Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Christmas message

Thank-you to all the followers of the Mennonite x youth pastor. This brings to a close my career as a x youth pastor.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Warning: Gift Choices

This reminds me of the time I gave Char a barbque and a set of lawn chairs for her birthday. She does not let me forget it...

Try this...

...eat for a dollar a day.
check out the rules here

check out a couple of teachers that did it here

Friday, December 12, 2008

Is it possible…

…to drag yourself out of bed this morning when you know what lies ahead? The wounds that regularly train track across your hands sting like they did those first few days on the line. There is no way to know just how many wiring harnesses you have strung together over the years but, today, you know that there won't be many more. How do you wake up to pink slip?

You were never under illusions that the work you did or the skills it took to do your job was more than means to a pay check. You weren't a rocket scientist, a social engineer, a medical researcher. You were number 14 in the line building wiring harnesses for the inner workings of a Ford Fiesta, then a Honda Civic, then a Buick LeSabre, and so on. The harnesses for the Cadillac's were stupid. Number 14. Tim was 13 and Frieda was 15. Last week you sold Tim one of the last of your litter of chocolate Labs and you gave him a deal. You play hockey with Frieda's husband every Tuesday night in the beer league team sponsored by the company. "It's a living" you tell your buddies and they nod.

And now it's not. No severance. No Christmas bonus.

You look down at your hands. Your fingers only know how to make money one way. They look humiliated and weak holding a pen – filling out the EI forms. Days at the plant tick away into mindless oblivion. Deft hands twisting, pulling, placing, and sending away. Rhythm and constant rhythm. Like a well worn sedative against the ghosts you've shut out. And now they've cut you off. The large screen TV mocks you with the latest news. You shrink into the pillowy discomfort of your new Lazyboy – the one she got you last month with your favourite hockey Jersey. You curse your hands.

You plot a scheme to rip out each and every CA-345TF circuit board in every vehicle on the block. You're pretty sure you know where to look. It would only really affect the intermittent windshield wiper systems…

You've spent your whole life building a product that could largely go unnoticed. But everyone needs a car. Right? Needs a car? Or three? Your work sits inside rusting, pollution spewing… Come on! What were you thinking? Can you ever get to the point of thinking that maybe you should lose your job? Maybe it's better that you are out of work? After 26 years? After pouring your life into your hands? Can you just chop them off like that?

Who is going to bail out the soul of western society that has suckled at the breast of capitalistic 'endeavour'? When wants are fed like needs to the greed drunk masses, who will be brave enough to shout over the loud speakers – "DON'T DRINK THE KOOL-AID!"?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Safe or Brave?

"[Governor General Michaelle Jean was not just being asked a constitutional question. In the nation's eyes, she was also being asked a moral question: is it democratic to silence the House of Commons for one-sided political power?

I'm not going to refer to Charles I, as others have. I'm directing the question to Jean: is it moral?

In the worst economic crisis since 1929, as Harper himself said, is it moral for multinationals to lay off hundreds of thousands of humans worldwide?

Was it moral for GM, Chrysler and Ford to willfully disregard "peak oil," a
concept known for decades and continue to churn out gas-guzzlers? Was it moral for unions to fail to prod automakers to look to the future as Japanese carmakers had wisely done?

Is it moral for a prime minister to egg on Canadians to hate each other?

All these things were easy to do. Canadians don't riot. In this country, a
political autobiography would be called The Hope for Audacity.

Auto executives will continue to live well. So will union leaders. Harper
will be fine." - Heather Mallick

See the rest of the editorial here

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Friday, December 5, 2008

Youth-worker Re-Boot Camp

There should be a requisite training component to all youth workers who make it past the 3 year mark in ministry. The organization which pays their salary should set aside the space of 4 months for what I'm gonna call a Re-Boot Camp. I outline the curriculum below:

The youth worker should

  1. Enrol in a first year level course in Sociology or Philosophy taught by the most ardently atheist professor on the campus of the local University.
  2. Secure employment at a minimum of two part time jobs: One should be in the service sector (retail, food service, etc) and the other should be in one of the 'labour' jobs (construction, factory, etc)
  3. Attend the year end student social, party (U of L called it the 'ender bender')
  4. Make arrangements to live in housing along with other post high schoolers with whom there should be no relational connection. This could be tricky if the youth worker is married so even spending a few weekends could be enough.
  5. All the money made at the part time jobs should be spent entirely on 'entertainment' – movies, music, sporting events, parties, eating at restaurants, etc.
  6. The youth worker should be outfitted with the latest technological devices.

This is a method in sociology referred to as participant observation. I think this approach could provide two important learning experiences for the youth worker interested in 'staying in the business'.

  1. Assuming that the youth worker has a spent copious time with adolescents in the high school context (i.e. spent time with kids), this experience could give the youth worker an valuable perspective on the 'world' that youth will enter upon exiting the 'protection' of high school. This insight should naturally lead to adjustments in what the youth pastor could provide in terms of preparatory teaching for youth.
  2. This experience could also serve as a great way to create strategies to address the chronic 'drop out' rates that occurs post high school.

If other youth workers are like I was, the context of middle school and high school adolescence can become all encompassing to the point where youth workers lose sight of the destination that youth ministry is working toward. Of course youth ministry is not about getting kids to become healthy adults. Youth ministry should be about helping youth be healthy adolescents. However, losing the destination of where our kids will end means that the scope of ministry becomes limited and ultimately short sighted. Spending some time in the 'world to come' would give youth workers the ability to keep the destination in view as they sort out youth ministry priorities. Unless youth workers spend some actual time in this zone the characteristics of this culture will be lost in rhetoric that seems to stereotype the world that post high schoolers live in. This experience would, I believe, give youth workers a view into the positive and negative aspects of a culture is critical individual formation.

Yesterday in my last class of the semester, I overheard two girls talking about school.

"This is my last class," said one.

"For the semester?" asked the other.

"No – forever!"

"Sweet"

"Not really – they say I have to become an adult now," she joked.

"Don't do it!"

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Oh Canada?!

Indulge me for a moment to comment of the political shenanigans transpiring in our nation's capital. I am not, as it is likely no surprise, particularly worried or bothered by the prospect of a coalition government. But that has less to do with how my ideological bent informs my political desires than it does with the dilemma presented by this form of government. I am also mystified by how media buffoonery has allowed the political rhetoric to once again reflect the contrived notion of partisanship.

That a coalition might be supported/enabled by the Bloc should not concern us in the ways it has in public discourse thus far. The Bloc is a separatist party whose intention is to see Quebec achieve the status of nation. If we are to follow the information given to us by Ipsos Reid and other polling organizations we would do well to note that voters who have sent Bloc members to Ottawa have done so for a myriad of reasons. It is true that Harper had 28% voter share in Quebec before the French debate and after the debate only 18%. The subsequent shift to the Bloc was due to Harpers position on arts funding, etc. Regardless of why they switched it is clear that the spectre of separatist rhetoric was not a direct cause of the shift but the failure of Harpers policies to convince voters to support him. Voters for the Bloc will identify most strongly with many of the more conservative values that the PC's espouse. The point I am trying to make here is that politics makes strange bedfellows. Let's remember that the PC's as it stands right now cannot pass a single piece of legislation without the complicit 'support' of one of the other parties.

Until now this complicity was not seen as a negative light on the PC's regardless if they needed the NDP's or the Bloc. PC's were not seen as compromising their values by being enabled by separatists or socialists. Rex Murphy is right to lay the blame for this crisis at the feet of Stephen Harper's feet for trying to lop off the fundraising power of his rival parties.

What everyone seems to be missing is the clear opportunity that is presented to address the presence of the Bloc as a political force. How can the Bloc truly consider itself a separatist party when it allows itself to become a central cog in the machinery of Canadian governmental system? Why isn't the media jumping all over the Bloc for it flavour of the week political pandering? I think have a feeling that many Quebecers are embarrassed by the childish isolationism and the fickle ideology of a party who would seek to govern them as a future nation. I have a feeling that there are those who are feeling much the way Albertans felt when the separatist rhetoric of the Canadian Alliance clowned its way through the parliamentary system. Alas it seems everyone is too nervous to speak to the blatant inconsistencies that would have a separatist party become part of the government but isn't that sorta what we have already? I mean regionalism is alive and well. We should not be deluded to think that Canadian provinces are or could be viable on their own.

In the end it seems to me that the things we are not talking about is often more interesting than what we are talking about…

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Black Friday y’all!

Today on The Current

Ah, the sounds of the holidays ... a cacophony of cascading voices, all urging you to spend. And that's just the beginning of the commercial onslaught. Which leaves me with just one question. Aren't we supposed to be in the middle of some kind of ever-expanding, global economic meltdown?

Now a financial apocalypse is as good a reason as any for a little retail therapy. But still, it all seems a little odd to be asking people to spend their way through austerity. And yet, it seems to be working because retail sales in Canada are holding strong, even as consumer confidence plummets.

Benjamin Barber has a few thoughts about why that might be and why the perils of shopping and consumption are so difficult to avoid. He's a political theorist who's best known for his book, Jihad vs. McWorld. His latest book is Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults and Swallow Citizens Whole and he was in New York City.

Here are a few quotes from the interview…

"…if socialist politics dominates every sector of society we call that totalitarianism. Nothing wrong with religion. Religion is part of our life. But when religion dominates every sector of society – the cultural sector, the leisure sector, the economic sector, we call it theocracy. But when commerce dominates every part of society we call that liberty."

"I have news for all those folks who are buying environmentally good products. If you really care about the environment just buy less."

It is surprising to me that the man still claims to endorse capitalism. Even so it sounds like a he might just make a good Mennonite…

listen to the whole thing here

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Joseph Dwyer

The Current presented one of the most exceptional pieces of documentary I have read, watched or listened to in a while. The piece tracks the demise of a soldier who became an icon of the all the hope that the war in Iraq had promised to deliver through this picture taken by an embedded journalist.

The piece is titled Out of Frame and is available as here

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Theory of the Leisure Class

A dude named Thorstein Veblen wrote a book called The Theory of the Leisure Class. Veblen has intrigued me ever since I was introduced to his theories last spring in the Anthropology of Popular Culture class in which I was a student. Veblen contends that the markers between classes are actually their engagement with leisure. Here is what he has to say:

"The…gentleman of leisure, then, not only consumes of the staff of life beyond the minimum required for subsistence and physical efficiency, but his consumption also undergoes a specialization as regards the quality of the goods consumed."

"Since the consumption of these more excellent goods is an evidence of wealth, it becomes honorific; and conversely, the failure to consume in due quantity and quality becomes a mark of inferiority and demerit."

And…

"Closely related to the requirement that the gentleman must consume freely and of the right kind of goods, there is the requirement that he must know how to consume them in a seemly manner."

"Conspicuous consumption of the valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure. As wealth accumulates on his hands, his own unaided effort will not avail to sufficiently put his opulence in evidence by this method. The aid of friends and competitors is there fore brought in by resorting to the giving of valuable presents and expensive feasts and entertainments."

Veblen's ideas make even more sense today than they did back in 1899. He certainly had heard of RVs, Hybrid cross-overs, time shares and 52 TV's but he seems to have captured an aspect of how society works that is hauntingly evident today. To boil it down Veblen basically says that the marks of social difference in class (rich and poor) is their ability to consume stuff conspicuously. The more and better quality goods that a person or group consumes reveals their status in comparison to others in society. But it is not just the ability to consume these goods that makes him/her distinct. Veblen suggests that it is how that consumption is made public or apparent that achieves the goal of setting apart an individual as a higher class person. This public or conspicuous consumption has interesting effects. It forces the consumer to change the way in which he/she consumes these better quality goods (i.e. there is a certain way that fine wine is to be tasted and ultimately drunk). This distinctive behaviour further empowers the higher class person to be honoured even more as other people try to emulate the way they consume certain goods. Here Veblen's theory really makes an interesting comment on our consumeristic society:

Have you ever gone on a vacation or trip and not bothered to tell anyone about it? Have you ever stopped to evaluate why you purchased a newer vehicle when the old one was still functioning to transport you from one place to the other? Is it because of appearance? Or what about renovations to your house? Or that new big screen TV? Our ability to engage with excess is a huge factor in determining our social status but it is not just what we can all afford that make the difference. It is out ability to use that consumption to negotiate a higher status in the social context within which we operate. If we can't talk about it – why bother.

A Trip to Cuba is a higher rank than holidays in the Rockies which is higher than 3 nights at a hotel with a waterslide. Why? Because when we talk about our holiday the exotic nature of Cuba garners higher currency than the hotel in terms of how it is evaluated in comparison to how other people spend their holidays. Our ability to engage in leisure is the currency. Money itself is devalued as a social indicator and leisure becomes the social capital. Spend some time listening to teenagers and you will see that they talk like this already. Money is devalued as the focus of work or career. The ability to engage leisure is the real deal.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Has anyone heard of this new chic-Fiest?

I love my Itunes (notice how possessive I am)! It's the only way I purchase music. The interface has some pretty good features. It allows me to play my library of song in "Party Shuffle" mode which randomizes the songs in my library and plays them back with typical overlap that radio stations usually do in their back to back style. I like other features and am frustrated with others.

One frustration is how my choice of songs is limited to those which have been given permission to be sold by the artist/record company. I have, as those who know me well, an eclectic taste in music. This diversity in taste often leaves me frustrated when I am not able to pay for the music that I really want to listen to. And claiming that my tastes are eclectic is not intended to be an arrogant position in anyway. There are many who could claim a far more eclectic musical palate than mine. I do not aspire to be more eclectic – or less for that matter. However, there are many who would readily agree that for as much as my taste might be eclectic in some way, it is just plain poor taste. To those of you who feel that way, let me remind you that I have rarely if ever criticized your narrower scope in musical selection as a negative quality. And I can hear the voices lining up who would seek to tether me to a fondness of 80's music, for instance. This is nothing more than a thinly disguised attempt to justify their own narrow musical selections with the suggestion that I have in essence narrowed my own and falsely labelled myself as open. This is petty and frankly unsettling since it reflects the prevailing cultural tendency toward musical homogeneity – a puzzling site of power indeed. But this one portal or access point (Itunes) that I use to engage with recorded music serves me well most of the time but rather poorly when the borderlands of my musical palate find penchant to be explored. So it is that I have been limited-controlled if you will. But clearly it is my choice to use this interface. So some would say I am limited by limiting myself. Is this really the case?

In order to understand this better we are drawn inevitably to my selection of Itunes as the vehicle to access the music I want to listen to and find important. There are indeed a plethora of other options that could allow me access to music – some could conceivably allow me more access to those pieces of music that Itunes does not allow. I could purchase CD's, attend concerts, listen to certain radio stations (on Satellite radio let's say). Each of these options, as I hope is obvious; themselves exercise a limiting or controlling effect on my access to music. I could also choose to download my music through 'free' file sharing sites which arguably might not be restricted to the limitations of the corporate agenda imposed by Apple. Not only is this option a contravention of the social and legal parameters that exist in our society but this option clearly makes my musical choice limited to the condition that someone else out there must have been willing to share the very same piece of music I want to listen to. Again this reinforces that problematic notion of homogeneity in music selection. In essence then the choice of Itunes must be seen as presenting a complexity of problematic aspects that, while not being similar, can be just as problematic.

Now we return to investigate the premise presented above: some would say I am limited by limiting myself. We can observe then that when it comes to accessing music in general and specifically the music I want to listen to and especially not just the music they want me to listen to, there is no other choice than to be limited and limiting. In other words, anyway you look at it I am controlled into controlling myself with the controlling apparatus with which I access music. I can to a measure control which control I will allow to control me but in the end I am still controlled. But this is not nearly as neat and tidy as it seems when I write it as it is above. There are many forces which confound this apparatus, none of which I suspect most of you are interested in wading through if in fact you have made it this far. Save to say that this apparatus (Itunes) is itself under some sort of control under which I would also then inevitably fall.

A few interesting questions can then arise out of these proposals. Am I listening to the music I really want to hear? Can I really know if music exists that I want to hear but cannot listen to? Can artists actually exist that are not somehow tainted by the homogenizing reality of our present (musical) culture? What kind of music is being overlooked, forgotten, or suppressed? And the most important one of all: With the drop in oil commodities will the per song cost of $0.99 be reduced?

Play along?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Astro

It's been running rough! To be honest I can't tell you what is wrong with it. It shakes and shivers when I brake. I can smell gasoline every time I step out of the vehicle. There are small but growing spots appearing on the concrete under where my van rests over night. It's time to take it in. Not too long from now I will need to jam my family into it and head up north to Red Deer to visit my in-laws. Now I'm not clueless about vehicles but you could hardly translate my knowledge into any sort of real advantage when it comes to repair. There's too much that can go wrong and I certainly do not want to make my situation worse.

So I gotta take my beater into the garage – it has to be done. Now I have worked really hard to develop a relationship with a garage that I feel that I can trust. But I can't help thinking that I am sorta getting screwed – every time I leave. And the bills are never small. I should say that I know enough that if my mechanic were to suggest that my bumper needed replacing I could tell he was shafting me. But even if it is not something as obvious as that I have to admit that I am pretty suspicious every time I get the bill. That's partially due to my ignorance – but it's mostly due to my position – especially that of a customer. By bringing my vehicle in I am already giving over authority to my mechanic to tell me what is wrong. Sure I can tell him what the symptoms are but the basic reason I am bringing my van in is because I am unable (whether due to time or expertise or ability) to fix the vehicle myself. So he holds the conch. "You need a new gympson saddle on your left value deliberator!" he says. "Alright," I say, caring less at this point about whether I can figure out what his terms mean than what it is going to cost me. You know what is weird – the more the bill is the more I wonder about my mechanic integrity. And he's the good mechanic – don't even get me started on Canadian Tire! One time I even had a tow truck drag my van in - really reaching for the pity response. Stupid thing was that was the highest bill I ever paid on the van and you know what it never has run the same since. I'm the customer.

Then something totally weird happened to me. This guy flagged me down on the highway between Lethbridge and Coaldale. He came up to me – total stranger – and said he had been following me since the lights. He said he had noticed my van shaking as I pulled up to the light and said he could tell the engine was running rough. He asked me if I was looking for some help. I jumped out of the van not sure what to make of this guy but his diagnosis seemed trustworthy (not because it was any different than that of my mechanic but precisely because it came unsolicited). After some conversation and some rooting around under the hood he asked me if he could adjust the carburetor on the van. Then he said, "Listen here's my number – call me and let me know if that gas smell is still showing. And if you want we can talk about some time when I could come over and we could look at the vehicle in depth." While I was trying to wipe off the grease stain on his business card so I could put it in my wallet, he disappeared back into his truck. When I got home – the smell was still there but the van was running more smoothly – it did not want to stall mid-idle. I think I might give this guy a call…

Wouldn't it be nice if this is how the story goes? See what I mean.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The self defeating nature…

Of right-wing politics' espousal of capitalism.

I think that John D'Emilio draws some fascinating conclusions about the way that the project of Capitalism is one that contradicts the strength of the classically defined family. Read his article here. Essentially he points out that with the advent of Capitalisms 'free labour' market, the family needed to shift its identity. Formerly when the family was the locus of production and was essentially self sustaining sexual identity (as a way to define yourself) did not exist. Sex was essential to procreation to produce labourers that sustained the family fortune. When individuals sought employment outside the home and no longer required the home to be the main source of production (since they could essentially purchase the products they needed). Sex, then, gradually came to be experienced as more dominantly an emotional expression and experience. As such D'Emilio contends that people were now free to form a sexual identity which was not available to them previously. His contention is that homosexuality became an identity at that point – not just an act. He points to several crucial historical events that he feels have shaped the growth of homosexuality in the last hundred years. I'm not nearly as interested in D'Emilio's claims to the establishment of the homosexual identity – even though I would find them mostly amenable. What I am really interested with is how he frames the oppositional nature that the essence of the family is to capitalist ideology.

"Finally, I have suggested that the relationship between capitalism and the family is fundamentally contradictory. On the one hand, capitalism weakens the material foundation of family life, making it possible for individuals to live outside the family, and for a lesbian and gay male identity to develop. On the other hand, it needs to push men and women into families, at least long enough to reproduce the next generation of workers. The elevation of the family to ideological pre-eminence guarantees that capitalist society will reproduce not just children but also heterosexism and homophobia. In the most profound sense, capitalism is the problem."

Bigotry of any form is certainly not foundational to the values of western society (let alone Christian values). And it is not that D'Emilio blames the family for the problem of bigotry rather the contradictory nature of capitalism to nature of the family. I think he coyly hints that the rise in divorce rate could be attributable to this contradiction as well. What is interesting is that right wing politics which has advocated more strict adherence to capitalistic principles in regards to economy is also the 'side' that claims to most ardently defend the nature – essence of the family. It also occurs to me that the rhetoric around the moral defence of the family serves only to heighten the tension that produces hatred toward people who choose alternate lifestyles. These idea could apply far more broadly to include racial and economic prejudice.

Again, I am not sure that D'Emilio's solutions in the last few paragraphs of this text are ones I agree with but I think there could be some value, for those of us who defend the family (of which I am one) as the essential component to a healthy society, in talking about how our ideological frameworks inform our political positions.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

If Dolly Parton...

read this blog she might be encouraged to drink more coffee. check this out!
People this just goes to show that coffee is not only a fabulous tasting beverage but it also has body modification properties - SWEET!

Friday, October 17, 2008

An Interesting Dichotomy

John Stewart (The Daily Show) pointed out and interesting dichotomy at work in this video. Apparently Arab and 'decent family man' are at least vauguely dichotomous positions if not directly oppositional ones. why don't we all do our best to nurture fear?!?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What does it mean to be poor?


Poor is a relative condition. And as such it is has become a nominative virtue which one can easily ascribe to one's own condition. It is also a negative ascription which is based primarily on our identification of another who is deemed to be rich. By negative ascription I mean that we name ourselves poor only as not being rich – like they are. And as such we bestow upon ourselves the merit of a position that refuses to identify with excess. Filthy rich – we say. And we mean rich as wasters of money.

The hummer is an example of a symbol upon which this image has been transferred. The vehicle itself – while vaguely envied – is seen as an excessively expensive to purchase with a horrible fuel consumption waste. It is not uncommon to hear it referenced with statements that speak of our impending environmental crisis predicated on over consumption. Because the vehicle is both a symbol of a bourgeois lifestyle and it is associated with something evil like climate pollution, it transfers onto the 'rich' status an even greater negative connotation than the 'snobbery' of being rich could connote on its own. We gladly drive our 95 Chevy Astro.

But if we are poor because we are not rich then we are also not very poor by the same process. We again negatively assess our condition in the light of not being as poor as others we can clearly identify. This again is a valued position because we suggest to ourselves that there is merit in avoiding the wretchedness of the very poor. In this we are appealing to our sense of accomplishment or achievement. And as Max Weber would correctly deduce we are ascribing our virtue through identification with the symbols of a material status. Our work ethic has once again proven just who good and up right. It is important therefore to own and have available those material possessions that allows us to avoid dependence on others. Examples of this are seem in the 'need' of every dwelling to possess a lawn mower or every child in household to have 'their own room'. This concept can be seen just as clearly in third world slum where ramshackle 'homes' may lack any amenities whatsoever but a television set is prominently available.

So what?

We, the proletariat, wring our hands in frustration and despair at the 'plight of the poor'. We point easily to the immorality of the rich with disgust. We are quietly and vaguely heartened that our ethic has kept us from the agony of the desperately poor. So it is with exasperation and relief that we approach poverty. And as long as poverty is framed in the context of virtue we are condemned to inaction and ultimately to failing the real needs of our human companions.

"Blessed are the poor…"


Monday, October 13, 2008

Ugly: an Advent/Christmas Liturgy



Mom and Dad were talking about possible themes for Advent in their church so I gave them an ear full of my theological perspective. See here and here. As we talked about it we began brainstorming what advent series might look like if we followed some of these themes. I have sketched out some of my thinking below…


Theme:


John 1:1-5, 14 "1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.


The Incarnation is the heart of the Gospel (Good News) message. God not only accomplished our redemption to himself by providing the ultimate sacrifice but he demonstrated how the human life/experience was meant to be lived. Ask yourself what required more sacrifice from God's perspective: accomplishing the work of redemption (cross) to bring his beloved back to himself; or identifying with the failing, feeble - generally ugly condition of human existence. (Obviously, I think the latter) The incarnation represents a profound reality about God's grace – we were not just worth saving – we were worth identifying with. This good news can speak profoundly to the kids/people in your ministry. The crap of their lives is not an isolated experience that they need to find their own way through. Our crap is God's crap – cause he knows. In a sense advent can be seen then as a preparatory shift that Christ had to take to identify with us – From the 'God of Glory' or the 'Son of Man'. He got Ugly.


Method:


Usually the advent season is this build up to 'glorious' climax of Christ's birth. Angels sing, wise men visit, etc. This time take the opposite approach – almost in the mood of a Tenebrae service except stretched out over a few weeks. The idea is to create a progressively uglier setting and motif for your meetings.


Ideas:


Start the first week with a polished celebratory service utilizing all the best aspects of your 'congregation' – this will reflect the tenor of heaven. Decorate with as much flare and beauty as possible. Have a banquet. Make the event celebratory. As you progress through the season allow the decorations to fall into disrepair and add junk and garbage till you have created a truly ugly (even smelly) place by the end. Or as you progress through the season remove decorations till you are left with a bare/stark motif for your gathering place. Also scale your 'production' back. In fact incorporate less and less 'talented' people in presenting the music or other content of the events. You might even want to orchestrate some actual failure into the flow of your meeting times. Awkward pauses and hiccups could reinforce the point in a powerful aesthetic way. Start with the all the candles in the Christmas wreath lit and extinguish one each week. End the Christmas Eve with only one light glowing from the manger.


Direction:


You could take this one of two ways (maybe more) in terms of teaching focus. Typically Advent includes five events (including Christmas Eve). Here's two outline that might be possible:


#1 Celebration – The Glory of God (use scripture passages that speak of God's greatness, holiness, glory and majesty; have a sharing time that identifies the goodness of God; sing praise songs; Hallelujah chorus; trumpets;)


#2 God identifies with my World – Global focus. (use scripture passages that focus on the condition of the poor or war or disease and calamity; don't forget to include some of the beautiful things in nature; focus on specific world events; have a presentation from a relief organization; reflect on the lowliness of Christ's world at the time of his birth; read the stories of Christ's compassion on the poor and helpless)


#3 God identifies with my culture – national or cultural focus (use scripture passages that show how Christ took on the establishment of his culture; talk about the busyness of technology and how it affects our lives, media influences, you could add a bunch of busted TV's to the display; identify other cultural values that Christ challenged or reinterpreted – use the sermon on the mount as a guide)


#4God identifies with my community – local focus (read scriptures about the local setting that Christ was born in, take a tour around your town, focus on local issues; help participants to identify both the ugly and pretty side of the local setting imagine the birth of Christ as it might of occurred in this local setting.)


#5 God identifies with me – personal focus (read scriptures about how God loves each person individually; talk about personal garbage like broken relationships, woman at the well, woman caught in adultery; talk about personal fear and anxiety; talk about insignificance especially in light of the glory of heaven; end with a prayer services and personal sharing. Ask participants to reflect on how Christ's identification with them give them hope for their own lives and for further action in the world they live in)


Or you could develop a more topical approach to identification with something like this:


#1 Celebration – the Glory and Majesty of God (as above)


#2 God identifies with human relationships -- #3 God identifies with human fears -- #4 God identifies with human suffering -- #5 God identifies with human condition – sin


A few more thoughts. It seems to me that sometimes we approach Advent with a sense of anticipatory relief. I have often seen how the Advent season has been used to parallel the expectation of the return of Christ. This is a valuable parallel but in our times when some of our theological perspectives seem to be alienating us from reality (you know that sense that we need to just remain faithful while the world around us crumbles) I think it could be refreshing to see that Christ models the type of identificatory life that we should lead – the essence of our 'mission' in this world. While a progressively uglier advent season might be difficult to pull off in many of our churches or youth – it is precisely because of the 'glam' factor of the Christmas season that we should possibly consider a different approach. This type of approach could help us to regain some of the vital aspects of the incarnation regardless of whatever your theological 'priorities' might be…

Friday, October 3, 2008

1943

Just wanted to send a big shout out to Natasha for tipping me off to this "fabulous" article from MASS TRANSPORTATION reprinted in Savvy and Sage. I passed it along to my prof in my anthropology of gender class and he used it to illustrate some of the theories of female subordination that exist. Here is Natasha's post

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Vote

Voting is a private thing. It is an action that at its best offers freedom. Freedom to choose. Freedom from coercion. And if we choose, freedom to disavow our public representations with a completely contradictory selection. The ballot box we are told provides us with invisibility. So then, why the apathy? Regardless of how un-engaging anyone, or all, of the political leaders or their platforms are, why don't we make the effort to do something that apparently costs us nothing and potentially allows us the opportunity to have our ideological perspective represented.

It is hardly accurate to suggest an individual's vote is anonymous. There is a lot of information that can be constructed from the results of the voting process. But identification is still concealed. So what if our names were attached to our votes? Sure we might compromise some of the aspects of freedom that we now seem to enjoy (yet clearly don't exercise). And we might find ourselves ensnared in the cult of personality to an even greater extent than we are currently. On the other hand I wonder if we might actually benefit from an increased sense of responsibility to vote. Politicians could certainly use that information to prejudice their policy making but if they were as smart and as good as we might hope they would be they could also use this information to begin meaningful dialogue with people with dissenting views. Instead what we have done is marginalize dissention in the aggregating force of the majority and recognize 'other' voices than the ones that win only if they are accompanied by significant funding.

Sorry, but I'm not telling you who I'm voting for…

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

As I might have appeared in yearbooks from the past

circa 1954
circa 1974
circa 1976
circa 1988 - I actually graduated in 87 and this photo is not too far off from some of the shot in my actual yearbook

circa 1990 - the mullet i never had
try in out here

mother mother

Mother Mother - O My Heart

So I heard these guys on Q this morning and I was impressed - listen to the pocast of the show here

In memory of…

Linger in the last touch of daylight

Coaxing firelight

Out of the backyard pit

Losing track of the receding flame

The split wood your penance

Allowing the night to sneak up again

And for a moment while flames live bright again

You forget the night


 

Grey ash is hardly a fitting memorial

Grey ash can't tell you of the fever dance of flames

That lubricated virile conversation

Grey ash can't tease your mouth with fire-licked

Tasties

Grey ash forgets

Grey ash gives up

Grey ash is convinced that the night is longer than it really is

That spruce sparks will never light the candles of the sky

That morning is impossibly far away

Flame to soot

Revelry to clean up


 

I lingered there beside it

I breathed it in till it choked me

I watched it glow as the audience faded

I should have stayed

"Did you make sure to put it out?" she said

and the night leaks in


 

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A bit more…

So in class today we unpacked that reading. It seems Sartre is advocating absolute choice without moral attachment. When faced with a choice, doctrine helps us nothing since which doctrine to follow is a choice in the first place. He also contends that selecting a doctrine is a way to deceive ourselves into a sort of determinism. But here is the problem, how can we even tell that we have a choice to make unless we are informed in some way that a decision or action must be made.

So I can eat a salad or a hamburger. Sartre, I think, would say that suggesting that one choice is healthier than another choice is already making a choice about what things are valued to be healthy. Essentially each option should be weighted equally in Sartre's evaluation. My desire to honour certain convictions about what I deem to be healthy might actually be a self deception – bad faith.


But what tells me that there is a choice in the first place? What informs me that there is a problem that needs resolution? Unless some pre-existing compass can help me recognize that I have choice to make – I simply act without cause whatsoever.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sartre and free will…

I just finished working through a portion of Jean Paul Sartre's first chapter entitled, Existentialism. It was assigned reading for one of my sociology classes. Sartre makes some interesting claims about reality and human action. He contends with a common perspective. The idea that, "Circumstances are against me. What I've been and done doesn't show my true worth…there remains within me, unused and quite viable, a host of propensities, inclinations, possibilities, that one wouldn't guess from the mere series of things I've done," is the only way people can bear their own wretchedness. In other words it's an excuse. And further more, "dreams, expectations, and hopes warrant no more than to define a man as a disappointed dream, as miscarried hopes, as vain expectations."

So basically we are what we do. We change what we do and we change who we are. Yet in that he states that the only way to put any value on what we do is through the process of others evaluating our actions. We can only be famous, for instance, as others define our actions as worthy of fame and recognize us in that way. But that is certainly not how individual actions are most often perceived. We usually consider that personal qualities like honour, happiness or compassion are intrinsic to human nature in some essential way. We often use the phrase, 'human nature' to talk about some essential element of the experience of self that is somehow universal to all human experience. Sartre would argue that that notion is flawed since it is defined in the interaction that we have with others. So Sartre advocates the idea that people exist first then they act and then they are attributed with essence or qualities. This is so clearly evident at funerals. We have a hard time talking about the qualities of a person without describing his/her actions as proof. So for Sartre free will looks like a blank slate upon which we act and as a series of informed, scheduled and defined actions that we can arrange in such a way as to construct the identity we desire.


My question then is – is that really free will? If the actions that I perform are what defines who I am and if those actions are under the evaluation and definition of others is the act of arranging my actions actually freedom or is it actually a type of inescapable coercion.


What then of the Christian notion of free will? Are we actually free to choose for or against God? Is this the sort of thing that the Scripture talks about when it suggests that slavery isn't optional but that the master is the only choice we have (Luke 16, Romans 7)?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I’d be curious…

To read what your responses might be to these two videos. They are a documentary contribution from Mark Kelly. We watched these pieces in Class this week and found some very interesting perspectives at work Kelly's piece that could go a long way to support Durkheim, Marx and Freud's view of the nature and function of religion…

Check them out here and here

All I Really Need to know I learned in my spam box

this one is good...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Is popular culture ruining our young people?

Last night in my sociology of religion class our professor Reg Bibby asked that question.

Here's my take…

To begin with this question essentializes both popular culture and young people. The question assumes that that popular culture exists as a more or les singular monolithic entity. Yet this is exactly what makes the question provocative.

I have for a long time tried to maintain some distance (I'll admit I am not always successful) from the temptation to attach value, either positive or negative to popular culture. There are aspects and trends that in certain ways seem to have beneficial aspects to society while even at the same time producing some seemingly ill effects. (eg. Cell phones – improve safety and accessibility but also impact the way conversation and relationships are maintained) The other thing that makes me leery to pass judgment on popular culture is because of how hypocritical it seems to criticize the new cultural directions when I participated and consumed, at least some of the those same general directions especially more so when I was young.

But don't confuse my lack of judgement on popular culture with a notion that popular culture is not purposeful or intentional. Quite the opposite. Popular culture has a specific trajectory. It is clearly, in a general sense, against the established culture and norms that exist. That means involvement or consumption of popular culture is participating in a direction that is set at least in part in opposition established values and cultural expression. So that means conflict. Now this is hardly the case in all situations and it is not necessarily strongly antagonistic. But popular culture wouldn't be popular culture if it wasn't different than any other culture. Because it is different, conflict is inevitable. This is not really such a bad thing. In the process of conflict social norms and values are either further entrenched or are modified to accommodate new cultural situations and ideologies. It is a refining process. Now some will say that the values that they hold dear seem to be on the losing end of the conflict and that is fair to say but not entirely objective.

As for young people, I have always maintained that individuals retain a great deal of agency within and over the social structures and mores they encounter. Participation is optional. This is formed, likely, from my upbringing in evangelical theology that strongly taught personal individual choice – especially as it related to spiritual commitment. While I still maintain that individuals are free agents within their world – I acknowledge – like most of the 'fathers' of sociology that the choices we have as individuals are limited. (We may think we are exercising choice in the toothpaste aisle but the reality is no matter how the store stocks the shelves our choices are limited.) As a result we are faced with limited options for our participation in culture altogether. (In the past elders of the church patrolled the town for young people going to the movies. This meant that the choice to go to movies was restricted to some extent and that the surveillance created implications on the type of faith one was able to live out. Today elders do not do that so youth go to movies at their whim and the allowance of their parents. The nature of the choice has changed but then so has the implications for faith.) I believe that teaching youth to have a critical eye for how they engage with culture is critical to establishing healthy faith as well.

Now to be clear there are many things that are trends in popular culture that I lament. But to be sure there are things that I think bear celebrating. But that is for another day…

Check out an interesting post Bibby has made On the Origins of the American Superiority Complex

Monday, September 22, 2008

Dearest Stephen,

Thanks for noticing! I just had my 'fundamentals' augmented a while ago.

Good Luck on the 14th of October,

Canadian Economy

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What is the difference…

…Between being a Christian and any other altruistic form of organized behaviour. Because let's openly admit that we are not the only ones who are more and more these days focusing our attention on how we can serve others. In fact if we are frank in our evaluation of our actions we might have to say that we do even pale on occasion to some of the more aggressive agencies (even religions) who are ardently seeking to meet 'the needs' of others. I have heard far too many murmurings about how Mormons 'put us to shame in the service department.' Yet in many of these same conversations we have elevated our own actions claiming that theirs are motivated by a sort of trickery that is intended to 'suck people in' to their religious community.

This morning one of the things conveyed 'from the front' was a well-worn encouragement to love. Love is after all the essence of discipleship. And love was according to him the difference that set Christians apart. The speaker went on to outline what love was. Essentially, to my disappointment, he described love as service. Serving others was love. It was a choice we had to make which resulted in an action which cost us something and benefited others. Seems good so far. And this really isn't about analyzing his speech.

What disappointed me is that love was defined as service. I think that this is common misconception. And the clarity of this concept is not insignificant. Service cannot be what differentiates 'us' (Christians) from 'them' because 'they' are doing the same thing that 'we' are doing. Handing out food at a community kitchen, clothing, shelter, addictions counselling, and the like, are all services and actions being successfully carried out by Christian and un-Christian agencies (organized or otherwise). And let me say that service is important but service is not love. Service is a part of love…

For love to be of any value it must be able to realign the realities of individuals who become in some way interdependent of each other. From the perspective of 'me' love must be sacrificial. From the perspective of the 'other' love must be integrated enough with the circumstances of life to offer actual help, comfort, and joy. We just cannot say that we are offering a street person love when we give them a meal. The relationship we have with them simply is not deep enough to benefit them actually. We may not fail in our sacrifice but our sacrifice might be as valueless as Cain's. And we don't do any favours to people when we suggest that service projects are actually expressions of love. We delude them into thinking that they are meeting the requirements that love demands.

Too often the parable of the Good Samaritan is misinterpreted I fear. Jesus intention was not to underscore the actions of the Samaritan as loving. It is plainly clear what the right action would have been for any of the passers-by to take. They should have helped the man. The Samaritan's actions did not really show love as much as they showed honourable duty. What make this story most poignant is that those people who should have has a natural connection/relationship with the injured man did not take the loving action that they should have. So the onus of love falls to those for whom the relationship is the strongest.

That is not to say that mission projects, service ventures and foreign aid programs are in valuable. Quite the opposite! But they should never be confused with love. Agencies can provide opportunities for us to exercise love but we should be careful that we not mistake participation in these activities and programs as fulfilling our mandate to love the world.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Paparazzi



Not really. Just one of those random encounters where life seems to double back on itself with curious circumstance…


So we are coming home from a week of holidays when the rear tire on my wonderful ASTRO blows out just on the outskirts of Vernon, BC. Stupidly busy traffic on the north bound 97 – Labour Day Weekend! The CAA tow truck shows up damming the one of the lanes of traffic while the desperate travelers curse the incursion to their day. In the middle of figuring out that she, the tow truck operator, really cannot help us. A lady pops onto the scene.


A break in my near desperate finagling on the phone and she raises a peculiar question.


"Do you happen to be the X-Mennonite youth pastor?"


I am.


So happens that one Kathy Suderman is driving along the adjacent service road and recognizes me from the videos I have posted. Her quest to get a picture that would get her son jealous gave me the most bizarre coincidence of pure levity in the midst of sheer frustration. I am afraid I was not nearly as conversant as I think my personality can live up to. But she was gracious and I, well, I appreciated the crazy intersection. Thanks Kathy.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Hey would anyone like...


to buy a T-Shirt with this logo on the front?

The Grief Service

She's fourteen. Earlier that day, I had encouraged her to lie on the ground and have her friend crack an egg into her gaping mouth. It was hilarious. Now she bounced up toward me towing her pal with her.

"Are you gonna do that grief service again tonight?" she asked almost nonchalantly.

"Grief service?" I was genuinely stumped.

"Yeah! Like you did last year at camp. You know the one where you like made everybody cry. Well I totally cried. And yeah I could really use a good cry tonight."

What was I supposed to say to that? No idea how to respond. The request is such an affront to all my sensibilities. Here is a junior high kid putting in a request for the evening chapel. She wants my 'speech' to make her cry. I was annoyed. I was baffled. Surprised.

A few mono-syllabic words blurted out in an attempt to 'throw her off the scent' and I made a speedy get away. But I have not been able to escape that haunting conversation since I first had it two weeks ago. It has been years now that I have wrestled with the device we commonly refer to as preaching. I have wondered about its effectiveness. Week after week, a man (usually) in dress clothes (usually) stands up in front of a bunch of people and presents a speech that he has prepared 'under the influence' of the Almighty. You would think that such an occasion would be highly transformative for those people who willingly and yes sometimes eagerly wait on the words coming from the pulpit. But the transformative power of those speeches is exactly what is so hard to gauge. And this is where my scepticism gets the better of me. Because although, as I am sure that teenage girl could attest to, can give opportunity for people to make various (even highly emotional) responses to spiritually related questions, it is really difficult to say whether the 'decision' made follows with any sort of significant change.

Perhaps that is not the intention of these 'speeches'. Maybe these talks are intended to do something else. Maybe they are meant to make the listeners feel good or better. That makes sense to me – at least somewhat. As a tool to create an emotional atmosphere, there is much effectiveness in preaching. In much the same way that listening to music, or seeing a piece of art creates a particular atmosphere and a certain emotional response. Preaching as an art form makes a fair bit of sense. It would explain the gravitational pull toward 'good' preachers. Oratory skills are still seemingly one of the most important tools in a pastor's belt. And if the result of preaching is to create an emotional response maybe we should not get so upset about the fear that preachers might be manipulating the emotions of the people they are talking to. After all that emotional manipulation may in the end amount to very little in terms of actual behavioural change. And we should not get too worried then if what is said isn't entirely accurate (in the same way that a Jackson Pollack isn't entirely accurate).

Creating emotional responses in the listeners is easy to do. Tell an appropriately convincing tale of loss or pain and people will identify. Craft your story telling to match your pitch and intensity to the corresponding emotional intensity and they will feel what you are saying. Craft your words to include some carefully chosen ways that your audience can identify your story with their own and pretty soon you can make them feel almost anything you like. Mood created – mission accomplished.

The problem is that preaching purports to be a lot more than just a glorified spiritual lava lamp. It usually claims to have some bead on the truth. It more often than not claims to be revelatory. And it is usually fairly precise on the behavioural modifications that are needed to comply with the content that is presented. That is where the whole manipulation question emerges. Are we using emotional manipulation to illicit a particular response? Are we causing people to feel certain emotions that are intended to lead them to certain conclusions? What about children/youth whose emotional control is far less precise than an adult's? Is it fair to do this sort of thing to them? Personally, I can't help feeling guilty about it each time. And here is the thing – kids go to camp listen to the speaker make decisions to change and then struggle to follow through. I don't care what kind of excellent follow up program you have – kids ability to meet the expectations of the decisions they make at a retreat or camp invariably fall short. Then you begin to wonder if these emotional pleas actually set kids up for failure instead of success because they prime the kids to crave the emotional triggers and leave them with little in the way of actual change. The faith journey then becomes this convoluted series of emotional decisions lived out in guilty failure only to be quenched in the next emotional experience. That kind of a cyclic pattern is typical (Neuroscience 2600 - Ian Whishaw) is more commonly known as an addiction.

It all feels shallow, hollow and small. Small in the same way a much anticipated and overly advertised product turns out to completely underwhelm the expectations. And the girl's request leaves me shuddering that I might actually have been or still am the purveyor of such a thing. And I can't find relief from it. But then maybe I am over-dramatising this whole thing. Do you need a tissue? There are people standing by…

Friday, August 22, 2008

Yesterday…

…I was singing some random 80's tune and Lukas interrupted me and said, "Dad, stop singing! You suck at singing!"

"I do not!" I chirped back.

"Yes you do!" he said picking up on the chance to needle his dad.

"Well," I said feeling a trump card coming on, "I sang good enough to make a CD."

Pause. He wasn't quite sure where to go with that one. "No you did not!" he said.

"Yup, I did!"

"Well then prove it!"

So I went rummaging around in the CD closet to see if I could locate a copy of the "More Than a Song" CD. I found one. Removed the cellophane wrapping and proceeded to show my son the evidence on the liner notes that I was actually a part of the project. And I also subjected him to listen to the disc. I'm really not sure if he was impressed at all but I had at least emerged victorious from his challenge.

The memories came flooding back for me and I lost myself in those scenes flashing through my mind. The 2 am hours at the studio mastering. The song selection process. The venue where we recorded the songs live. The overdubs. It all came flooding back to me.

I remember driving home from the studio directly to Ryan's house to check out the recently mastered copy. We made 500 copies of that thing for crying out loud.

And that is it. I vacillate between pride and bewilderment when I think of that project. It was a pretty cool project for group of hacks to put together an album of songs. We had some awesome help with the project and in truth there are still places on some of the tracks where I think it sounds pretty dang good.

But like Ryan said – there are a lot of places where the lyrics of the songs we sang are pathetically self centered and even in some cases untrue. But more than that there is a personal twinge that tugs at me every time I think of that project. I think about how the process of making it really became a sore spot between Char and me. I think about how to her it seemed like I was placing this project as a higher priority over her. I think about how I defended the 'sacrifices' I made to get it all done. And to my greatest embarrassment – how I pinned some pretty unrealistic hopes of grandeur on this CD thing panning out. I feel like a fool in that way.

I would never give up the years I had playing with those friends of mine. It was grand. But it wasn't more than it was. It was shortly after producing this CD that a stark revelation radically changed my perspective on life. One day I remember waking up and thinking that the greatest accomplishment I could ever achieve would be my success as a father. That put all of my egotistical nightmares in the place where they belonged.

So when my son comes up to me and tells me I can't sing and wants to start a good natured tête-à-tête with me – it makes me feel really good. Cause I am his dad. And you there is always the meteoric rise to fame that my "confession videos" will bring me. Oh yeah – Check that out!!!

Here's the little tag piece that somehow got onto the back end of the CD as hidden track. I thought it was appropriate!


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Some Olympic Sports

…just make me scratch my head and wonder what the Halifax is going on. I watched wrestling and tae kwon do and wondered why anyone no matter how talented would step into a ring make one or two moves or bounce on their toes and hope that the judges see the moves that you make. 6 minutes and your day is done but then so is your whole trip to Beijing. It just seemed pointless.

On the other hand – total event time that Usain Bolt spent on the track winning both of his world record breaking medals likely did not even add up to 6 minutes. There is something about that race that has stuck with me.

He was alone in a class all his own. And it's his birthday as well.

So he pees into the cup and presuming he's clean it'll all be good. What can I say I am a sceptic! It makes me wonder about how sport affects people. In a few brief moments of lucidity I watched myself entranced by this Jamaican sprinter. I also yelled at the television as Simon Whitfield closed in on his silver medal. Why do I do that – it seems really silly actually. My response seems far too instinctual and that worries me. It makes me wonder from where and to what benefit such a basic response might serve the human condition other than as a perfectly useless distraction from the everyday. And then to think that these athletes devote their entire existence to the pursuit of these accolades. And in most cases the result is loss. All that effort and seemingly no pay off.

But there it is my emotional impulses overtaking most of my rational processes in favour of a ridiculously extravagant expression. Somehow most rational evaluations of this phenomenon seem hollow. An instinctual response to highly developed mating rituals that are meant to demonstrate the finest characteristics of the species? Okay, but somehow it doesn't sound all that convincing. Or some design characteristic that is intended to draw us toward the Divine ideal of perfection? Again, fine but somehow that seems to read too much into it. I am stumped.

There have been a several of these moments in these last two weeks and I have enjoyed them immensely.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Premonition



I really don't know what to make of this. Here's the story…


Last week I went up to camp evergreen to talk to kids from the front of the building. Anyways, I was up late Tuesday night with several of the staff discussing issues around the evolution/materialist debate. It was a good conversation with people who, to my surprise, had intelligent thoughtful questions and perspectives on topic. After being chased to bed for being too loud I promptly drained my bladder and crawled into the wonderfully hard double bed the camp provides for its speakers. I wiggled my ear buds down into the aural canal and proceeded to release my body in preparation for sleep. At that moment, a random thought entered my brain. "What if there was a fire?" I thought, "Do I know the escape route from my room on the second floor or this deteriorating lodge?" What was weird was that after reassuring myself that I could quite easily slip out my wind and down the roof to the ground, the thought about fire kept pricking my increasingly deteriorating consciousness. "What if there was a fire at home I thought?" Yikes – that perked me up! After thinking about what might cause a fire in my house and coming up blank I did something completely out of the ordinary. I prayed, "Please God protect my family from fire."


The entire next day brought no reminders of my late night inferno considerations. Even my post supper conversation with my wife did not spark any recollection of the 'fire' prayer from the night before.


It wasn't until the next day, in a conversation with my second oldest son that it came back.


"Dad, we had a fire in our dishwasher."


"What?"


"Yeah, on Tuesday night mom put the dishwasher on before she went to bed around ten. In the morning when I woke up I smelled smoke and told mom about it when we got home."


"That is really weird Jesse cause on Tuesday night (and it would have been close to the end of the dishwashing cycle) I prayed that God would keep you safe from fire."




"Wow Dad God's a pretty good firefighter eh?"


I'm a pretty sceptical person who does not put much stock in what seems like circumstantial occurrences like these. But I can't avoid the way this particular event haunts me. There you go!

Dubious Honour of…


…being the inspiration for another line of "Jesus Junk". Apparently, the words I wrote here gave impetus to the people over at EMPTYTOMBGEAR to start this line of merchandize. Check it out. (I kinda like the skull cap shown here)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Repechage


Definition:

  1. Weirdish spiritual analogy that far too many Christians mouthpieces have used this summer to illustrate the far too complex concept of forgiveness (or grace, or mercy).
  2. A vague-ish Olympic sounding word created to allow Canadian athletes to feel better about their perennial fourth place finishes.
  3. The new 'it' phrase. Intoned in substitutive manner as a curse or as an even more annoying form of the ever popular, "…my bad!"
  4. A trial heat, especially in rowing, allowing competitors who have already lost a heat another chance to qualify for the semifinals. (thankfully our rowing team did not need the repechage to capture some long awaited medals)

I think it would be great if you could use repechage in more pedestrian ways – just trucking through life…

"You know I've had better hamburgers but I would definitely come back for the repechage on this meal."

"I really did not care for that first attempt on cleaning your room – but I think you qualified for the repechage!"

"Sorry there is no repechage for people who don't make the auditions for the worship team."

"I did not really care for the bowling last night, or the way you tried to slip your arm around me in the car afterward but I suppose it was good enough for a repechage."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Six Random Things

So I got tagged by Ryan on this 'random' meme so here you go…

  1. Link to the person who tagged you.
  2. Post the rules on your blog (copy and paste 1-6).
  3. Write 6 random things about yourself (see below).
  4. Tag 6 people at the end of your post and link to them.
  5. Let each person know they have been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
  6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Here it is…

  1. I have what is known technically as a herniated oesophagus. Essentially my gullet has stretched at the point where it meets the top sphincter of my stomach to create what operates in effect like an extra stomach. This allows me the pleasurable – and I assure you it is so – experience of enjoying my already masticated food morsels through a simple act of regurgitation which I might add is mostly involuntary. Great at parties!
  2. I have a 23 inch inseam.
  3. I have had over three hundred stitches in my face after putting it through the windshield of my car in one of the 14 accidents I had between the time I was 16 and 20.
  4. I have officiated 15 weddings – all of which are still together.
  5. I sell pies at a farmers market and I love it!
  6. I have progressive lenses and reading glasses.

I tag Natasha, Trevor, Jen, Michael, Kendra, and Jason.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

alien

I have a confession to make…

This past weekend was the first time that I have opened and read the Bible, to satisfy my own interest, in a very long time. I have had little appetite to read the Scriptures for a while. That does not mean that they have become less meaningful for me. I also need to clarify that I have read the Bible for exploratory reasons. But I honestly can't remember the last time I read the Bible to satisfy my own curiosity. I have become accustomed to reading the text with an analytical eye so that I can apply what I read to material I would like to present. So in fairness for the legalists out there that might be reading this – I have been reading the Bible - Just not so much for my own interest.

My idea of what the Bible is, has changed over the last few years and so approaching the Bible, as I did this past weekend was awkward and clumsy. I had in truth forgotten to bring along any other meaningful reading material. (I had also forgotten to bring many other essentials but that's a long and embarrassing story.) So I tell you that I was rather sheepish when it dawned on me at 7 in the morning that the Bible was the only thing available to me to read. Of course I felt an all too familiar guilt at my last resort approach to reading the scriptures but I snuck into my RAM 50 and wiggled the book out so as not to wake the rest of the Friesen Hutterite clan.

I flipped through the pages wondering where I might land my gaze and start my reading. The perfectness of the morning nearly distracted me from my quest but my eagerness to read something anything dragged me headlong into the 119th psalm. I read I a little and I sipped my coffee. I read some more and within a dozen words the read was effortless. One thing I noticed though – what read felt too predictable. Of course I had read this passage before so I was familiar with the text. But I was trying to read this through a different lens – a more capricious –even careless- way. I was trying to read as I WAS NOT someone who had built a healthy career using the pages of this book as my MAIN resource. But the words were tumbling together and finding no footing as I bounced along the first few verses of the text. He was saying,

"I will keep your statutes, I will follow your ways, I will meditate on your precepts, I will walk in your ways". It sounded like he was very pious. He knew God's principles were the best and he knew should follow them and it sounded like he was very devout. And at first that was all I could hear. Then it seemed like the voice repeating so often somehow changed from a confession of devotion to a distinct desperation. Almost like when my son repeats the excuse over and over again more and more loudly trying to convince me that he should not be held responsible. Yikes! That felt new. I guess I felt like there was a connection between me and the writer of this poem. He was more real than I gave him credit for. Something genuine came through.

And then the word that made me take note – ALIEN. In verse nineteen the writer says, "I am only a foreigner in the land. Don't hide your commands from me!" What did feeling like an alien/foreigner/sojourner have in connection to God's laws and principles?

I have seen the idea of alien used to capture a theme for a conference or something. Usually when it is used – it has always borne a ill feeling for me. The connection to aliens is usually somehow tied to the idea that we are not really a part of this world (WE ARE JUST A PASSIN' THRU). The idea seems co-opted to reveal an escapist perspective on our lives here as followers of Christ. Rotten! But this seemed different!

It seemed like the writer here in the context of his repeated affirmations of the goodness of God's laws confessed his strained and even bewildered relationship to the world in which he was being asked to apply God's principles. He was saying, "Hey, I know your ways are good/cool/fine/right/perfect/important but there are many times when I am really confused about how they should apply to life on this earth." Its like, "I need to learn a new language that I desperately want to speak fluently but still can only buy bread and milk at the corner store."

And not unlike the awkwardness that happened a few hours later that morning. A gaggle of Hutterite boys had made their way to the campground to play in the river. Why not? Stripped down to their boxers they would hike through the campground up the river to jump in and float down to the beach. They chose to walk right past our campsite. Many times. On one occasion while I was prepping food for supper, I looked up as I heard them coming. I couldn't help smiling at the boys – some in their early teens – as they chirped to each other in their Germanic dialect. At one point they stopped and for several long moments I was deadlocked in a gaze with half a dozen of them. They looked at me – confounded no doubt at why a fat dude like me would be making food with my shirt off. I smiled at them thinking how out of place they seemed. We were all wondering about how the other lived. They were living and doing the same thing everyone else in the camp was doing – floating down the river – but they were clearly distinct. And though they kept to themselves – could help but wonder how they must have felt as they watched us go about our lives.

Well that got me to thinking about foreigners again and this passage. And it all seemed to strangely give me hope. I saw hope in the real desperation of someone trying to follow God's principles with varying degrees of success. I saw myself in the repeated chant like insistence of the writer that God's laws were good. And I could see myself as a foreigner trying to fit what I knew to be true into the world I was living in. I think that is what God asks of us after all.

My mom told me a story about the first few weeks in Nicaragua. I was three and veritable chatterbox. I went out to play with the neighbour kids and I came back crying. "The kids don't' understand me mom!" I cried. A few weeks later my mom said that I walked into the house beaming, "Mom they understand me now!" Of course their language hadn't changed – mine had!

Friday, August 1, 2008

34X25X36

If you haven't seen this as you scroll through the featured section of Youtube you might be interested in this provocative piece on body image and relationship to the arts...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The world might be ending soon...

Evidence that the freemarket and capitalism might not redeem all the ills of the world.
Starbucks will shut down 600 of its U.S. coffee shops
The Oregonian
Wednesday July 02, 2008
From now through next March, Starbucks Corp. plans to shutter 600 of its underperforming U.S. coffee shops and open fewer stores than planned.
Why: A slowing U.S. economy is dragging down the Seattle company's results. Starbucks has been hurt by subprime mortgage fallout in California and Florida, which account for nearly one-third of U.S. retail sales. The company said U.S. operating profit in fell 27.5 percent in the quarter ended March 30 from the year before.
Starbucks' wildfire U.S. growth also is coming back to haunt it. Up to 30 percent of a shop's revenue is cannibalized when another Starbucks opens nearby. About 70 percent of stores slated for closure opened since fiscal 2006; they make up 19 percent of U.S. company-operated stores opened then.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

100 Thing Challenge: Living With Just 100 Items in Your Life

thought this might be an interesting challenge

Neatorama » Blog Archive » 100 Thing Challenge: Living With Just 100 Items in Your Life

Dave Bruno looked around his San Diego home one summer and realized just how much of his family’s belongings were cluttering their lives. So he decided to do something about it, in a project he called The 100 Thing Challenge:

By my thirty-seventh birthday on November 12, 2008 I will have only 100 personal items. I will live for at least one year (God willing) maintaining an inventory of only 100 personal things. This challenge will help me "put stuff in its place" and also explore my belief that "stuff can be good when it serves a purpose greater than possession alone."

Check out Dave’s progress his blog, guynameddave: Link

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I still got it?

This morning in my practicum, I was explaining the sleep test I under went a week ago. The conversation was prompted by her demonstration of a laser pointer which reminded me of the oxygen saturation device which was attached to my finger during the test. she asked me about the test and I explained that it was to check whether I stopped breathing during the night.

"Isn't that dangerous?" she said.

"Well, I suppose I could die if I stopped breathing altogether." I said.

"That would be no good," she said, "You're the shit!"

so there you go...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

SourToe cocktail

one of the students in my ED 2500 class presented on this bizarre tradition of the northern men who  moil for gold up in Dawson City, Yukon.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

church

why is it that most people think that church is mainly what happens on Sunday morning in a building?

Am I the only one who is frustrated by this entrenched dilemma? I mean how many messages do we need to realize that the identity of the church is (should be) primarily everything else but what occurs during the 'holy' hour.

It would be like: hockey reduced to a jersey fashion show

like baseball reduced to the announcement of the starting line up

like democracy reduced to the second language translation during question period

like cars reduced to the tilt steering, CD player, and interior noise

like a restaurant reduced to the menu

like a cup of coffee reduced to the mug it is held in

like a MAC notebook reduced to running non PC compliant software

I think Paul said something like a resounding gong...