Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Canadian view of the week in US politics

The joys of blogging:
--Some days you have lots to say,
--other days, nothing.
--Sometimes everyone else is already saying the same things--but better, more fluently, more persuasively. 'bout them _________ (insert favorite sports team name).
Just kidding. I really don't care about your favorite sports team.

How 'bout that inauguration? I kinda liked it.
I can't quite figure out why, but for some reason I am more interested in US politics than I ever have been.
I still don't understand their electoral system.
But I am quite enamored with Mr. Obama.
Well spoken, savvy, and in touch with his public. A heart and mind for change, and not just for change's sake.
And I think that I like that I like him because of those reasons, not because he is a visible sign that the civil rights movement has taken new territory.
I think he will make a good president. Period.
Yes, he is black, and I'm impressed that the US has crossed the color barrier.
But that isn't enough to make him successful.
I expect that the novelty of being the first African American to hang out at the White House (I love that--a black in the white house) will wear off after awhile. And that will be an even better sign that equality has gained ground in US politics. In a generation or two, when half of the population will have been born after Obama took office, we can all hope that a man's color won't even show up on political radar screens.
But for today, he is still going to have to be better than a non-black in order to stay above water. Obviously enough Americans moved past the issue of color in order to vote for him. Hurray for the good guys.
But we are still pretty young in this thing called equal opportunity. We are still learning how to walk, and are prone to tripping now and then.
But I am optimistic.
I'm still a Canadian, so I'm not exactly racing to move to the US.
I like the threat of a $34 billion deficit this year, not $1. something trillion.
I like our laid back, live and let live (sometimes) attitude about people around us.
But I recognize that that guy with the well-dressed wife and couple young daughters in Washington will make some decisions that will affect the whole world.
Mr. Bush sure made some.
(By the way, here's a little secret for you guys in the US--you aren't exactly popular with lots of people in the rest of the world--but you may have already noticed that. I think Obama is changing that a bit, but don't let the arrogance of 'leader of the free world' undo the positives that change will bring.)
So....congrats to the US Americans (we are the Canadian Americans, by the way) for a good move. A guy who understands injustice, and is likely to do something about it. A guy who understands that isolationism just doesn't fly in today's world, but isn't going to try to be the police force for the whole world either. I expect that in itself is a tough balancing act, but I think he is up for it.
It would have been easier for him if we weren't in the middle of an economic kerfuffle. Then he could have just got rid of a couple wars, and sat back to let everyone love everyone else again.
But he gets to solve the mysteries of a global economy. And undeclare a war or two. And establish a workable healthcare system. And keep everyone happy. In the first 100 days so that when the honeymoon is over, he will still be loved.

Good luck, Mr. Obama. The whole world is rooting for you. We need you to win, so the rest of us can too.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Real church

I was part of the gang that hosted a turkey dinner today for about 250+ members of our community. Not just those in need of a good meal, but everyday, normal people. It was particularly timed to be a New Years celebration, something different than the typical community turkey dinners that abound before Christmas, coming after the post-Christmas blahs have set in.
Just for a bit of background: 4 years ago our community heard about something that had started in another BC city called Love Your City. The basic premise is to get Christians out of the church, and into the community, doing good things, giving away stuff, no strings attached. Free car washes, hot dogs, or bottled water. Doing yard work. Hosting a kids party in the park. Fun stuff! And here's the better part—it's a group of about 6 or so churches of all stripes, the mix of what is in our community. It's Christians working together, playing together, being a loving, generous, presence of the God we serve. Did you catch the together part? It's not my church vs. your church, but The church.
We've done 4 summer events, and this was our 3rd New Years celebration dinner. The pastors and congregations are really getting used to doing things together.
So, here we were. People roasting turkeys and bringing them ready to serve. Mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, veggies, all the fun stuff! Face painting, coloring contests, play dough, beads, and whatever else for the kids—and prizes and gifts for all. Table hosts making sure our guests were treated well. The churches had spent the last few months collecting the ingredients of a nice food hamper for almost every family, complete with reuseable grocery bag. There were special door prizes. And there was music. That's where I came in. No, I didn't sing, but got to set up and operate the sound equipment for the guitar/violin duo (anything from a couple jigs to some more romantic stuff), and a jazz vocal/guitar duo. She has a voice like velvet, like warm chocolate pudding (if you love chocolate pudding like I do!). We tried to make it fun, special, and community-based. Most of the churches involved are doing something for a follow-up—a marriage enrichment series, a discussion series on Is God Real?, a video series on understanding Christianity. But there was no pressure to sign up, just a friendly offer of ways we can bless you.
So, we had about 250 or more guests from the community, and probably close to 100 volunteers—setting up, hospitality, serving, cleaning, etc. And it was a blast! Hours and hours of planning had gone into it, with the benefit of a couple years experience and wisdom. Everyone worked harder than they should have, and yet I'll bet that most of us aren't so much tired as incredibly blessed.
And here's where it hits me: Today was church. Real church. Out where we are supposed to be. Doing the kind of things we can all do. Forgetting about the theologies that might divide us. Not trying to be high pressure salesmen.
And tomorrow is Sunday. When I have to go to church. Which won't be as real as today was. Oh, it's a fine group of people, and all that, but it's more artificial. We put on our Sunday best, polish up our smiles and do all the churchy stuff. But it doesn't really do a thing for the community. Not like today did. The thing that is going to bring the people in our community closer to a relationship with the God who really loves them is going to be a turkey dinner more than it is going to be a finely crafted worship service or sermon.
But I guess I'll go to church anyway!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Doxis and praxis

A particular blog ( uses these two terms as broad subject headings.
Praxis you can find in a dictionary. “practice, as distinguished from theory; application or use, as of knowledge or skills.”
Doxis is more elusive.
Given the definition of praxis, one can assume that doxis is related to orthodoxy, and has something to do with theory or doctrine—the concept of the thought behind the action.

You could fight that one is more important than the other. Perhaps you could say that the underlying reason for something is the most necessary. That you have to have a valid, logical foundation, a good argument for something to make it valid. That as long as you believe right, everything is good.
Or you could say that talk is cheap, the most important thing is the action. That even if your theology is messed up, if you actually live out kindness and generosity, that is what is ultimately important.

You could swing to one extreme or the other. You could say you believe in the equality of all humanity, but still act like a racist. Or you could be an atheist, and still do the kind of things Jesus did (love the poor, feed the hungry, help those in need). I'm glad I don't have to be God, and decide where a person's heart is.
My take is that both doxis and praxis are necessary.
A simple understanding of the heart and intent of God for His creation.
And a simple following through in a lifestyle of daily living out that understanding.

Simple, but it will take a lifetime to get it down.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hope and mystery

These are two concepts that form an interesting juxtaposition. They seem to not belong together, to be part of two different worlds. But I think they do come together in issues of spirituality.
Hope is based on past knowledge, a future anticipation formed on past experience. Hope is not 100% certainty, but it is highly likely.
Mystery is pretty much unknown. The best you can hope for in a mystery is to find a few clues. As everything comes together, and things are resolved, often you still don't know all that has happened.
But both hope and mystery come together in the celebration of our faith.
They come together at Christmas.
They are entwined as we look into the future of a new year.
They are inseparable in every part of our faith.
The first Christmas was the culmination of centuries of hope for the promised Messiah, and the wonder and mystery of angels and stars and dreams and shepherds. Our yearly contemplation of Advent relives both the hope and mystery of Christ's first coming.
As we face the unknown future, whether in the context of a new year, or otherwise, it is a mystery. Yet, we can have incredible hope.
In fact, this mix is the complete and never-ending story for a follower of Christ.
No matter how hard we study, life is still a mystery.
We'd like to say we understand this God we worship, but we never will.
We'd like to discover the 'principles' of following Him, but He still refuses to be systematized.
We'd like to have a handle on the future, to turn prophecy into news headlines, but He continues to make sure our guesses are wrong.
We pride ourselves on 'rightly dividing the Word of truth', but still sometimes miss the forest for the trees.
In short, it's still a mystery. We see clues, but fall for some red herrings.
But here's the good news.
We have hope.
Not wishful thinking.
Not just desire.
But hope.
Hope founded on past experience, built on God's faithfulness.
His reputation is unbeatable.
Our hope is well-founded.
We can handle the mystery because of our hope.

Friday, January 2, 2009

So...What's the big deal...

about New Year's?
As far as dates go, January 1 is more arbitrary for the start of the year than December 25 is for Christmas. If we really want to signify the beginning of our yearly cycle around the sun, it could better be celebrated on some date signifying Spring, the start of new life, or our birthday, which is at least a precise moment in time.
For that matter, what is 'new' about the new year?
It still has the same joys and pains as yesterday, the same potential for heartache or ecstasy, the same life as December 31.
If you remove all of the induced excitement of midnight on New Years Eve--the noisemakers, fireworks, countdown, Auld Lang Syne, kiss-your-sweetheart, drink-a-toast or have a special prayer stuff, you would never notice a change.
In anything.
The weather is still the same.
You are still in the same location.
You still are stuck having the same friends.
You haven't lost any weight.
You (or your mate) isn't any better looking.

And what's the value of resolutions, anyway? Does anyone ever keep them? Do they have mystic powers because they are invoked on a certain day of the year?

Most important day of the year? Hardly!
At best, it's the last party before 2 or 3 or 4 more months of winter.

If you have read this far (and not given me 'curmudgeon of the year' award), I bet you are hoping that I have a brilliant comeback, some inspiring truths to counteract what I have just said.
I expect the unspoken value of celebrating starting over is the opportunity to bring new hope.
No, I still haven't quit __________ (insert bad habit), but I'm going to try harder this time.
No, I still am more rotund than I should be, but this year I'm going to diet/exercise/quit looking in the mirror.
No, my life is still going nowhere, but this year I am going to find meaning, purpose, fulfillment.
No, my relationship with God is non-existent/humdrum/less-than-stellar, but I am going to work on it.

What's right about trying to improve? At least it signifies a desire, a hope, a dream. It says I am going to put some effort into positive change.
What's wrong with trying to improve? It still is the same you, trying to be a different you.
We need more than good intentions. We need help!
Help from family and friends who we admit our need to, who will walk with us, encourage us, keep us accountable.
Help from God, because only He has the supernatural power to really change the parts of us that we haven't been successful in changing ourselves.

So, January 1 isn't any better than any other day for making good decisions.
But it certainly is better than no day at all.

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