Saturday, June 30, 2007

the black button

This video makes me think about how we use cognitive decision making in religious endeavors (I mean: making the mental decision the most important part of our faith).

The reality is that we are rarely faced with momentous decisions like the variety that this video suggests.
The 'snap' theory (the idea that people just one day snap and do terrible horrible things) is not supported at all in any field of study.
People make big - life changing - decisions all the time but they are rarely if ever made 'right-out-of-the-blue'. Whether it's deciding to get married, buy a car, change jobs, or lose weight - all these decisions are made with a truck load of background support. It's the same way with sin. We are never faced with these monumental temptations that overwhelm us into commiting these horrible things.
What is interesting is how we pressure (maybe this is especially in the past) people into deciding to follow Christ (accept the plan of salvation). If we realize that a momentous decision requires so much support in order to make. How can we actually think that a one time response at an alter call or other similar occasion is really meaningful in the grand scheme of things?
I think that changes how we approach these 'talks' or sermons. I think we need to remember to challenge people to consider the opportunity to make a decision but be careful not to make it so trite that we think an entire life can be magically reversed with one simple prayer or raising of a hand...

Monday, June 25, 2007


It just goes to show you how many variables factor into sports. On Saturday, our team played a solid game with a few mental lapses. The kids worked hard all year and to make to where they did. They really came together as a team. I can appreciate that someone who coaches elite players might find it frustrating to coach a house league team where the intention is to include everyone who wants to play regardless of skill level. It’s tough from both levels. The skilled players know they don’t have to put their best game on the field because the coaches are at least supposed to play them equally. The weaker players are usually also eager to get on the field and play. The trick is to help the players to identify a team identity that they can be motivated to play for and sacrifice for. It helps if you know a little about adolescent development and psychology as well. But as a coach it is really gratifying when you can see team members buy into the identity. It is also gratifying when you can see kids improve in their skill level.
I had three girls from Vauxhall that played their hearts out. They were by far the more skilled players on the team. Great team contribution. We won silver. We could have easily captured gold if we could have caught a break or two – or even a call or two from the ref. but hey no need for them to hang their heads. A real fun season. I might try a little more of this sometime…

here's Jared launching a goal kick.and then handing out the medals after the game...

The Pickle Lives...

Yesterday was our farewell Sunday. Sounds silly that way since we are staying in Coaldale. But the church was very generous in their warm words of gratitude - even though some of my biological functions were brought to light. It was pretty meaningful to hear the expressions of thanks. And to be honest - there is still a large part of me that wishes that things could have worked out differently and I could stay at the church doing what I've done these last few years. There would be alot of comfort in that. And even if the dynamics of my decision to resign seem a distant regret - I know that the direction that we are moving in reflects the responsibility God has given me (even more importantly OUR lives as a family).
I received a espresso machine as a thank-you gift. That means that I am building coffees again. So who'll be the first to come over for the signature Pickle drink -SEX-IN-A-CUP.

In the Press

Costa Rican La Minta Tarrazu
Every coffee exacts its surgery on the soul – the healer. Luckily the soul always is desperately in need of repair. This coffee touches the soul in the place that it walks – the everyday – the one foot in front of the other – everyday. It’s about as regular a coffee as should be consumed with touches of spiced chocolate – just enough to pull off the mundane day you walk into. It’s the coffee that reminds you that the comfort of the familiar is an oft forgotten bliss. You can gulp this coffee and it will only comply to your palate. Tread on it and you will still not be disappointed. Like a trusty staff in your hand on the mountain trail. Like the way you have to drag yourself out of bed each day with that touch of familiar dread and then collapse beside your lover each night – spent. It is a good life – and full of crap at the same time. You drink it as if you need to invite it in but then you realize that it has been there all along.

Wow God's got a lot to live down...

You know this might just be off putting for you. Maybe for some of you this poem might be an afront to you. Challenge your spiritual logarithms and you intellectual suppositions about who God is. And you feel compelled to respond, refute, recoil, revolt against this rant but...

It's not like this view of God is unique. There are parts of these pictures that are refected commonly by many people. There are parts of these ideas about God that I can even recognize as a part of how I think/thought about God. And to tell you the truth its more than a little embarrassing. I sorta have a feeling that until we accept that the world has a pretty messed up image of who God is - we'll just keep right on arguing with them that they are wrong. And how can they really be wrong. I mean don't we need to pretty much take responsibility for the picture of God that people see from those who say they know Him best?

the next 28 songs I am going to listen to...

Rosie's Lullaby- Norah Jones
This Old Guitar- Neil Young
This Heart's On Fire- Wolf Parade
Mexican Standoff- Elbow
Into the Mystic- Van Morrison
Jazz At the Bookstore- Ron Sexsmith
Hamburg Song- Keane
Waiting for the Sun- Chantal Kreviazuk
Strugglin'- K'naan
Take It on the Run- REO Speedwagon
Beneath the Clothes We Find the Man- Nacho
Alloway Grove- Paolo Nutini
Young Folks- Peter Bjorn and John
The Delicate Place- Spoon
Luscious Life- Patrick Watson
Starlight- Muse
Scar That Never Heals- Jeremy Fisher
We Will Become Silhouettes- The Shins
I Will Follow You Into The Dark- Death Cab For Cutie
Soul Singing- The Black Crows
Gather 'Round The Stone- Ben Harper
When the Night Feels My Song- Bedouin Soundclash
Mrs Robinson- Beatles
Intervention- Arcade Fire
Distinto, Diferente- Afro Cuban All-Stars
Brand New Colony- The Postal Service
Days- Train
X & Y- Coldplay

Friday, June 22, 2007

What a Ride

I didn’t know if I was going to post today.
Last night was the last regular youth meeting for the year – and for me like the last one I will lead as a vocational pastor. It wasn’t much really.
We got together at Wiens’ house a ½ mile north of town. These are people I respect for their compassion, and servant hearts.
We played bomb the burning – cool little game where teams build fires and try to put the other teams fire out using water balloons. Donovan got injured. Donovan always gets injured. If anyone is gonna get injured Donovan is going to be the one. Donovan got hit with shrapnel from the fire when it got bombed. He’s okay. Sometimes the injuries seem bigger at the time.
We roasted marshmallows. And then we booked it out to the dugout to watch the boys try to water ski behind the quad using their downhill snow skis. – YES!
We played soccer in the dusk which quickly turned into a tackle – tuna-fish-human-blanket wrestling match. I did a somersault over Brad Irwin’s back – NOT ‘cause I wanted to…
Then we packed up.
Garry my long time friend (and by the way the only volunteer staff who has been with me from day one here at this church) called the remaining kids together to recognize that this was my last youth. I was bawling just as I am now writing this. The kids were sniffling – even the guys I think. Garry prayed and well I cried.
I came home and sat on the porch for a long time.
Staying in this community will mean that I will be able to stay connected to these kids hopefully. Things will change. My heart and I think even my soul has dwelled in the shoes of youth minister. And I know philosophically that I will still be a youth minister (and who knows maybe someday again I will get paid to do it for a church) but this place, this time, these kids, this community will shift for me – and if you’ll excuse me for saying so for them as well. It’s not that I am so arrogant as to believe that I am some pivotal ingredient in the life of the community/church. Its that I know that these kids will have to deal with the instability of a new guy/girl coming in to do the work I did. Some of them will not connect some will connect better but the change and uncertainty might leave some kids falling through the cracks.
I have loved what I do! I know I will miss it. I am looking forward to what lies ahead.
Mike Yaconelli (died some years ago) and the rest of the crew over at YS have been like surrogate brothers to me. So when I came across this link to a compilation of some of Mike’s thoughts on Mark O.’s blog – I found that it sorta sums up what I have been trying to live like these last 15+ years in vocational youth ministry.

As Mike says so well, “What a Ride!”

Thursday, June 21, 2007

In the Press...

French Press that is.
Ethiopian Harrar Longberry - find it here in a medium light roast.
This is about as delicate a coffee as I have tasted. Very complex with fruity overtones. And dancing around the edges like the ever ellusive gazelle, native to the region in which it is grown, are the teasings of spice. This is the perfect afternoon coffee. All by itself. In order to appreciate this coffee you have to take the time to adventure through your palate as you explore its intoxicating allure.
The aptly nicknamed, "Wine-in-a-bottle" aroma springs to your nose. Its the stuff to build a midlife crisis around...

In the Press...

is becoming a regular feature on this blog site where I will sample and review coffee. Feel free to send small batches (minimum 1/2 cup whole bean) of coffee for me to sample and review.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

what are you listening to...?

I have an insatiable appetite for new music...
lately nothing seems to be catching my interest
And I have been scouring the same old haunts that usually pay off - and even some new ones.

So here's an invitation to influence my (much scoffed at) library.
Are you listening to anything good?

Monday, June 18, 2007

And I'm married too...

Harry Potter as an example of the weapon of choice in the new world order

I talked to one of the managers of our local Chapters outlet she commented on the strict policy governing the release of the new Harry Potter book. She said that no one was allowed to open the boxes they were packed in until a certain time before their release. She said there were security guards at the unloading of the shipment to each store. This all to ensure that a copy of the book could not be released/pirated early.
Then on Q, I heard about how a copy of Michael Moore’s latest film Sicko:

…has been circulating around on the web on file sharing and YouTube. What’s funny about this is that Moore is on record for stating that he is opposed to the copyright rules that govern this type of material. The company that distributes his yet to be released documentary is claiming that it will take a very aggressive approach in rectifying the problem.
Then my buddy Evie posts a cool little take on how ignorants get to set the budgetary agenda of an entire province. He’s got a point too.
All boils down to this. The power of this world belongs (or will soon belong) to the one who can control information. Our access to it. Our possession of it. And ultimately our use of it – which will become secondary. Look out for the new democracy of the web that will insist that every one deserves to know. Look out for the info twisters of this new world who wish to manipulate the information in much the same way those old apothecaries did in the early 1900’s. Look out for the Information Protectors who hoard and with-hold information for their own purposes.

So now what do you know?

Tear Jerkers

I agree with Marko on these clips
Few things make me emotionally enagaged but well you watch and see

follow the links and watch the next in the series as well...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

starting line or new eyes

The day before yesterday I read a devotional thingy (sorta like a daily bread for kids) to my boys before heading off to school. It was based on John 3:1-7, 16. The point of this reading stressed that what this passage was emphasizing was a cognitive decision to accept Christ in the act we have come to know as being born again. It suggested that no one would receive eternal life if they weren’t born again by accepting Jesus as their saviour. I squirmed through it cause something about they way they presented it made me uncomfortable. So I went back to the passage to look for clues as to why I was feeling the way I was. I think we have probably misinterpreted the point of chapter 3 in John.
Read it here or here.
Nicodemus approaches Jesus with an affirmation of who He is – likely an attempt to sorta butter him up to answer the burning question that was on his mind. But we never get a good clue if Nic got to ask Jesus the real question on his mind because Jesus sorta cuts him off.
You see what Nic has just done in v.1, 2 is describe how he has been convinced that Jesus is God. That’s revelation.
And Jesus wants to set him straight it seems – not about who he is but about how Nic looks at reality. Nic figures Jesus is legit because he does all these fantastic signs and wonders but Jesus blindsides him with a paradigm shift. What Jesus challenges Nic on is not on whether he has come to the right conclusion but on what Nic has actually seen (v.3, 8, and especially 12). When Jesus suggests that people must be born again, he seems to actually be talking about gaining a transformed spiritual perspective on reality – NOT – a new decision about what is what. And he says if you want to know how it happens exactly – well you can’t it’s a mystery – a hidden thing just like natural conception happens in a hidden mysterious way.
We have taken this passage to mean that just like being born naturally is the start of a human life so deciding to follow Jesus is the start of eternal life/salvation. I’m not sure we are right in interpreting this passage that way.
It often feels like we superimpose our ideas of in/out onto so much of what Jesus said. Now read me carefully here. I think making life altering decisions is a natural human tendency. But following through on those decisions is what is life altering. Think of Christopher Columbus as an example of this…
It is pretty obvious that he made a cognitive decision. This decision was based on a belief of how to reach the Indies which was based on his faith that the world was round (not a very commonly held belief at the time). Yet all of this would have been for naught unless he had acted on his faith and put his cognitive decision into action. It was the working out of his faith that led him to discover the Americas. His decision was the starting point but actually almost insignificant if he had not acted on it.
In many evangelical circles so much emphasis has been put on the cognitive decision to follow Christ that we have turned it into the standard by which we judge whether some has or does have salvation.
We use passages like the one here in John 3 as proof that we should go this way.
What Jesus seems to be suggesting here is a lot different than trying to define the starting point of salvation. I think he is trying to help Nic (and by extension all of us) to understand that we need a new perspective on reality in order to understand God. If I can summarize Jesus is saying:
“Look for God with new spiritual eyes. Ones that don’t look for proof in the obvious places that humans tend to gravitate to. Instead realize that this spiritual reality is something that is accomplished by the Spirit and it transforms you into a whole new way of living. You might think my credentials are in the miracle – but really my cred comes from the sacrifice which you will witness (v.16)”
Personally, I don’t think this really changes the reality of humans making decisions about who they are going to follow but really for me it changes what I have understood is the starting point of faith – namely following. So there you go…

Sunday, June 10, 2007

an Old Friend has...

...started to blog again.
check him out here
there's a treat for you if you go there right now...

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Consulting Part 2A

There is no shortage of griping about how Christianity has wallowed around in the unscrupulous practices of secular business models and marketing strategies.


I was so excited to take my wife to the National Youth Workers Convention for the first time this past fall. We had a great time but… upon entering the main hall to the convention center she could not stop talking about how abhorrent she found the shameless marketing going on. It really ruined a large part of the experience for her.

So today I was thinking a bit more about all this stuff. It seems to me we have developed a symbiotic relationship btwn. marketing and ministry. Think about the Purpose Driven Life for a bit. How is it that that book could saturate the planet (virtually)? Of course many would say that it was a resource directed by God. I am not interested in disputing the effectiveness of the material. I am however drawing the conclusion that this type of saturation simply would not have been possible without the complex marketing strategies available within the Christian publishing enterprises. Of course you could say that that simple dynamic is also a work of God. Let also not forget that it is also a work for profit. And that profit is not small no matter how altruistic the end result of those profits are.

Long and short of it – The purpose driven life does not become the ‘success’ that it is unless it can take advantage of some pretty powerful marketing schemes. Of course, for a skeptic like me it is not hard to follow that statement with questions about the authenticity of the spiritual power of this resource.

And here is the kicker the marketing system is built bigger and more complex with each successful run of a ‘product’. So that it is not long before these systematized marketing schemes can ‘own’ the Christian community. And for youth workers who are already under considerable performance anxiety the temptation to gobble up the latest proven material is irresistible.

You know for the longest time the buzz word was small groups (still is in places). I remember showing up at a ministerial and hearing people talk about their small group ministry and how awesome it was. I thought shoot I must be missing something. But then I realized my youth group was a small group all on its own. And do you know what so was all these other guys too (well most of them). Now I’m not saying small groups are bad. In fact I strongly advocate them but their fad status stripped some of the legitimacy of the strategy for me and proved to me that hopping on the latest ‘strategy’ train is over rated.

That’s why I think we need to walk away from these mass marketed strategies and ‘contextualize’ our ministry models to fit the culture, needs and realities we live in.

Thanks to YSMARKO for posting these pics

Monday, June 4, 2007

Let me ask you a question...

Can you recognize truth wherever you find it?
Is it hard for you to see truth because you've forgotten the source of truth?
Is this truth?

Does this video clip speak truth?
The idea that we should take the focus off of ourselves and focus on the needs of others is a solid Biblical teaching. You can find that taught in many places through out the Scriptures but...
...this video is made by a Buddhist.
What do you think about it now?
Is it still truth in your mind?
What does this works authorship do to your analysis of the content? Do you tend to reject it? Or criticize it? Are you indifferent? Could you careless about what kind of person created this piece?
Should you care?
There would be those who would suggest that this video is actually Satan disguising himself as a n 'angel of light' in order to suck unwitting people into Buddhism. Could this actually be so? And if it is must we not then also discount the message of the video as false? And if we do that - how does that affect our understanding of Scripture's teaching?
There would also be those who might use this precise peice of work to prove that Buddhism is not unlike Christianity and that in fact every religion is essentially the same in purpose. Could this actually be so? Why is it possible to erase clear and important distinctives between two faith perspectives in a single stroke?
And of our reaction to this?
Well for me - my reaction goes like this.
First I was drawn to confession - "He who does not love is brother does not love God"
Second I was reminded of the faces of inner city Calgary that I visited several weeks ago with our senior high group. I was moved to prayer and reminded of my commitment to serve them.
Third there was a tiny seed of embarrassment/jealousy that a Christian organization or author had but this same video together. I wish it would have been us. I'm not sure if this embarrassment is the right way to feel but...

ht: reflections

A Parable about Misunderstandings

A friend of mine gave me permission to reprint this story. The story illustrates well how critical it is for us to be fearless in our pursuit of truth. It also reminds us not to carelessly react when alarming appearances present themselves.

Back in the early fifties life in North Kildonan was pretty much laid back. In summer us kids hoed the family garden, skinned our knees on dusty gravel roads while biking, and watched the big guys play baseball at the KSA (Kildonan Sports Association) ball field. Oh yes, there was also a two hundred-some odd acre wood lot that had a kind of Narnian appeal to us kids. The Klassens grew watermelon in clearings within the woods and woe any one that would dare steal even one melon.
Not much changed in winter, oh sure, we learned how to hang on car bumpers and slide on our moccasins to the corner store, unless some evil intentioned neighbor threw out the ashes the night before. Ouch! and a pair of wrecked moccasins. After school and on weekends we spent our time at KSA’s outdoor rink. Life was simple.
North Kildonan was a north east suburb of Winnipeg. In the forties and fifties it was virtually a Mennonite reservation. Groceries were bought at Nick Dick’s grocery, your dad worked at either DeFehr Furniture ( Palliser ) or Klassen Iron Works. We didn’t need gas because the street car rail head was a short mile away. And there were two large Mennonite congregations, socially and religiously dividing us all very nicely.
It was hard to get into trouble in this kind of controlled environment, after all Grandma usually lived just down the road, Aunty lived on the next block, and every house had at least one window were the drapes were split just enough that inquisitive eyes could see your every move. Yet somehow kids were blamed for a lot of mischief. Mostly innocent stuff, knock-out-ginger, peering up through gaps in the wooden sidewalks as unsuspecting females would travel the walks spanning the little gullies here and there, and of course the older fellows never failed to move at least one outhouse every Halloween. This last bit of mischief was much talked about the week following the celebration of fall’s arrival. In great detail the victim’s late evening visit to the toilet was told, retold, embellished, and retold again.
It was one cold crisp winter morning that one of the neighborhood lads found his heroic efforts seemingly reduced to naughty mischief, and even infamy. Our young friend was anxious to be first at the rink that Saturday morning, not hard for him; since his home was just a block from KSA’s rink. Smoke was already drifting up from the club house chimney; at least he would be able to put on his skates in the warm shack which served as the club house. It was the fellows at Klassen’s Iron Works; located just across the street that would get the wood stove going in the mornings. It was a good arrangement, much appreciated by the North Kildonan youngsters. Yes, he would be the first to lace up his skates that morning but just before entering the shack he glanced up the street one more time, it was that momentary pause that changed the day; and perhaps much more, for the youngster.
Rushing in the rink’s direction was ‘aunt’ Agatha Klassen. Every youth in North Kildonan adored Aunt Agatha, a soft spoken lady that never forgot your birthday. Every Sunday School student would receive a birthday card from this gentle saintly spinster. The skates were quickly dropped and our youth ran to meet Aunt Agatha who was obviously in great distress. As the boy neared aunt Agatha he heard her crying out, "fire!, fire!" There down the street a few houses past his own, at his Grandma’s home, he saw to his horror large black billowing smoke. Aunt Agatha quickly instructed the lad to rush over to Klassen’s Iron Works and report the fire, she was in a hurry to catch Saturday morning’s downtown streetcar.
It was the right thing to do, report a fire to either DeFehr Furniture or Klassen’s Iron Works, these businesses provided the volunteer firemen. Frantically the lad ran to Klassen’s where he called in the fire alarm, employees quickly called for the fire truck and prepared to roll out the fire hose. Help was on the way, the process had begun. Catching his breath the young fellow raced back to the rink picked up his skates and rushed off for home where he dropped off his skates and continued on to Grandma’s place imagining the worst. Only three houses over, it didn’t take long to get to Grandma’s; smoke ,now more grey, was still rising from the property but there was a sinister silence about the place. Slowly suspicion compounded his fears. Perhaps, a false alarm?
Sure enough, hurriedly rounding the back of Grandma’s house the lad was the first to discover the enormity of his mistake. Cheerily, his two uncles, beside their huge fire heated caldron greeted him and invited him to help them make soap for Grandma. Visibly shaken and already hearing the fire truck coming down the street the young lad turned and fled for home passing the volunteer fire men unrolling the last of the quarter mile of hose.
Well by now you probably suspect that I know too much about this incident to be an innocent observer, I spent that entire day hidden in my room. Only in the evening did I dare talk to mom and dad about the mysterious fire alarm, and that, only because I knew the next morning I would be the person of considerable interest at church. The Klassens were close family friends but not ones to readily give up a good story. I was mortified at my colossal blunder. Really it was our blunder; Aunt Agatha Klassen and I had arrived at conclusions without verifying the facts. We certainly were anxious to do the right thing but we skipped some important steps in trying to achieve the desired goal.