of little Tommy or Cindy losing their way spiritually due to the big bad world of university. This only serves to heighten the fear factor that motivates most Christian churches to concentrate their education with filling their children with information.
Instead over the last few years I have been convinced that far more important than giving children and adolescents the information of faith (quantity), they need to be given the tools with which to engage in the discovery of the mystery of faith. My experience in the first few days of university seems to quantify my convictions.
As a result I think a shift needs to happen. A) We need to work extremely hard to allow wonder to be a central part of our programming. We need to establish a safe place where kids can feel free to discover and test ideas about faith without being rushed, accused or pacified. B) We need to actively teach spiritual methodology. We need to foster the ability to debate important theological and doctrinal issues within the context of a loving community. We need to build the tools like discovery, research, literary criticism, historical contextualization, and original languages way earlier in the process of spiritual pedagogy. Along side that, we need to convey to kids, the disciplines and mystical practices that lead to revelation and affirmation of truth. C) Above all we need to help make these things priorities for parents to practice with their kids.
I remember hearing the alarm from one of our Bible College personnel regarding how terribly illiterate kids were about the Bible as they entered Bible College. It seemed alarming at the time that churches did not seem to be doing a good enough job of downloading the contents of the Scriptures into the minds of children in such a way as to be able to spew it out on command. And it’s probably true that local churches have become lax in their approach to Christian education. But I think that target outcome is skewed as well. I think we miss the mark if we aim to give kids all the information about faith without the tools to really appropriate it personally and practically in the context of real life.
So when we give room for open and careful discussion. When we wander away from the script and play in the margins while honoring the narrative of the text - we do a more honest job of conveying real faith than if we do it the way it has been done for years. And when professors and teachers and pastors take seriously their role as disciplemakers you end up with students who can lean on the learning passed on to them. So thank-you Gil, Mark, Ryan, Jeff, Andre, Gord, Mike, Paul, James, and Mom and Dad for being just that sort of person…

Monday, September 10, 2007

School boy


For those of you who care and actually stop this e-rag:
-I am really enjoying my classes
-they are stimulating and very much ‘up my alley’…
-my legs have turned to jelly from the 500 plus stairs and excessive kms required to get to and from class each day.
My first day jitters are mostly subsided and I have started to relax with my MUCH younger classmates.
I am taking mostly introductory courses in: sociology (stuff I am very familiar with from previous experience); anthropology (likely the class I enjoy the most – good prof. – engaging and succinct); Spanish (I got bumped up into the intermediate level course after taking the advanced placement test and scoring well enough to get in. The Ms. Housley spoke mostly in Spanish all class – very cool almost like a breath of fresh air. Kids are pretty reluctant to speak in class. I might even have a slight advantage in this class.); Philosophy (this is a freak show of a class. The prof is a distractible tangent loving blabberer who has already got into trouble with a few students for straying from the outline of the course. We’ve spent the last two classes talking about the Bible (might post more about this)
Psych is tomorrow night – so we’ll see…
No essays, just multiple guess exams and a lot of them. Oh yeah some short answer in Philosophy…
It is all good. I like it and my legs will just have to get used to it…

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

here's something to chew on...

Emile Durkheim decides to figure out if you can apply sociological factors to suicide. This was a revolutionary approach in his day. Of course today we understand that suicide is affect by many various factors in society but essential suicide is still considered an essentially private act of an individual often acting in isolation. Durkheim confronted the notion that suicide was essentially a psychological disfuntion in the individual. He figured that if that notion was correct he should find that people with psychological problems should be the group of people where suicide occured most often. The data simply could not support that assumption instead the data revealed that the groups of people where suicide was most prevalent were: unmarried people, Protestants (as opposed to Catholics), and men.
Based on his findings he concluded that the social factor that most affected suicide was social solidarity - the connectedness of the people with a social group.
Not sure if you noticed it but Protestants were in that top three. Durkheim said the difference between Catholics and Protestants was how the nature of their faith expression played out in communal connectivity. Catholics he suggested were more communal and their ritualistic approaches to religion kept a social contract in place. Protestants whose faith focus was on the individuals connection to God (you know personal saviour and all that), didn't seem to achieve the same social contract within thier religious expression.
I think makes for some very interesting questions for practical theology in the area of soteriology and an understanding of the nature of the church.

What has affected us the most?

Our Sociology prof asked us to do this little assignment that got me thinking.
Here's the question she posed:
What are the five most significant developments that have occurred during your lifetime. (The development can have happened in any field: technology, historical events, attitudes, consumption, education, politics etc.) These should be developments or events of social, not personal, significance. And rank them in importance...
Here's where I started:
1. Advent of the personal computer, cell phones, etc.
2. US foreign policy
3. The cultural impact of entertainment – Hollywood,
4. Affects of the baby boom on generational dynamics including: employment, economy, education, opportunity, morality, etc.
5. Affect of the Oil/Gas Industry on mobility, wealth, transportation, technology, etc.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The road


...comes to meet you from a long way off. It’s not pretentious like the traffic laden expressways of southern Ontario or conniving like the mountain switchbacks of BC. You can actually see the patch of asphalt you’ll travel a good 5 or 6 minutes before you get there. There is something reassuring about that.
“Boring,” most would say as we whir by the undulating landscape.
To be sure it is quite forgettable. Not a length of the long ribbon of highway stands out over the other save the meager remnants of human activity in far too occasional hamlet. I say, “far too occasional” precisely because the human desire to excrete waste in a private smelling room – aka a service station washroom – increases in frequency the more children you add to your journey.
There’s Moosomin, Broadview, Grenfell (where you should really watch out for the cops), Wolseley, Sintaluta, and Indian Head. Then there’s Balgonie, White City and then Regina. You’ve got Moose Jaw, Caronport (where you should really stop for gas cause it’s cheaper), Mortlach, Parkbeg, and Secretan (my Grandpa always used to make fun of this town cause he put made the second “e” a long sound so it sounded like secreting). There’s Valjean and Chaplin (look for the white salt sands and the stench of a thousand rotten eggs in your vehicle). And then after that you’re in Uren – he he! Herbert and Waldeck, and Swift Current, then Gull Lake and Piapot (which is a lying son of a b#$% of a town that promises all services 23 kms out and then as it turns out does not even exist. My bowels hold a terrible rage against that town. I had needs that Pee – A – Pot never satisfied.). You pass Maple Creek and you’re done. Its all actually quite painless.
That stretch of highway has carried my carcass over and over again without so much as a whimper. Although, thanks to the lackadaisical attitude toward infrastructure of the Saskatchewan government, my carcASS has whimpered from time to time.
It’s a shame really that you can pass through the mighty prairies with so little ado. Yeah that’s right I said, ‘mighty’. I know that word is reserved for the mountains – but really how mighty are they. They sit there like mossy covered behemoths that beg us to ogle over the parts of them that they choose to keep unclothed with trees or snow. But the prairies, now there is power. The electric earth pulsating food to life – and death – in a fabulous self sacrificing placidity. Unimposing, avoiding the spotlight save to let you catch the deep breath of the open sky. And horizon to horizon you breath in your own smallness – and the tender care this land takes to give you that breath. The breath that you can lose yourself in - your thoughts chasing each other like voracious dragonflies chasing mosquitoes in a wheat field low spot. And you grip the steering wheel and wonder what you’re missing.
You know I winced each time I dumped fuel into my ASStro. I hate that gas sucking pig – but it serves my family well. It drank a whole 70 liters worth of fuel from Caronport to Moosomin (2.5 hours of driving). I spent a shocking amount of money on fuel. It made me mad. I’m still mad. But I realized something.
I got a pretty amazing show for the cash. Barley, Timothy, and Rapeseed, a million bugs lost their lives on my hood. A coyote, and a stallion making colts, and an inexplicable connection to this land – this humble forgettable, powerful land.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Maybe we should know about Francis Collins...

This afternoon I listened to an interesting interview on Tapestry on CBC Radio. Follow this link to listen to the program on line. He is one of the scientists who helped to catalogue the human genome project. He is also a former aethist turned evangelical Christian. In this interview he talks about his most recent conversation with Richard Dawkins (a hard core athiest). Collins believes in evolution.
Here is Francis Collins being interviewed by Stephen Colbert. Listen for this amusing line, "Evolution is God's way of giving upgrades."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

here's some

satire for a Thursday

This

is good. Even if it is not comfortable.

Apology Accepted?


I tracked this post by Folmsbee which made me stop and think. As such I am not opposed to apologizing for areas where we have failed collectively or individually. I think the stuff Chris apologizes for is sincere and accurate not just for him but for, i assume, many of us.
Here's the thing: I wonder what the point of apologizing is. In our house we have mantra that we repeat as often as we have conflict - this is it: "Sorry is not good enough - you need to make it up with the person you have offended". So we ask our boys to ask each other - "what can I do to make it up to you?"

I guess the issue for me is what exactly does apologizing do if it is not met with the repentant behaviour change that the apologiy suggests. I have found that we often use apology to absolve oursleves from guilt and responsibility for the crummy behaviour we have displayed. So it become a cover up and essentially a dishonest thing.

I have also noticed a tendency to use apology as a self depricating tool. You've the kind of person who is perpetually apologizing so as to assume the role of the pitiable bumbling idiot. Sometimes I sorta get the idea that perhaps that attitude is creepying in around the corners of Christian identity. There are many things that have been done in the name of Christianity that we should be ashamed of but we need to be careful not to compromise the core nature of Christian identity in the process. What I mean is that an apology can go too far in not just asking for pardon for the problem but actually asking for pardon for the individual's very existence (in some cases). Woe to those of us who choose to follow Christ and apologize for Jesus (his real essence) at the same time.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Driver Dumps Druggie


Crack user scams FoodBank hamper to sell for next hit. Read what happens next when the Vigilante Taxi Cab shows up...


actually if you follow the comments on this post - an interesting scruples problem emerges. You be the judge!

I was asked...

...what advice I would give to someone who was going to speak at a youth retreat. I thought I might post some of my ideas on the subject here.
1. I think one of the most important things about any speaking assignment is to realize that unless you are talking to people the you know fairly intimately - the first hurdle you have to cross is TRUST. Youth (anyone for that matter) has to actually trust what you are saying before they are interested in WHAT you have to say. What it takes to gain that trust is changing a lot. It used to be that you sorta automatically had people's trust by virtue of the fact that you climbed up into the podium. It was a status thing. I think especially kids these days are alot more suspicious of people upfront - so the task of gaining trust is tougher. Using stories, humor, etc can help but somehow you need to be believable - real. It's tough to do and different for each person. Transperancy is essential to gaining trust but the risk is in being to revealing and getting lost in your crap - as it were.
2. I think the other thing that is essential is that you have to deal honestly with people's pain. I was up at camp this last week and I doubt there was one single cabin where the kids were not dealing with painful stuff. Divorce, step brothers, dads, pressures to perform at school, sports, etc, jobs, addictions, dating relationships, sex, death - and this is junior high. I think if you don't deal with that stuff honestly you might as well pee into the wind. Kids need to have their realities acknowledged even if we can't identify with all that they are going through. And it's pretty important not only to reopen the wounds of the past without giving kids the tools with which they can learn to cope in a more healthy manner. I think this is critical. So if you are going to pull out one of those tear jerker talks you need to think about giving it enough space sot hat you can build in some teaching time afterward. And for the sake of everything good please don't tag some cheesy-commitment onto this talk - I mean the kids are vulnerable enough as is - give them time to respond but don not tack some quick and easy commitment prayer on the end of that just to get responses.
3. Be very careful what you ask kids to commit to and how. After you have gained their trust - you would be foolish to break it by asking them to do something embarrassing. Challenge kids to make commitments in one on one situations instead of en mass. And give clear direct instructions so that there is not confusion (i always have to keep working on this).
4. Whether you are speaking topically or textually - NEVER NEVER NEVER abuse, manipulate, twist or yank around with Scripture. Read big chunks instead of little ones. Give plenty of background but try not to over analyze the text so that it leaves the kids with the impression that the whole thing is figured out. Make them curious to go and find the meanings for themselves and give them the framework to be responsible with the texts you give them. We don't need anymore kids running around out there spouting off snippets of Scripture that 'speakers' have quoted to them to prove some point of theirs.
On the technical side:
- I try to think of boiling down my talk to one point or sentence that I want to get across. Then approach the same idea from a bunch of different angles. A former colleague of mine challenged me to do this and I have found it very helpful.
- Find your own system. If you need to read from a manuscript - fine. If you can memorize your talk - fine. Don't let anyone tell you that you have to use one method or another.
- Find a place to practice what you say so that you never surprise yourself.
- Take a few shots of brandy before you speak. (kidding) What I mean is that I find it helpful to do something mindless or distracting. Take care to prepare well but give yourself the space to breath before you get up there. This seems to give me perspective and the much needed connection to the audience.
Just a couple things I have learned. Maybe some of the rest of you have learned a few tips that you could contribute as well - that would be cool...

addictions

Wow = it's hard to be this honest...
This will have to change in a few weeks when I start classes.
87%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Song for Twelve degrees in August

There was no one who
Brought you to your knees
Boot to the head
Like you’re out for revenge
You pesky rat
Like it wasn’t enough for you to chase the sun
To make the white dark
White
There was no one who
Danced on your grave
Taunted you like a defeated fat old school yard bully
Smiled at your sudden demise
For your make-believe oppression thru the sun break
To make the red skin
Brown
Back off winter
Chill
Relax
Inhabit those deep dark places
Where your icy schemes conceived antidotes like
Coffee
And what happens between the duvet and the posturepedic
Go back there
Till the dusk stretched sun has made us all to inebriated to remember
Your frigid handshake at the door

Thursday, August 9, 2007

secrets and humanity...

WARNING: the contents of this post might push a few boundaries that you may not be prepared to cross.
Tonight, I watched this interview here highlighting Frank Warren's website and subsequent books called POSTSECRET which can be found here.
Frank has invited people to send him thier deepest, darkest, wildest, secrets on a postcard. He recieves a thousand or so each week and posts only 20 on his blog site. If you go there you will see this...

or this...

and even this..

but like I said - there is stuff on his sight that you might find disturbing. And I suppose I have to admit here to at least some level of voyeristic inclination into other people's thoughts and realities. But I am far more intrigued and motivated by what this sight has to say about the human condition. The premise of having a place where the things you choose or dare not say are openly displayed but not quite revealed makes this idea something unique in the its approach to human social, emotional, and mental well being.
A post card is a very small place to encapsulate any idea and as is suggested in the interview it often, I suppose, leaves much more uncovered than it reveals.
Tomorrow, morning I will chew on this as I go for my walk. I'll be thinking about confession, trust, privacy vs. transperancy, and a whole lot more I suspect...

Based on today's headlines...

this might be something to pay attention to...

therapy

Mexican Custapec

This is like your basic "get to work" coffee - only there is nothing basic about it. There is little that is nuanced, subtle or complicated about this dark roast. It is full and ready. It is the kind of coffee that if it catches you in the mall says, "What the heck are you doing here?"It's not busy but not frantic. It sits down in your mouth like a full meal deal. It's veteran chocolate taste with slightest paunch in the dark department. You can blend this coffee with almost any other coffee and count on it to provide that stable deep sweet taste. It won't hide - it won't run - except maybe for office. I mean it may have collected E.I. once or twice in the mid-eighties but these days it pays its own mortgage on the house at the end of Splendid Coffee Lane. It's all business - and its business is pleasure!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Just do it...

some thoughts from Gil's summer ramblings
"For a while I thought that maybe I was missing something. Maybe God did things for and said things to other people in more direct ways. Maybe there was some defect in my practice of the Christian faith that accounted for this gap, some lack of faith or fundamental misunderstanding of how the whole thing was supposed to work. But gradually it became obvious that we were all in the same boat, interpreting (for the most part) ambiguous events and circumstances in light of our faith that God was, in fact, active and present within them."
What is interesting about this is that the degree to which we seem to attribute circumstances to God's action is directly proportional to our need to both absolve our own (human) responsibility for the action and our need to favorably reinforce our belief in God. Pretty self serving - I guess. It may be that the distorted view of God that we and others have may stem from this flaw...

Hate to say I told you so…


I know when you read this post it will sound cryptic, vague and mildly prophetic. And so it was intended. You see gazing into the grounds at the bottom of my cup I could foretell that people who entertained the use of Edible Oil Products would no doubt risk many calamities including (but not exclusive to) trouble navigating washroom functions (note the live: “I (still) wipe my bottom with paper”). Well lo and behold – my dear friend is beginning to show signs of said calamities. Yes my friend Ryan, despite my frequent prompting surrendered his body to the abuse of E.O.P’s. And yes if you read here you will see evidence that the poor man has begun the malevolent descent into, as I said before, calamity. We should all, as Nacho Libre put it, “Pray for hees salbation and stuff!”

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

something I never thought about in this way before...

A comment in one of Ryan's recent posts makes a very convincing point.
"It’s hard to see how, in principle, the view that human beings are just a peculiar species that happened to evolve brains too sophisticated for their own good, could be used to argue against treating the world as nothing more than the means to satisfy whatever ends we deem desirable or necessary. Why not just exult in our good fortune in developing this capacity and go about the business of exploiting the world however we see fit? There’s nothing built into the worldview itself that could prevent this whereas I would argue that the Christian worldview does give us good moral reasons to resist unethical environmental behaviour."
Basically the idea that we should treat the environment in a certain way so as to protect it - for its own sake - is not a natural outcome of the idea of evolution. Why not just work toward getting all the best advantages for ourselves?

Monday, July 30, 2007

suffering: reprise

understanding suffering
why is there suffering - That's what we want to know right?
suffering is not just a few bad things happening to us - even if they pile up in a row.
suffering is a deep hole of pain or difficulty that seems to have no exit strategy. Really I have not suffered much at all in my life. And I don't even have to compare my life to anyone else to deduce that. Recently God has put a few people into my path who have or are suffering.
And I have been challenged to consider how I view suffering.
My starting point is with some of the thoughts that I put down in this article about sacrifice. From there let me expand a little...
I think suffering is a vehicle for beauty. We tend to consider suffering as horrible and hideous - unbearable. So why are people in the misery of Africa smiling? How can the person dying of cancer find the resources to encourage other people? Are they simply so much more ignorant of how good life could be that they find pleasure in the simplest of improvements over their former condition? In part perhaps. But I wonder if they are not living in an understanding of beauty in suffering. They see a way to transcend the horror of their lives and choose to redeem their plight with deep acts of kindness and compassion. I doubt they live with an overinflated idea of hope - I think they see life for what it is and understand that comfort is far less desirable than love.
When people suffer toward beauty they need not compromise on justice or truth. In fact, the power of courage to live redemptively inside our suffering may well be the catalyst to true justice - not just a self=vindication that we so often pursue.
And I am not suggesting that we deny the passions and gifts that God has placed in our lives. That we should, in effect, chase after suffering as a holier state of spiritual condition.
I think we all can recognize places in our lives where we have or are suffering even if we admit that we don't suffer like some do. Suffering is not optional. It may be within our power to prevent strokes, cancer, job loss, death, depression, poverty, or addiction. But in suffering there are always things that are out of our control - inevitabilities that can sucker punch our best intentions.
Learning to suffer toward beauty takes a supernatural determination. I am grateful for the places where I have gotten to see that modeled for me in the last few weeks and months.
Here's an update: just check Ryan's blog and discovered his excellent thoughts on the same topic...

wow this takes me back to the future almost

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Here's an Idea that might make a few of you cringe in

the recesses of your imagination...
Recently, I have been tackling some renovations to our upstairs bathroom. During the mudding and taping part of this project it occurred to me that I was soiling a number of sets of clothing best used for presenting myself in public. So I took them off...
...all of them!
See I told you - that your imaginations were going to cause you trouble here.
I thought to myself, "Shoot every time I am finished sanding I am covered in dust in every conceivable crevice of my body so then why deal with the encumbrance of clothing and save myself some money on laundry." I also thought, "This idea could likely be a successful TV show idea - not a necessarily good one but successful nonetheless."
The sick thing is Char snapped pictures....
(no I will not post them)

the next family rock band

look out american idol these guys are hot new rockers



gig bookings made through your truly

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Jesus was sinless right?

Sermon on Sunday made me think…
It’s interesting that we always talk about Jesus being the sinless atonement for our sins. I’m just wondering how we measure that statement. Sometimes it feels like we have to do a bunch of wiggling to make that idea true. Lets’ look at a couple ideas…
According to whose standards is/was Jesus sinless:
Measured against the religious laws of the day as up held by the Pharisees Jesus could not have been sinless. We often look at Jesus’ trail as evidence that the Pharisees did not have anything on Jesus. Truth is they had a lot on Jesus – otherwise Jesus would not have been a threat to them. Jesus broke the rules of cleanliness, working on the Sabbath. He contravened the prescriptions against association with women and other undesirables. He allow a harlot to perform an intrinsically provocative act. What the Pharisees did not have on Jesus was something to put him to death.
Now of course we easily dismiss the Pharisaic laws because of their own hypocrisy. But we should not dismiss them so easily. After all, their laws were the laws of the religious context that Jesus lived in. And let’s not forget that many of those same laws have been upheld over the years in the church. Working on Sunday, rules about association have al been a part of the church’s historical perspective. So why does Jesus get to break the rules and still be called sinless. None of the rest of us could get away with it. Is it because the fact that he was God that he gets to operate by his own set of laws or regulations? If that is true then how are we supposed know which laws are supposed to be followed?
But then there is that time at the temple. Did Jesus have a good reason for being angry? You bet! But the fact was that he was angry. And his anger affected other people.
He makes wine and drinks it also –
So how do we account for all that?
Jesus needs to be sinless in order for his death and resurrection to mean anything at all. But Jesus would not have and been considered sinless back in his day – shoot he wouldn’t get a clean grade in our more ‘enlightened’ age. So how does he do it?
I think that the deal is that Jesus is living a principled life. It’s not that he chose a new set of standards to live by. He made his actions match the principles that guided the intention of the laws. So in places where the laws matched his principles he followed them. Where they did not he chose other actions which seemingly broke the convention.
This makes me think that it is important to continually evaluate things we call sin to see if they match the principles that God has set up for human life…

Monday, July 9, 2007

iDyllic

Lots of people have been posting, ranting and rave about this new iPhone from Apple. So I collected a bunch of them and well here they are for your enjoyment:
iParody
here is a post about the iBible
here is a commercial in a similar vein
iComedy
an SNL bit
more iJobs
iCommercials
here
iRant
from a good friend who says:
“I confess that, aside from my philosophical objections to the ways in which we are conditioned by the technology we use, I still fail to understand what’s so special about these iPhones.” Read more here
iWonderings
here “Our social fabric is in danger of being ripped to shreds”
iTraffic Report
Michael Krahn gets some shameless iTraffic here and cites a few more iOpinions
iTalk Show
A little Craig Ferguson here
And here



Now back to work?

Thursday, July 5, 2007

more scandrette

To go with my comments over here about decision making here is what I read from Scandrette this morning:
“Are we apprentices of Jesus when we say we are, or when we begin to do the things he taught? Are we willing to take Jesus seriously as the kind of teacher he intended to be? Hearing the message of Jesus in a way that can be good news for us in the here and now begins with an appreciation for the fact that he spoke with authority. Very simply, Jesus expected to be obeyed. He did not present an esoteric theory of God or the afterlife merely to stimulate the intellect. He believed he held the words of eternal life and that people would ignore his teachings at their own peril.”

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Just Worship


Ok so before I go on please remember that:
I have been, am, and will be a ‘worship leader’ (shiver shiver)
I think music is hard core great stuff and important for our spiritual lives.
music is a gift.

I found this post on Think Christian the basic gist of both was: stop b$%^&ing about lousy ‘worship’ music. SUCK IT UP – And just worship!
Quote: “I think what we need to do is just worship.”
So that’s it eh? Just give yourself an intellectual spanking for being so critical and do some worship. Sorry that just does not work for me on almost every level. I understand that having a default attitude of criticism is wrong but…
I just think it is crucial to sing, write, perform, ask other people to sing songs that are theologically honest. On top of that – while I don’t think arrogant perfection and showmanship is an admirable quality in a ‘worship’ leader, we do need to recognize that leading people to sing something together requires certain skills. And on top of all that – the spiritual maturity to lead songs that most people will feel good about participating in is immense. Given the diversity of musical tastes in most congregations – I would suggest that this is nearly impossible even with most skilled leader.
I think the only answer is to make music a special feature of our gathering times and not so much of a staple in our ‘worship’ diet. The other place for group singing is where the group is more homogeneous in musical tastes and singing preferences.