Sunday, December 25, 2011


My thoughts this Christmas season have wandered often to the Christmas narrative of John 1:14—where we hear that God invaded the earth as a living, breathing human. And not just some far off locale, but as Petersen’s The Message puts it, ‘into the neighborhood’.

And so my musing isn’t that it happened once, a couple thousand years ago, but happens everywhere, everyday, if we allow it to happen.

If the plan of the Divine was to make sure that we understand how loving our God is, then we need not be surprised that Christmas happens every day of the year, in every corner of the world.

It seems that power often rises to stifle the simple message of grace. So God needs, again and again, to counteract that kind of arrogance with the welcoming message of love.

Surprised to find out that you get to be the latest incarnation of the love of God? Find it a bit scary to think that you are the only Jesus people will see?

Don’t be scared! Just let Love invade you, and pervade you, and then escape out through your actions and words.
That is my Christmas message.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas spirit?

If you are into Christmas at all, you probably subconsciously search and long for the ‘Christmas Spirit’. Naively we might expect that that Christmas Spirit is the same for everyone.
That is far from the case.
Each of us has that inner combination of nirvana, utopia, childhood memories (colored by the passage of time), and zeal that styles itself as ‘The Perfect Christmas’.
That is what we tend to long for; the reincarnation of something that actually never was.
We want everything to be perfect, just like we remember, except it never really was that perfect.
We take our piecemeal assortment of Christmas images, tastes and feelings and try to make them all magically appear right in front of us.
And then when it doesn’t quite all come together as we had hoped, we deal with the rubble as our dreams crash around us.
What’s the solution?
Lower expectations?
Give up?
Well, no, that’s a bit extreme.

How about:
  1. Recognizing the futility of trying to make everything perfect, and
  2. Choosing to make one part as good as you can, given your present circumstances.
No, you won’t be able to bring peace on earth, or solve all of your family dysfunction with one marvelous turkey dinner, but you might well be able to accomplish a special moment to honor a special relationship.
There’s no way that you will make all of the kids completely happy by buying everything on their ‘gimme’ list, but finding something within your budget will both let your child know they are loved, and yourself survive January without plastic surgery.
Or maybe it can even be more simple than that.
Last Christmas I did my normal routine: Write my Christmas newsletter, and try to get creative for some special Christmas gifts for some special friends and family members. I decided to create a little booklet of some of my blog posts from the previous Christmas. That worked out well enough, and they were delivered into the hands of Canada Post.
But the special memory of last Christmas is what happened Christmas morning.

Last fall I met a young man hanging around Centennial Square. He had recently lost his job, and like many of the rest of us, didn’t have enough saved to survive until he found another job. So, here he was, out on the street. Panning, trying to find a job, moving night by night through the 7 day rotation of the youth ‘Out of the Rain’ shelter system. 7 different locations each host the shelter one night a week, but the kids are turned out after breakfast and have no dry/warm place until the next evening.
We had some great conversations. He’s quite a friendly guy, and we hit it off.
His home life had left a little to be desired, so he was missing the positive presence of his parents.
As Christmas approached, I began feeling quite ‘fatherly’ towards this young man.
I really wanted his Christmas to be special, something more than just another night at the next stop on the youth shelter tour.
So, I made plans with him to take him out for Christmas breakfast.
I found out where he would be spending the night of Christmas Eve, and the time I could pick him up.
And there I was, at 9 or so Christmas morning. Knocking on the door, asking if Dan was there.
A few moments later, out he came.
I had spent a bit of time trying to think of some fun little gifts I could afford. A flashlight, some candy, a pair of gloves, etc. I wanted him to have some special gifts, something to let him know he wasn’t just another lonely young man, some guy alienated from his family.
So as we sat in the van, getting ready to head to Denny’s, I gave him his little pile of gifts.
It really was as much fun for me as for him.
And then we went for breakfast. He still snickers at the memory of how a hamburger was his special Christmas Day meal, but he enjoyed it.
And so did I.
I’ve seen him many times over the past year. Some things are going a bit better for him, some things haven’t changed much. He is an industrious sort, so has put on a lot of miles collecting bottles and cans, turning them in for the deposit. But for now at least, he’s still not back in the work force.

So a few days back, I asked him if he was interested in Christmas breakfast again.
And what he added to my memory of the previous one almost broke my heart.
Although he knew we had planned on getting together for breakfast last Christmas, he really hadn’t expected me to show up. People hadn’t kept their promises before, so he didn’t expect me to either.
So when I showed up at the door of the shelter, asking for him, he was quite shocked.
It wasn’t anything personal, just how he had learned to deal with the downer of broken promises.

It looks like we’ll be able to do breakfast again this year.
I’m looking forward to it.
It may well be the best memory of this Christmas as well.

And I think that’s one good way to deal with that inner longing to rekindle the Christmas Spirit—find one kind, special thing to do for someone, and do it right.
That’s the kind of Christmas Spirit that should last all year.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas--it's more than just gifts

November 27, put up my Christmas tree. 4 weeks until Christmas Day.
For some reason, every year I seem to entertain different emotions, ideas, insights, or whatever you might call them.
A couple years ago, I really got into the themes of Advent, and lots of memories of Christmases past.
Last year, not nearly so prolific on the musings.
This year has its own unique flavor.

Since I’ve been contemplating Kingdom principles on many different levels for months now, and with the whole Occupy Wall Street movement stirring up a new awareness of the emptiness and greed of capitalism, I’m really not looking too positively at the whole Buy, Buy, Buy thing.
And then today as I was letting the nearness of Christmas waft around my mind, I had a revelation.
For all of the push for buying wonderful gifts for everyone on your list, gift giving is really a small part of celebrating Christmas.
How long does it take to buy, wrap, mail, deliver, etc. the gifts? A fair amount of time.
How long does it take for the recipient to open them ? Mere moments.
And then it’s back to those things that Christmas really is about.
You wait forever it seems (at least it feels like forever when you are a kid) for that moment when you get to gather around the tree and open the gifts.
You wait weeks and weeks.
And in literally minutes it’s all over.
As a family, long ago we got in the habit of taking turns opening our gifts. That way we would actually get to watch each other open what we had bought for them.
But even then, it didn’t take 30 minutes for the party to come to a crashing end.
But the good thing is, for all of the $$$ spent on the gifts, Christmas is about so much more.
(And no, this isn’t a sermon about keeping Christ in Christmas. I may yet rain on that particular misguided and hypocritical parade, but not in this post.)

Whether you are a person of deep Christian faith or not, here are some of the things that make Christmas meaningful. Things that actually take up a lot more of your time and effort, and also end up meaning a lot more than the gift bags around the tree.
Music. Whether it’s a special concert, listening to the old traditional vinyl, singing the carols in church or on someone’s doorstep, music is a wonderful part of our Christmas celebrating. Bing Crosby still tugs at the heart, even though ‘White Christmas’ is now 70 years old. This is a genre where all ages can make music together.

Food. I don’t think I have to explain this one. But Christmas dinner isn’t the only time food and special company figure in our celebrations. Between the work Christmas party, the eggnog with friends, baking cookies, or the special meals for kids home for Christmas, there are many, many special moments spent over a special meal.

Lights, trees, decorations. We all have some special memories of a particular Christmas ornament. Maybe the one you made in Grade 1, but that one is probably the special one on your parent’s tree, not yours. And then after all the decorating is done, you get to sit and absorb that old, comfortable, traditional atmosphere. Crackling fire (even if it’s only on TV), hot apple cider, and a piece of that Christmas baking. And if you weren’t rushing around trying to get every last bit of shopping done, you could even enjoy the ambiance more.
Family. Sure, some of us aren’t quite so sure about the annual visit from Great Aunt Hildegarde, or maybe your Mom’s new ‘attachment’, but by and large, family is particularly important at Christmas. It’s one of those seasons when we usually think past the surface tension to the deep awareness that family is who will stick with you longer than anyone else.
Friends. If the family thing doesn’t work well for you (and there are certainly those who battle the most royally with their family members), we do tend to have friends. Probably a few very close ones. And those are the ones you hang out with whenever you can—and not just at Christmas. But we create special occasions at Christmas to celebrate those relationships. One of the strengths of these relationships is that they don’t require a fancy gift to prove their existence—a cup of hot chocolate is just as effective.
Spiritual. Nearly everyone has memories of some kind of inner experience connected with Christmas. It might be the Christmas Eve service at church. The choir. The kids. Or maybe the peace that settled down in your spirit along with the gently falling snow. Maybe it’s that when everything is done—the house decorated (inside and out), the baking done, the shopping done (including wrapping, mailing, etc.), the house cleaned, the turkey in the oven, and so on—then you pause and remember that Christmas is, after all, the story of God showing up on earth as a human. Bringing joy. Bringing peace. Bringing love.

Oh yes, love. Love keeps sneaking into all of our Christmas celebrating, if we let it.
The love within the family (at least some part of it!).
Love for your friends.
Love for the little kids that are a part of your life.
The love in giving gifts. And receiving them.
Loving good food, and good music, and beauty.

Lately I’ve been realizing that one of the greatest gifts that Jesus brought was the understanding that God isn’t some big, mean ogre.
If Jesus shows us what God is like, then God is the lovingest, mercifulest, kindest being you could ever, ever imagine.
And we get to experience that love, and pass it along.
Sure, a gift can demonstrate love.
But so can sharing a special time with a special friend over coffee and a cookie.
So can singing Christmas carols in the park with a gang of untrained, but exuberant voices.
So can sitting beside the tree with your dearly beloved.
So don’t get all hung up on the gift buying. Going into debt isn’t loving anyone except your bank, and they don’t tend to know how to deal much in the currency of love.
Instead of trying to fill everyone’s gift list, fill their love tank instead.
‘Cause really, they’ll spend a lot more time eating your baking and enjoying your company than they will opening your gift.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Justce vs. grace

I keep being reminded of the grace of God. The incredible, scandalous grace of God.
And then I hear a news story like the one I heard this morning. Here in BC, limited government budgets made Community Living BC close down several group homes for the developmentally disabled, and rearrange the care of needy individuals to a less costly model. Some of the people moved were forced to do so against their or their families will. And hundreds more who need help are still waiting.

And so, my ungracious little mind remembers one of the reasons we have financial issues here in BC.
Former Premier Gordon Campbell’s ‘legacy’—the 2010 Winter Olympics. Billions spent. And now it seems we are reaping the ‘benefits’.

Oh, I know you never have enough money to do everything that should be done.
And there are other great ways that money has been wasted.
And in some ways, the Olympics may have had some benefit. (Here are some of the reasons I didn’t support them.)
But as I think about justice, equality, fairness—all of those qualities that we are told are part of God’s character, and that we are to imitate—then I start being ungracious.
I start thinking of ways of bringing guys like Mr. Campbell to justice (or at least vengeance).
I’m not able to balance justice and grace, at least not in the same breath.

But God…
Somehow God is able to be Gracious,
and Just.
At the same time.
To the same person.
To me, and to you.
And even to guys like Mr. Campbell.

That is today’s mystery.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

For such a time as this

This phrase, and the related story from the OT book of Esther has probably fueled many passionate sermons.
“This is your moment to shine!”
“This is our time to take back our nation!”

I don’t know that it needs to be particularly apocalyptic, but I think these are very intriguing times in which to live.
I’m old enough to think about life before _______. Life before computers. Life before instant communication. Life before the world had shrunk to a global village.
And when I think of the ‘before’, I am usually grateful to be living in the ‘after’. Sure, life was simpler a few centuries ago, or even a few decades ago. Back in Norman Rockwell’s time.
But as we look at the incredible happenings of the past few months, as the people of nation after nation start regaining control of their societies, it’s an exhilarating time in which to live.
It’s tempting to be a spectator. To watch the news, maybe even drive by the nearest ‘Occupy’ settlement, and then go back to your suburban ranch house and wonder where it will all end.
Well, we have the opportunity to determine where it will end, or at least what the next steps will be.
We can choose to open our eyes and ears to the grassroots movement for change. And we can do some of our own research (thanks to the internet!). And we can decide to get involved.
As a follower of Christ, you can even look at it all through a scriptural, spiritual lens. And you may be shocked to discover that much of the cry from the faceless masses resonates wonderfully with what the OT prophets cried out for. With what Jesus castigated the Pharisees about. What some of the saints through the ages have worked for.
  • Justice.
  • Equality.
  • Human rights.
  • Our natural world.
  • Compassion instead of greed.
  • Sharing instead of hoarding.
Our local Occupy movement recently posted a “living, breathing document that can, should and must be amended through dialogue and debate” that contained the following paragraph:
“The establishment of a long-term democratic assembly in Centennial Square has underlined for us the necessity of addressing the pressing needs of many who have joined us: the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the mentally ill and those struggling with addiction in our city and beyond. We have been reminded that these brothers and sisters of ours are some of the most deeply affected by economic and social injustice.”
Now that is something that Jesus would have supported wholeheartedly. And something that strikes a chord in my own heart.
And that is by no means the only part of the document that should be preached from your nearest pulpit.

So, to not be a spectator pretty much demands that I become a participant.
  • That I get off the fence.
  • That I stick my neck out.
  • That I open my mouth. (Or post on my blog.)
  • That I tip over the odd apple cart (or table of a money changer. Matt 21:12)
  • That I become willing to face the disagreement of those who aren’t yet ready to join me, or haven’t yet ‘seen the light’ that I believe I have seen.

Now this ‘such a time as this’ find itself at the altar of a wide variety of sacred cows—and some of them are very, very sacred (and scared).
Some have grazed on our land for generations, even centuries.
But it is time that they fought for their right to own the pasture—or land on my barbecue.
Theologians and thinkers from almost every stripe of the rainbow are skewering left and right. In fact, they come from left, right, and center, Catholic and Protestant, conservative and liberal, or whatever other spectrum you use.
And they aren’t doing it to erase the thought of God, or to minimize God’s influence in the world. Rather, they are pushing us to give God his due, to release God from whatever box you have tried to nail him into (including God’s gender). They are reminding us that Jesus taught us to love our brother—so it’s time we started doing just that.
It truly is a wonderful time in which to live, if you are willing to reassess your own life.
Many people have been feeling nudged to ask questions. Their satisfaction with the answers they were taught is turning into honest doubt.
Not that they are about to abandon ship, but when you finally recognize the sound deep beneath the deck you are standing on is the creaking and groaning of a ship in distress—then it is time to consider your options.
I’m so glad I was nudged (fairly gently) into discovering the underground world of life on the street. A few years back I discovered that not everyone lived in a traditional existence with job, house, family, etc. Through my experiences with CARTS, the Rainbow Kitchen, Occupy Victoria, and other connections, I am realizing that this is another ‘for such a time as this’ moment in my life.

How about you?
‘For such a time as this’ you were brought into this world. (You could have been born a thousand years ago.)
‘For such a time as this’ you are fortunate enough to live in this country—and to use that good fortune to bless others. (You could have been born in a third-world country).
‘For such a time as this’ you were nudged to look outside the box.
‘For such a time as this’ you have been invited to join the present, living, breathing kingdom of God.
‘For such a time as this’ you can take your place… or stay where you are.
“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Step into the messy

I like people. I have some awesome friends, friends that I love hanging out with. People that encourage me, challenge me, welcome me. People that are fun to be around.
But these are the easy ones. They don’t necessarily expect or need a lot of attention. They are pretty self-sufficient. They can make it without my help. They are low maintenance. They are my peers.
Sure, we are a blessing to each other. Being together feeds my spirit.
But they don’t require a lot.

Not everyone is like that.
Not everyone is safe within a secure environment.
Not everyone comes from a stable home life.
Not everyone is able to be planning for the future.

Some people are messy.
Their lives are filled with sadness.
They have a dark and sordid past—abuse, poverty, violence, brokenness, emptiness.
They don’t have the history of a secure childhood.
They struggle with mental or physical illness.
Their basic coping mechanisms involve addictions and dependencies.

Oh, they are often more self-reliant than the rest of us.
They can survive on the stuff the rest of us throw away.
They have a support network that gets them through the darkest of days.

But they are messy.
They are black holes that will suck up every little bit of love around, and still seem as sad and empty as before.
They don’t necessarily exhibit the social niceties that we tend to expect from each other—‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’, or ‘Excuse me’.
Not that they are boorish, they just live in a more gritty world where you need to move quickly to get what you can before it is gone.
They are often a little rough around the edges. Their language and behavior speaks more of the street than the board room.
They can be the nicest people you have ever met. They can be pleasant and polite. They can be very grateful.

But they are messy.
They require a commitment of time and love. Lots of time. Lots of love.
They require patience.
Because they often come from a history where trust has been broken so often, trust takes a long time to be built.
As much as they need to be able to tell their story, they are careful with who they tell it to. They don’t want to scare you off, or maybe they do. Some people have so little experience with genuine love that they don’t know how to handle it.

I invite you to step into the messy.
Put on your boots and get out into the real world.
Harden your ears to the coarseness of the language, but soften your heart to the rawness of the story.

Open your spirit to the hunger of their spirit.
Bridge the gap.
Enter their world.

Not as a savior.
Not as a deliverer.
But as a friend.
A friend that has no agenda other than being the best friend you can be.
As Gregory Boyle puts it, "Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a covenant between equals." from Tattoos on the heart
As The Message puts John 1:14: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”
It’s not about ‘success’, it’s about faithfulness.
Again I invite you to step into the messy.
It’s actually holy ground.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What we really need

The world doesn’t need more experts.
Especially the kind that have it all figured out.
And know it.
And make sure that you know it.

The world doesn’t need more talkers.
It needs more listeners.

Sure, there are lots of people with lots of good things to say.

And that’s just it.
Not just one person has good things to say.
And no one person knows everything good that should be said.
We all have a piece of the whole picture.

So we all need to be heard.
And that means we also all need to listen.

It’s too bad that sometimes your good thing that needs to be said
doesn’t agree with the good thing that I need to say
because we tend to think that
one of us is wrong
and should shut up.

Instead, what we really need, is a place where we can all share our good things in safety.
And then sincerely and honestly look at what has been said
And encourage each other’s ability to see and understand and pass along good things
And help each other see and understand and adjust the parts that maybe aren’t so good.

Oh, it was so handy when we had an expert with his big black book.
An expert who knew exactly what the big black book said and meant.
We could pay him to tell us the good things we needed to know,
and the things we shouldn’t believe that someone else tried to tell us (because he was part of a cult).

But usually the person who was ‘wrong’ to our expert, was an expert to someone else,
And he was telling them
Not to listen to us (because we were a cult).

And more than once
They were both quoting from the same big black book.

So does that mean that everyone is always right,
Even if they don’t agree?
Or that the big black book is useless
Because every expert sees things
Just a little bit differently?

But it does mean (at least to me)
That we need to very quickly
Dismount from our high horses.
And just as quickly
Walk together.

Together with the expert we disagree with.
Together with the expert we can’t see eye to eye with.
And be willing to learn from him.

And we need to follow the teaching of the Master in the big black book
When he said we shouldn’t be so quick to judge.
And that maybe what we should expect to see
Isn’t profound wisdom
But profound love.
(not only from our experts, but from all of us)

The kind of love that listens to someone with a different point of view.
The kind of love that tries to learn from someone who understands something from the big black book in a different way.
The kind of love that understands that being an expert
Isn’t really a good thing at all
If it comes across as being an arrogant know-it-all.

Because God knows there are way more than enough of those around already.
And for some reason we have tended to worship
The ground they walk on,
And the pulpits and TVs that they preach from.
And the books that they write.
And when the Great Moment of Truth comes,
And God sets us all straight,
Perhaps we will have to acknowledge why we
Exalted our experts
Over Him.
And worshiped our way of understanding the big black book
Over His loving character.

And why we didn’t even listen to the guy who disagreed with us
That God had sent to try to set us straight.
(although we certainly expected him to listen to us,
For the very same reason).

Yes, I’m sure there are absolute truths
Truths that cannot be denied.
But I doubt that any of us have really figured very many of them out.
You might have a couple,
And I might have one,
And some nice lady from India
And an old guy from Africa
Might have some more.

We really don’t have the right
Or God-given privilege
To claim that
My truth
Is better than yours
Because it was spoken from white lips of European ancestry.
Male lips
Straight lips
Rich lips
Conservative Evangelical Fundamentalist Born-again Christian lips.

‘Cause after all,
Our religion
Is (supposedly) based on the teachings of a guy
Who wasn’t European, white, rich, or a Conservative Evangelical Fundamentalist Born-again Christian.

He really wasn’t, you know.
He wasn’t even a Christian.
I’m not so sure if he would want to be if he was walking the earth today.
I kinda think Christians might well receive similar tongue-lashings
To what he gave the Pharisees.

The big black book says he is the Way, the Truth, the Life.

And I think that means that we aren’t.

Too often we are
In the Way,
Disguisers of Truth,
And more dead than Alive.

James says (near the end of the big black book);
“Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us is perfectly qualified. We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths.” (James 3:1, The Message)
And from Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now” chapter called ‘Yes, but’ a few choice quotes:
“Yes, the mind is very useful, but when it does not recognize its own finite viewpoint it is useless.

Yes, the mind can serve the world, but in fact it largely serves itself.

Yes, the mind is needed, but we also need other ways of knowing or we will not know well, fully, or freely.

Yes, the mind likes to think, but until it learns to listen to others, to the body, the heart, and all the senses, it also uses itself to block everything it does not like to do or to acknowledge.

Yes, the mind is our friend, but when we are obsessive or compulsive, it can also be our most dangerous foe.

Yes, the mind welcomes education, but it also needs to be uneducated, to learn how much of what it "knows" is actually mere conditioning and prejudice.”
It is only as we are willing to listen to and learn from others that we really begin to “be the change that we wish to see in the world.” (Gandhi)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dogs, cats, and the least of these

I just returned from a week back home in Alberta. My lovely niece got married, and that gave me a great reason to go back and visit the family. Once my sister had recuperated from her mother of the bride duties, I spent a few days out relaxing at their place in the country. I missed seeing some of the friends I usually get to see, but that’s how it goes sometimes.

My sister’s family includes two gorgeous Golden Retrievers. They are about 11 months old, close to full grown physically, but still puppies—and therein lies the tale.
The dogs are siblings—the male is larger than the female, and each has quite distinct personalities.

As most puppies, they are very playful and attention seeking. The female has this unconscious need to put her paw up on whatever is close—your leg, your arm, the chair, and she doesn’t realize that her claws have a bit of a bite. No matter how much love and attention she is getting, she seems to need to put her paw up to make sure that you know she is there.

And the male. He is definitely becoming an alpha male. He doesn’t do the paw thing. He doesn’t have to. He just barges into the middle of the action, pushing the female to the side.

In both cases, they seem to need the reassurance of your love. No matter how much you might be focused on them already—scratching, rubbing, talking, playing—they need to see that love in their own way.

It rather reminds me of God and us. No matter how much his love and attention are aimed our way, we seem prone to have to see it expressed in our own language. Even though we already have his undivided attention, we still barge in. “See me God? Here I am. I love you. See how much I love you? Do you hear me? Do you know I’m here? Did you know that I love you?” etc. etc.

And we don’t even realize it if we run over someone else as we push ourselves onto God’s lap. It’s not that we aren’t already the apple of his eye, but we need to be reminded constantly even when our methods might be a bit obnoxious like the incessant paw or constantly licking tongue.

We can rest in his love, we really can. Like a conscientious pet owner, God has our best interests at heart, loves us faithfully, and loves to be with us. We don’t need to fight for his attention, or try to put on the best show in order to be loved.

In the same household is a cat.

Cats, of course, are different. They don’t tend to ask for the constant affirmation, but they do like hanging out, being scratched and loved on. But the dogs run roughshod over the poor cat who often just walks away, back into her own little world. Just as appreciative of love, but not so pushy.

The cat is kind of like the ‘least of these’ the Jesus talked about. Not strong enough to push their way to the front. Not so self-centered as to expect to be the center of attention.

But just as capable of expressing love, especially when being cared for one-on-one.

And maybe that’s why I care so much for the ‘underdog’ (or under cat). I know how capable of love they are, how deserving, and yet how much of a challenge it can be for them to get treated equally.

Now, if only those two attention seeking canines would quit hogging the limelight, there would be space for the feline to get some loving.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Your love makes me…WHAT???

A few weeks ago I was singing the Doerksen/Brown song Hallelujah (Your love makes me sing). I’ve sung it millions of times (OK, perhaps only thousands), but this time one line really tripped me up.
-The song is about the awesome, amazing love of God. Check
-It’s strong, gentle, mysterious, good and solid. Check
-It hits us in many different times and circumstances of life. Check
-And as I realize how incredible this love is, when I begin to respond to it, when I recognize the magnitude of this love, what is the most appropriate, most stupendous thing I can do in response?

The most incredible demonstration of affirmation and compassion has exploded into my life, and the best I can do is get together with some other like-minded people and sing.
Does that sound rather feeble to you?
And perhaps less than appropriate given the power and purpose of love?
Sure, I have always loved music. There are wonderful examples of great music. And music is a great tool for communicating ideas.
But is a song the best way to respond to something as powerful as the love of God?

Here are some of my thoughts:
• In recent years the church has been inundated with ‘worship’ music. Worship (among other things) means worthship. But is talking/singing about something wonderful the best way to demonstrate that it is wonderful? Is the best form of worship our voices? Or is it our actions?
• We refer to God as Creator. Is talking the best way to honor the Creator? Or maybe being creative ourselves, and maybe by valuing the creation around us?
• We speak of God as gracious. Do we sing about grace? Or extend that grace to others?
• I believe the best way to honor the worth-ship of someone or something is to reflect that which we value back out into our world. We have experienced the love of God. We honor and desire to declare the worth of that love. What better way to demonstrate how incredible that love is than to reflect that same love to someone else?
• The love of God isn’t just to make us feel good, just to give us a theme for a song. It is to change the world, to bring the Kingdom.
• What do you think warms God’s heart more? Us gathering in our clubs, singing our pep rally songs, or us showing the value we place on His love by passing it along to someone else?

In Luke 6 Jesus teaches about trees being known by their fruit, and good men being known by the good treasure that comes out of their heart. Then he says; “Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)
As I thought about that verse, I wondered what Jesus would say about what we call worship. Are we just saying/singing nice things about him, or are we actually following his teaching?
When he tells us in Matthew 25 that we are to care for the least of these, are we putting our energy into doing that? Or are we spending our time, effort, talent, and finances singing nice songs in a nice sanctuary with some other nice people (not even aware of the least of these on our doorstep)?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What a riot!

Last night’s nonsense in Vancouver caused many of us to re-think some of our loyalties. Not so proud to be a Canadian male right about now. Of course, those few hundred testosterone and alcohol filled, brain cell emptied specimens are in no way representative of the majority, but they do raise a few questions.

Some I direct towards my 20- and 30-something friends. These fine upstanding citizens are from your generation. What can you tell the rest of us that will help us understand their psyche? I mean this question honestly—how do you read the general tone of your peers? What do you think last night’s shenanigans tell us is important to your demographic? Every generation likely has its own sense of what is important, and what isn’t. My generation needs to have a better understanding of yours, so help me out here.

My generation reacted to life around it with the hippy movement—a strong statement that the values of our parents weren’t necessarily our values. And each generation since is probably responding against what it sees are the errors of the previous ones.

So, does the apparent lack of valuing personal property say something about how your generation perceives the values of previous generations? How about the apparent lack of value for human life? What else do you see in last night’s actions--what motivated them? What about the apparent need to be part of the crowd, to be part of something bigger than oneself?

And how about the value being put on getting your face splashed across social media. That seems to be part of the goal—‘Look at me, I’m breaking a store window! I’m going inside and ripping stuff off of the shelves! And I’m proud of myself!!’ Or, ‘Look at me! I can tip a car over! I can light it on fire! Aren’t you impressed!!’ What does that say is important to your fellow humanoids? Let me repeat—I’m not saying everyone 20 or 30 years old is likely to cause a riot, but that generation has values that I am trying to understand.

To all of us I ask: What are we doing about it? If we see a negative shift in the things we feel are important, what are we doing to promote and revitalize what we see as valuable? If some of us are part of the generations that potentially gave rise to this shift, how are we making amends? If others are part of the generation that now is wreaking havoc, how are you influencing your peers in a positive way?

And what can we learn from this generation? Maybe we need to learn that there are more important things in life than possessions, and big corporations. Maybe we need to learn to live more in the moment, and less for the $$$.

What do you think? I’d really like some feedback.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

So, what have we learned?

In the light of yesterday’s non-event (judgment day), what have we learned?
It seems every second month some self-proclaimed messenger of God makes statements that make many of us wince.
These past days it has been Harold Camping. Before that it was Terry Jones, the Koran burning pastor. Then it was Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church. In times past Pat Robertson made a stir with his words about Haiti. And on it goes.
But do we learn anything from the ill-advised comments/pronouncements of some who consider themselves followers of Christ? Are we gaining ground?
Or rapidly losing it?

For some, the back pedaling from Mr. Camping goes no further than repeating the mantra that the Bible itself tells us not to set dates. As if everything else Mr. Camping has been preaching is A-OK, but he shouldn’t have put a date on it.
And that Mr. Jones just shouldn’t have actually burned the Koran although his inflammatory rhetoric against Muslims is fine.
And that Mr. Phelps probably shouldn’t be picketing funerals—but his theology is otherwise kosher.
In other words, many are still holding to the main thrust of these ‘prophets’, just not the last step that put them over the top.
Many still totally see God as a terrible being, ready to toss his lightning bolts at anyone who doesn’t line up with some arbitrary interpretation of the Bible. They still preach that the ‘Good News’ of the Gospel is that God is anxiously waiting to judge almost everyone—except them. That his strongest desire is to populate hell with as many people as possible.

As long as we think the main thrust of the preaching of the Gospel is judgment,
we haven’t learned anything from the likes of Messrs. Camping, Jones, Phelps, Robertson et al.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An open letter to Mr. Harper and Mr. Layton

Dear Mr. Harper and Mr. Layton;

The most important thing I took away from both of your speeches last night was that you plan on working together for the good of the country. You will support good policies, even if they come from a different party. That is what will make this country work.

Mr. Harper, 60% of the people who voted did not vote for your party, so your party does not represent a majority of Canadians. However if you choose to listen to and work together with ALL of the other members of parliament, we truly can begin to see our democratic system working again.

Many people voted for change. 2% more people (than 2008) wanted a Conservative government . 12.4% more people supported the NDP’s call for change. Although overall Green Party support dropped, they were able to elect their first ever MP. So, in many ways many people indicated a desire for change that did not point to the Conservative party.

Mr. Harper and Mr. Layton, the ball is about to be played in your courts. You can choose to hog it or fight over it, or you can choose to use it for the betterment of our country. You can use it to keep your friends happy, or to strive for the good of all.

We will be watching you both. We still don’t have a lot of faith in our political system, because we have been burned many times. You can help restore faith in our system, or you can give us every reason to say “I told you so.” It’s up to you.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The times (part 3)

I’ve already written a couple posts on changing times (here and here.

Less concrete in terms of dates and magnitude, but earth shattering none the less are the underground explosions on the theological front.
Much of the Christian church seems (at least on the surface) to be continuing on as it has for years. The liberals are being liberal, the conservatives conservative, and both pooh poohing each others' stance on various issues. Both camps seem to be entrenching themselves more deeply in their positions, both quite sure that God is on their side. (And that is just assuming that there are only two points of view on any given question.) Religious/political alliances are solider than ever, and it might look like the status quo will remain.

But the tremors are coming from within, and ripples are becoming evident. Sacred, long-held and strongly supported views on a wide variety of issues (homosexuality and hell to name a couple) are coming under fire. Sermons are being preached, books are being published, blogs are being posted, and discussions are happening in coffee shops everywhere. In many ways, this proliferation of conversation is in itself a sign of change. Rather than trusting a few elite folk to determine what is important, and what is orthodox, anyone with a voice or a keyboard is making their thoughts known. The rank and file as well as the deeply studious are recognizing their right and responsibility to question some of these established positions.
(This is probably the place to mention Fred Phelps (Westboro Baptist Church) and Terry Jones (Koran burning pastor) who are doing a lot of shaking on their own.)

One of the very sad results is that parts of the church are not open to questions. The Protestant church came into existence because of the courage of certain people to question the status quo. Now some elements of that very Protestant church can’t handle people within it protesting or questioning. It seems that we still have a long way to go to live out the passionate desire of Jesus: "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." Asking questions isn’t unloving, it’s being honest. What is unloving is excommunicating someone because they have the insight to ask questions.
What strikes me as refreshing is that these discussions are not springing from an indulgent, over-permissive way of thinking, but very often from a renewed concept of a God of grace and compassion. Surprising as it may seem, most of these disturbers are truly seeking to better grasp what the Bible is trying to tell us, what God may now be prompting us to discover.
Sure, there are multitudes who wouldn’t see it that way, who believe their maintenance of the way things have always been is a firm allegiance to the fundamentals, and to God himself.
But those who desire to question that foundation claim to also be building on something very fundamental—the character of God.

Suffice it to say that the times they are a-changin’, and that Japan isn’t the only place rumblings are happening below the surface.
My forecast is for continued unrest and scattered conflict, giving rise to wide-spread turmoil and upheaval, probably ending with a readjustment of the traditional theological tectonic plates. But, like all seismic activity things will always be shifting.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How did we get here from there?

In the beginning was Jesus. A man with a simple vision statement: to live a human life exemplifying the character of God. So he was probably more than a little exasperated when Philip said: “Show us the Father.”
He had a few committed followers, and many more who traveled around to hear him teach and watch him live out his vision.
He didn’t set up any plans for a structured system for keeping his vision alive within his followers after he died. He didn’t even dictate or write out his memoirs.
The echoes of his voice had hardly died out after he left the earth before his followers had begun to create a system for keeping his message alive.

Of course, they were following a tradition hundreds of years in the making. From the early days of the Jewish people’s experience of dealing with the Divine, they had Pomp and Circumstance. Commandments, sacrifices, offerings, traveling sacred space, and then the permanent temple. Gold, holy days, Sabbaths, festivals, and hierarchy. Politically they had moved from a theocracy to a monarchy.
Then came the disruption of foreign oppression, captivity, and trying to keep the faith alive in a strange land. The temple had been back home in Jerusalem, and now it was destroyed. They were miles and miles away, so they needed to establish new systems for remembering their God.
Synagogues developed—places where history could be remembered, the writings could be read and expounded on, the past kept alive until the temple could be rebuilt. By the time the people were back home, this system was alive in Jewish communities everywhere, and even worked well back in Israel.

So, when the followers of Jesus got together to talk about what Jesus had taught, they had this structural system already in their DNA.
The converts from Judaism to ‘The Way’, and even converts from the Roman Pantheon all came with similar religious institutional experience. Starting a new religion with its sets of rules and observances wasn’t a conscious choice. It just flowed from the systems already in place.
The Jews met in the synagogue, particularly on the Sabbath. We’ll start our own meeting places, and meet on the first day of the week.
They had their sacrifices and observances, we will celebrate the Eucharist.
They had their statement of faith (Hear O Israel, the Lord is One). We will develop our own list of things we believe to be true about Jesus. If you agree, you are part of us.
They had systems of leadership and a priesthood. Paul helped develop a system of bishops, pastors, etc.
It all made sense, especially from their background and experience.
And that was all within the first few years.
Although the Roman empire was initially the enemy, by the time of Constantine the church and state had become best of friends. The church had taken on a decidedly Empire-like structure and authority. The office of ‘Caesar’ was replaced by ‘Pope’, with all of the levels of governance needed underneath. Palaces and ornate places of gathering and government were replaced by cathedrals and the like. Oaths of allegiance and creeds became the way to keep the faith pure, or at least consistent.

Fast forward through centuries of refinement to the time when protest, division and separation became the new definition of what is the church.
As if one set of structures, doctrine and practice wasn’t far enough removed from the simple (but potent) teachings of Christ, now we had an ever expanding list of off shoots. Each quite sure that they are closer to the fundamental truth than anyone else. Each feeling that it is their responsibility to let the others know how they are wrong, and to continually narrow the definition of who is a ‘true believer’. Each much more concerned about doctrine than daily life. Each more convinced than ever that pure doctrine is the only vital ingredient of being a part of the right religion. Each promoting the importance of this ‘right belief’.
And over the centuries, we haven’t done much to separate the Siamese twins of church and state. In many places religion is still in bed with empire, and neither is willing to admit it.

So here we are today. This is how we got here from there.
But what an infinite distance we have traveled from the teachings of Jesus. The one who told us to “Follow me”, the one who gave us only 2 commandments: Love God, and love each other.
He didn’t come to establish a new religion. Sure, he was quick to point out the many shortcomings of the old one, but didn’t put his energy into building a new one.
He announced The Kingdom. A new paradigm which he spent his time living and teaching. A way of life that he invited people to follow. A radical lifestyle that we are still invited to live out.

But it isn’t really that simple. We can’t just jettison church denominationalism, and figure that we now have what Jesus wanted.
If Jesus didn’t give us a detailed schematic for constructing a new religion, what did he have in mind?
Was he planning for his message to die with him? That doesn’t make sense.
So what was his plan? Would he have hoped that his kingdom message would bring about a utopia, that as individuals changed, society would change in an onward and upward spiral towards perfection?
That would be a wonderful dream, but Jesus certainly knew the weaknesses of humanity. Just as friction slows down a moving object, so the selfishness of humankind stops us from reaching the ultimate perfection of the whole world bearing the likeness of God. The great kingdom lifestyle of ‘otherliness’ gradually morphs back into ‘me first’.
Jesus said: “I will build my church.” (Gk. Ecclesia—meeting, congregation, assembly, synagogue.)
He said: “I am leaving, but I will give you my Spirit.” because he knew that we couldn’t do it on our own.
He left his message in the hands and hearts of 12 guys who were only beginning to catch on. Maybe his death was premature—if he had had more time with them, he could have been able to more completely instill his message within them. Maybe a new religion was OK, it just needed a different flavor or style than what did develop. Maybe instead of a new religion he wanted to permeate all religions with his universal kingdom message.
However it appears to you, here we are a couple thousand years later. The baggage of those 2000 years is a bit heavy, and not just a bit unwieldy. We need more than a luggage trolley to deal with it. Maybe a couple sticks of dynamite might be more appropriate.
I’m very grateful for people who are nudging and nagging us to go back to Jesus’ message and example. Whatever ‘church’ means to you, make sure it doesn’t take up so much space that there’s no room for a life of love.

Stained glass windows and scripture texts and baptisms and choirs all have a place in our collective history.
They can inform our effort to follow Christ…
or confound it.
They can serve that lifestyle…
or get in its way.

Let’s just remember Jesus, and continue to figure out what it means to be his follower. And not spend all our energy fortifying our defenses against someone else who is also trying to figure out how to be a Christ-follower.
This message of Jesus is still alive two millennia after Jesus’ words and actions echoed across Palestine. So it still has the inherent power to continue to change us.
And the rest of the world.
Thanks be to God!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I can't love God

Samir Selmanovic: It’s really all about God
My deadpan honest and brilliant New York City friend Norm once raised his hand during the worship service discussion time and blurted out, “I can’t love God.” What flashed through my mind is that Norm would rarely, if ever, say, “I love God.” It was just not something you could hear coming from him. He was one of those people who are usually absent from discussions of theology because they are impatient with words and are busy embodying them.

Every gathering has people who for some reason do not fit in the group because they are not up to par in some way. They look like they don’t have a clue, or taste, or a shower. Norm could always be found talking with these people, lavishing on them genuine curiosity and an open heart.

So when he said, “I can’t love God,” we all gave him space to explain himself, perhaps to confess that this whole God thing has been overrated. He continued, “I have so many people I am committed to love, but my time and resources are finite. If I add God to the list, I will only be able to give God a small part. But,” Norm paused to try to find the right words to explain his silly sacrilegious confession and then continued tentatively, as it asking for permission, “If I can love God through loving people and the world, then I can love God with all of my love.”

At that moment, I came to understand how sweet and real Norm’s love for God really was. Norm isn’t about God because God isn’t about God. Or alternatively, Norm is all about God because to be all about God is to be all about all of us.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

You’ve got to be taught to hate

I’m walking down the street, minding my own business, listening to Barbra Streisand. And this song comes up. It’s a two song medley, one from ‘South Pacific’, the second from ‘Into the Woods’.

Think about the philosophies of life and theologies that are passed along from generation to generation.
Think about the ethnic, gender, religious or economic biases that you learned from your parents or other influential adults in your early years, and how you have continued to live them out as an adult.
Think about how your kids now reflect those same values.

If only our homes and schools and churches were places safe from discrimination.

Here are the lyrics to the songs as sung by Barbra on her ‘Live in Concert 2006’ album.

You've got to be taught to hate and fear
You've got to be taught from year to year
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught

You've got to be taught before it's too late
Before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate
You've got to be carefully taught

Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say "Listen to me"
Children will listen

How can you say to a child who's in flight
"Don't slip away and I won't hold so tight"
What can you say that no matter how slight Won't be misunderstood
What do you leave to your child when you're dead?
Only whatever you put in its head
Things that you're mother and father had said
Careful what you say
Children will listen
Careful you do it too
Children will see, and learn
Which were left to them too
Oh guide them but step away
Children will glisten
Temper with what is true
And children will turn
If just to be free
Careful before you say
"Listen to me"
Children will listen.

It’s not too late to:
1. Change your heart, and
2. Pass along something better to the next generation.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


It’s way too easy for me to rant. To get on my high horse and try to knock off the other riders.
I could say it is my gift, that I am supposed to disturb people. That I have a responsibility to complain about things that need to be changed.
That may be true, as far as it goes—but sometimes it needs to go farther, and in a different direction.

Tonight I basked in a Steve Bell & band concert. Awesome music. Awesome band.
Steve is releasing his new CD called Kindness. The title song was written by Brian McLaren. Yes, that Brian McLaren.

The words are gentle, simple, encouraging, positive. Not at all rant-ish.

Hearing Steve sing it tonight reminded me of the extreme value of being positive.
Of pointing out the good, not just the bad.
Of encouraging, edifying, uplifting.

Here are the lyrics for the song:
Christ has no body here but ours
No hands no feet here on earth but ours.
Ours are the eyes through which he looks
On this world with kindness

Ours are the hands through which he works
Ours are the feet on which he moves
Ours are the voices through which he speaks
To this world with kindness

Through our touch, our smile, our listening ear
Embodied in us, Jesus is living here

Let us go now, inspirited
Into this world with kindness

You can listen to part of it here:
I was at the conference Steve refers to in his notes for the song, and blogged about it here:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The times (part 2)

I expect there have always been natural disasters. But when a big one happens, you start tallying up the recent ones—and it seems they are happening with greater frequency.
We have the triple whammy of earthquake, tsunami, and radiation from Japan, and then we immediately remember New Zealand, China, and the monster in Haiti. Then, not that long ago was the huge and deadly earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia and the Indian Ocean. It’s easy to see a trend, to say that these disasters are another way that times are changing.
If we aren’t diligently killing off people through war, we are seeing it happen through ‘Acts of God’.

Are things getting worse? Are we approaching the end of the world? Is God trying to tell us something? Some Christians seem to think that these disasters give them a great soapbox to deliver a message of God’s judgment. Or is there a certain amount of blame to be placed back on us, the energy hungry Western world?

What do we do, what can we learn? Do we use these catastrophes as an opportunity to preach, or to get involved, to actually care? Or do we thank God that it didn’t happen to us, make a token donation, and carry on with our daily, consumptive lives.
I’m not trying to promote pat answers here, just some more thinking. For us on the West Coast, we realize again how little control we have over nature, and news of another earthquake tends to shake us out of our lethargy (at least for a few days). Maybe this time we will get more prepared for our own disaster, and really work towards making a difference where the need is the greatest.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The times (part 1)

“The world is changing: I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, and I smell it in the air.” (Tolkien)
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” (Dickens)
“For the times they are a-changin'” (Dylan)

Words that are terribly apropos in recent weeks and days.
Whether it is the groundswell of political unrest in North Africa and beyond, or the triple disaster in Japan, the world is not the same as it was even a few months ago.

Where do we (or should we) find ourselves as followers of Jesus?
One answer seems pretty obvious. Compassion is always an appropriate response.
But for me less obvious is my response to the surge of freedom fighters in a number of Arab countries.
Sure, I’m all in favor of throwing off the yoke of oppression of a dictatorship. And, as a product of a fairly democratic country, I tend to see democracy as a great concept. But perhaps that is just the knee-jerk reaction of a Westerner?

Is there a perfect political system?
Where does the Kingdom of God figure into this? In its most perfect incarnation, what would it look like if a nation followed the kingdom principles of the Sermon on the Mount, for example? Does democracy best exemplify loving your neighbor, being poor in spirit, or turning the other cheek? Or is there a different system that would better mirror the Kingdom?
And, as a guy endeavoring to follow the example of Jesus, should I support some kind of effort to ‘subdue’ the leader of a totalitarian government? Should I encourage or support military action (OK, call it war) from outside in order to strengthen the efforts of the locals to establish a government of the people? Or should I mind my own business, and let them duke it out on their own? Our politicians face similar questions, and have made their decision.
Or should I assume that this is all part of God’s way of bringing about Armageddon, the end of all things. That we should rejoice because ‘wars and rumors of wars’ are proof that the end of the world is coming soon, and that this is the ushering in of a New Heaven and a New Earth a la Revelation?
The last option smacks too much of a view of God that I don’t want to be connected with. The God that enjoys smiting. The God that loves us, but hates them. The God that calls us to war. The God that some individuals or groups of people claim is on their side as they ‘destroy the infidels’.

Back to the question: What is my response to these cataclysmic events?
Well, my heart immediately sides with those who desire freedom. And my internal justice meter redlines at the violence perpetrated by and on behalf of the existing leader in order to stay in power.
But isn’t that much the same as happened decades ago as ‘the Allies’ joined together to defeat Hitler? Not only was there moral support for freedom, but over a period of time, many nations declared war on nations they felt were threatening that freedom. I think the prevailing consensus of the West is that war was necessary—the ‘just war’ theory.
Of course, the same logic has been promoted for outside involvement in many other countries since then, including Iraq and Afghanistan.
But does that make it right?
Crucial, pivotal times. Times that can challenge us to think. And I think thinking is an undervalued, overdue activity.

Friday, March 18, 2011

”All the screws have been removed.”

A few weeks ago I heard that phrase somewhere—but now I don’t remember the setting (and Google hasn’t been of any assistance). It had something to do with preparation for moving something that had once been solidly attached, and now was going to a new location.
Whatever the setting, the phrase hit me between the eyes.

What a sense of expectation!
And fear!
And anticipation!
We aren’t in Kansas anymore Toto—but I don’t yet know where we have landed.

It’s putting on your skis or committing your feet to the snowboard. You are on a smooth surface, any moment now you could be off on a trip—somewhere. Any nudge will get you started.
All you can say for sure is that the future will not be like the past. But you have no assurance as to where the end point is.

Is it comfortable? Not on your life!
Is it safe? Likely not.
Is it good? Potentially, very good.

Sometimes removing the screws is the first step in a repair project. Once you have removed all of the screws, you can fix the problem with your toaster or vacuum cleaner or carburetor.

Sometimes it is the first step in upgrading something. Remove the screws, take off the cover, and now you can replace that old hard drive in your computer with something bigger.

Sometimes it is the first step in renovating. Take off the old curtain rods, or kitchen cabinets, and install something more modern or useful.

Think about the block of wood once attached to the lathe. While there, it was being formed for a particular purpose. Sure, it was quite an operation, but there was a sense of security in the attachment to the rest of the tool.
Then, the shaping is over, the screws are removed, and real life begins.
Or the student in college. A solid, structured life. Classes, assignments, exams.
Then comes graduation, the dorm is vacated and a new life begins.

And it doesn’t necessarily stop once you have established a career. Sometimes a well-established job disintegrates, or the family needs to move, or all of the little tax deductions are now out on their own, and the nest is empty.

Or, sometimes, God stirs the nest. You get this strange unnatural urge to ask a question. And one by one the things that you thought were written in stone (to switch metaphors) are now less concrete. It’s not that the foundation is crumbling, but certain pieces of the structure are being replaced. The screws are being loosened, and one by one removed so that the structure itself can be placed somewhere else.

If this has happened to you, you know what I am talking about. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it is probably the best thing that ever happened to you—but it is still a scary place to be.

Whether physically, emotionally, or even intellectually or spiritually, you now know that your course has been changed, but you don’t yet know where you will land.
Rationality says: “Quick, get reattached. Reset your anchor. Don’t let yourself float away.”
Trust says: “Help! I’m scared—but I know that my little boat isn’t going to be swamped. Blow me where you want, I’m free and safe in You.”
Are you feeling like “All the screws have been removed”—but not yet reattached? Hang in there! As trite as it sounds, you are now ready to move on.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Did you know that you have the power to make people disappear?
As you move through a public space, who do you see?
And who do you not see?
Who do you intentionally try to not make eye contact with?
Of course, we see our friends, and usually have no problem seeing people we may not know.
But there are the others…

Here in Victoria, there is a business that hires people to be fund raisers for various charities. They place people in pairs on the street, lying in wait to sign you up as a regular supporter of groups like the Red Cross, or Amnesty International. I admit, I often do what I can do avoid getting pulled in by their tractor beam—ducking into a store, or crossing the street.
Panhandlers have told me more than once that they feel invisible. Even when they offer a cheery “Good Morning!”, they are often treated as if they didn’t exist.
How about the ‘non-normal’ person that you come into close proximity with as you walk down the sidewalk? The lady with the white cane, the boisterous drunk or flailing young addict trying to maneuver their way down the street. The social misfit, the chatty guy from the group home, the obvious member of a different culture.
“I don’t feel comfortable….”
“Not quite sure what to do….”
So I pretend they aren’t there.
Perhaps we are acting like the first two characters in the story of the Good Samaritan who ‘walked by on the other side.’
But what does it feel like to the one who is ignored?

And then there is the flip side—those who don’t want to be seen, who don’t want to have an encounter. Ears plugged with earbuds, eyes focused on texting or reading, apparently afraid that they might have to join the real world.

What does this all mean?
Is it OK to ignore those who look like they want to be ignored, or those I am uncomfortable with?
The prickly question to ask in response to the previous questions is: “What would Jesus do?” If my most important calling in life is to follow Jesus, what would he be doing?
He would go to the well in the center of town where, in the heat of midday is a Woman who Has a Past. And he would talk with her.
He would hang out with publicans, tax collectors, sinners—the riffraff.
He would let a prostitute pour oil on him, wiping him with her hair.
He would touch the untouchables.

The old gospel song says; “I’ll go, where you want me to go, dear Lord.”
Will we? Will we go down an uncomfortable street?
Another song says; “Here I am, Lord. I will go, Lord, if you lead me, I will hold your people in my heart.”
Really? Will we go where he has already gone?
How about: “Open our eyes, Lord, we want to see Jesus.” In the light of Matthew 25:40 (Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.) will we open our eyes and see Jesus in the person we were trying to ignore?

You have the power to make people disappear or appear. What will you do?

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