Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Word to the Wise?

One early morning as I sat in my hotel room armchair sipping my morning coffee, slowly waking up, I became aware of sounds from the wall next to me. At first I assumed it was the soft sound of someone in the next room - more early risers. But as I focused more intently on the barely audible noises, I realised that they were probably caused by water gurgling slowly through pipes buried in the wall. They were not the muffled sounds of conversation at all, though very similar.

I got to thinking about the difference between an overheard conversation, and the random sounds generated by random physical movements of water. What if the trickling water in a pipe did happen to produce an intelligible word, sentence, phrase, paragraph, book ... It would still be meaningless because when it happens merely as happenstance there can be no meaning attributed to it as none was ever intended. There is a monumental difference between random sounds and those carefully-crafted sounds of language that we use to express ideas and thoughts from our inner landscapes. One set of noises, though perhaps intriguing conveys no inner message. The other represents the very presence of a sentient mind expressing itself. It's hard to find words to even express how huge that gulf is between random sounds and language.

Now, to turn the situation around a little, let's imagine that we discerned a string of sounds through a wall or from outer space - and these sounds (or other coded signals) did resolve into intelligible words. And what if those words grew into sentences and paragraphs and entire essays which statistically could never happen by mere chance. Then we're faced with the concept that they represent the expressions of another sentient mind reaching out to us - they represent CO-munication.

So, I find it very significant that Jesus is called The Word of God. The underlying word in the bible is the Greek word Logos. Logos was apparently a special word conceptualizing a first cause for the universe. The First Word - from which all other thoughts, ideas, communications and creations spring forth.

So John wrote, "In the beginning was the word (logos) and the word was with God and the word was God." And if that sentence causes you to think of another opening line that's not a coincidence: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth ..."

Our God (we are told in the bible) is the ultimate communicator who spoke the universe into existence and upholds it by the breath of his word. Throughout the pages of this book we encounter a Creator God who speaks, and communicates with us in language (and other ways) - who makes the very existence of language possible by his own existence.

So, doesn't it make sense then, that language in and of itself is one of the fundamental arguments for the existence of God? It did to Christian philosopher Francis Shaeffer. And doesn't it make sense then that our ability to think in words and use language is one of the strongest evidences of God's image within us?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Away in a manger ... The Rest of the Story?

A few years ago I saw a t.v. special about the ancient culture of the middle east. They pointed out that the typical home of that time had a stable area on the ground level where the family animals were kept, while the family lived in the upper room. This instantly made sense to me because I've seen it in other cultures too. For example I once toured a Scottish farming museum from circa. 1000 AD, where the house also sheltered both the family and their animals. A further example is that of my step-dad who grew up in Holland in the 1940s. His family home likewise sheltered people and animals under one roof.

Here's another article that got me thinking, from Christianity Today.

So, I wonder. When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem did they find all their relative's homes over-crowded and they were shown to the stable? Or were they perhaps even shunned due to Mary's "awkward" condition and so sent to the stable room with the animals. This writer takes that view.

This also begs another question. Why on earth was Mary subjected to this long difficult journey so late in her pregnancy? I know there was a mandatory census underway, but in that culture the women and children were considered property of their male Head of Household... So couldn't Mary have rested in Nazareth while Joseph travelled to Bethleham where he would have included her in his records?

Now here's a conjecture - based soley on the culture as I understand it. Was it a matter of Mary's safety? Could she have become the target of an honour-killing had she stayed behind, beyond Joseph's protection? Sadly, this practice still goes on today - in Nazareth! And here's another case, albeit related with a dark punchline.

Slowly a more accurate background story of Jesus' birth may become known. The bucolic Sunday school sanitized version doesn't do justice to the magnitude of the event and the degree of faith exercised by Mary and Joseph. And more signiciantly - it fails to portray how deeply God was about to overturn the whole world!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Christmas Music Player from Signpost

Steve Bell and other Signpost artists present a mix of beautifully-arranged traditional and original music for the season.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Legitimization of Imagination and Art

One of my favorite ministries is that of Steve Bell. In his quest to encourage "artful word and music..." (as expressed in this interview), I think he is responding to the same mission call as theologian Greg Boyd in his book Seeing is Believing - Experience Jesus through imaginative prayer

p.134: "... Much of the present spiritual impoverishment of Western Christianity has come about because the Christian church, under the influence of the Enlightenment worldview, largely lost its spiritual imagination. It was influenced by the worldview that explained away the internal intersecting point where God meets humans, where the things of God become experienced realities. It accepted our culture's scientific view of the imagination as being only make-believe. Consequently for many people the Christian faith has become little more than an abstract set of doctrines to which one gives intellectual assent."

Here is a short video where Boyd explains the church history of so-called cataphatic (visualizing imaginative) prayer:

Here is a recent video combining a song from Steve's latest album with rap artist Fresh I.E.:

Monday, November 16, 2009

Miracle on the Hudson - revisited

I found this in my writings -- don't think I posted it here yet. It does express my own view in the debate as represented by Gregory Boyd (Arminian Open theist) and John Piper (Calvinist Classical theist).

The recent ditching of an A-320 Airbus into New York’s Hudson river caused a lot of online discussion about what a miracle is and whether this event is somehow attributable to God. This is nothing new. After every disaster, the arguments begin. Did God bless these particular people by keeping them alive? And if so, then why not bless them by avoiding the collision with the birds all together? But then does he curse others who perish in aircraft accidents?

The idea that good events (by our reckoning) are God’s blessing and bad events are his cursing is not new. Job and his counsellors argued both sides of this coin thousands of years ago, until God showed up to tell them their “coin” wasn’t big enough to handle his picture.

And Jesus’ words on the matter in the gospel of Luke 13:1-5 Should have put an end to this mindset long ago. But for whatever reason, it hasn’t.

Perhaps a more helpful way to put events like the Miracle on the Hudson into perspective is to consider three great laws that I believe govern our universe.

The writer of ecclesiastes says that “…time and chance overtake them all… (Ecc.9:11)” Sometimes life doesn’t unfold according to our expectations or comprehension. Some things are beyond our ability to foresee and control. We attribute these things to the Laws of Chance or coincidence. Why did the flock of geese happen to be in that spot at that time with that particular group of people on board that aircraft? We have no way to know, measure or control this.

But some things we can actually control or at least strongly influence. This we call the Law of Cause and Effect. Airlines invest millions of dollars in training pilots and flight attendants to deal with emergencies so they were able to rise to the demands of the occasion. Airliners are built to withstand bird impacts up to a certain point, so the Captain’s windshield was not destroyed and he was still able to see to land the plane. The aircraft remained controllable in the glide with dead engines because it was engineered to do so. When the fuselage hit the water, the care with which it was designed and built and Captain Sulley’s delicate and accurate guidance to the water’s surface helped keep it intact avoiding a catastrophic disintegration.

Cause and Effect. We do certain things and we get the expected outcomes. We are in control of some things.

The third law of the Universe that is always in effect is the Law of Love. The presence of love expresses itself in many ways. When the flock of birds smashed violently against the windshield and engines Captain Sulley maintained his composure and kept flying the stricken aircraft. Sometimes love is expressed as self-control.

When people on board the aircraft realised their fate, many turned to their neighbours with expressions of mutual compassion. Strangers held hands, or exchanged words of prayer and encouragement for what was about to happen. Sometimes love is expressed as kindness and compassion.

Onlookers from the shore, seeing the aircraft ditching, did not stand by and say, “Oh, look. I guess that is fate, or chance that these people are about to die in the river.” Nor did they say: “Oh, look! They’re getting what they deserve! Someone must have made some mistakes or screwed up and now the airplane is crashing in the river. It’s God’s Will. It serves them right!” Of course not.

Rather, most people immediately exercised grace. At least for a few moments they laid aside whatever other priorities they had that day and they ran to the aid of their fellow humans in need. Often at the risk of their own safety. A ferry boat full of passengers diverted to the stricken aircraft to help some escape the sinking plane. Local boat owners and ferry boats and rescue ships of all types moved in to help, not knowing if the aircraft might not suddenly sink or shift and take them down with it. Love is kindness, goodness and a desire to seek the good of others even at your own risk.

Meanwhile inside the aircraft, some passengers initially began to panic. But the firm words from the flight attendants and other passengers helped maintain calmness and cooperation as they exited the plane through frigid waters. Some even tried to ensure that a woman with a babe-in-arms would get rescued first. Love is peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control.

The bible lists some specific characteristics of the presence of God’s holy spirit. It specifically mentions love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, but I'm sure this list isn't meant to be exhaustive. Where-ever love expresses itself, God is near. Many of these attributes were obviously working in many of the passengers, crewmembers and rescuers. God was there. The Law of Love was in effect as people responded to an event was precipitated by chance, unfolded according to cause and effect, but was responded to in love. Love always has the final word.

When I fall, let it be somewhere where love and grace are close at hand.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gen. 2:15 - To dress it and to keep it

When God created humans he gave us a sacred charge.
"To dress,... to keep, " How far we have fallen
(caution - some scenes of animal cruelty,
but even more provoking -
some challenging thoughts about
where Christians should be in all this):

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When We Heard She Was Dead

We hear of some homeless person found dead on a street corner and we go on with our lives barely giving it another thought. Did anyone know her name? Her story? Who cares?

Then I discovered we did know her name. As did her street family. And they knew her story. And they cared. Deeply. It was Angel.

I remembered the young woman we met early on during our hot-diggity-dog street people venture. She had just finished her snack and was about to leave when she stopped and turned to the many stuffies hanging from her backpack and thrust a bright yellow Pluto towards me: "Here! His name is J.C.. He'll watch over you guys while you're out here." And she wandered away into the night.

I propped J.C. up on the van. From then on it became our our first order of business during set-up for the hotdog distribution to attach J.C. to the tailgate.

Angel revisited us a few times over the early summer. She seemed to enjoy just hanging out with some of our young adults. I thought to myself that the young street women were enjoying a few moments of just being normal again. Here they could let down their guard. They could chat about clothing or hair cuts or fashions and forget for a little while where they'd be tonight and what they'd be doing to survive.

The street folk have their own community and it's just like any other community in many ways - better by some standards in fact. And one of Angel's friends, Taz was deeply saddened that there was no memorial for Angel that he could attend. Angel's other family lived in Port Alberni and that's where her funeral services were held. During the week I'd found Angel's obituary online. I read it out as a sort of impromtu parking lot memorial to a woman I barely knew. But I knew God knew her very well. And in His arms she finally found rest.

A couple of notes from my journal:

2008 March,31,Sunday,

• we used up two dozen hot dogs but gave out several doubles

• client Angel donated a stuffed Pluto doll “JC” as our mascot

• team debriefed afterwards at MGM

2008 June,8,Sunday,

• Angel came by and was happy to see our mascot J.C. that she’d given us many weeks ago.

2008 July,20,Sunday

• 4 doz hot-dogs went out in a leisurely manner ... nice people

• Started by reading Angel’s obituary ... Taz appreciated that...

• Bronwyn from the Firehall restaurant came over to ask why we’re doing what we do and if we think it helps.. she lives in the area and the homeless often hang out around the restaurant

Angel’s Obituary and newspaper comments

Obituaries (07/18/08) CAMPBELL Angel Dorsheia (Hassel) Passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on Monday, July 14th, 2008 at the age of 27 years.

Predeceased by her husband Stoney, and sister Lorrinda. Angel will be greatly missed and lovingly remembered by her parents Lillian and Soupy Campbell; her children Lillian and Jimmy; step-son Morgan; grandparents, numerous nieces and nephews as well as many, many friends. Angel spent most of her life in the Alberni Valley. She loved the outdoors, especially fishing and hunting and shot her first deer at the age of 10. Angel loved the water and could swim like a fish. One of her life goals was to become a Fisheries Officer. Angel had an outgoing and free spirited nature as well as the ability to make friends easily.

A Funeral Service will be held 3:00pm, Saturday, July 19, 2008 from the Chapel of Memories, 4005 6th Avenue, Port Alberni, BC with Pastor Les Schrader officiating. Cremation will follow after the service. In lieu of flowers, if friends so wish, donations may be made to the Canadian Cancer Society, 5060 Argyle St, Port Alberni, BC., V9Y 1V4.

Condolences may be forwarded to the family by visiting .

Chapel Of Memories Funeral Directors 723-3633 137921 Vancouver Island



I kept some responses to the online news story that reported Angel's death as a supposed drug overdose of just another homeless woman:



Thu, Jul 17, 08 at 01:27 PM

Yes, they are human beings, and whether they’re a loved one or not, it doesn’t matter! I am honestly sick of all this sympathy all these low-life junkies are recieving. Honestly they’re so selfish and lazy. And I have every right to say this because I used to be a junkie myself, living on the streets in East Van. I always looked for excuses to blame other things for my way of life. And whenever someone would speak up and say “oh you poor soul” I’d soak it up! I loved it! they helped me blame other things for my problems. It wasnt until one day when I was asking for spare change when somebody shouted out the typical “get a job” that was when I realized that I need to stop blaming other things for my problems and get a grip on myself and reality. So I started doing labour jobs and saving my money, eventually I started renting an apartment and now I work as a supervisor at a successful business making $80,000 a year and I own my house and my car. And I owe it all to getting off my lazy ass and started taking responsiblity for my life. I say overdosing is just a good way to sift out the hopeless ones.


James Cunningham

Thu, Jul 17, 08 at 03:47 PM

I was a resident on the corner of Victoria RD & Milton ST for 3 years I moved here from Alberta in 2001. When we (our family) started noticing the incredible amount of drug use and drug behavior on that corner I decided to go on a mission and ask every department of the city of Nanaimo If they could come and sit at our house to view what was going on so that they may come up with a solution to deal with this problem. I sent hundreds of emails over this 3 year period to all in power at city hall and Nanaimo RCMP. I sat as a representative of our neighborhood at the restorative justice meetings with RCMP, Johns who were picked up during prostitution stings and X- prostitutes. I had to tell these people how their behavior had affected our family and the families of our neighbours. My intentions were to try and get help for these people, I did not hate them I hated what drugs were doing to them and I knew they could’nt see it because the drugs had taken over their lives. My final attempt to get help was at city hall as a delegate speaking about prostitution and drugs in Nanaimo. Councilor Loyd Sherry asked me not to speak on the matter but I did anyway but since that evening things have got more out of control than ever. The Nanaimo RCMP asked me to document all johns picking up prostitues license plates and colour of the vehicles. I did that and presented it to city council with over 350 different vehicles picking up prostitutes just on the corner that we lived, Who knows how many more there were. I will not say some of the people who I saw picking up prostitues as to protect their privacy but if I was to give out this information the people of Nanaimo would be shocked. Just for the record I still have all the emails and plate numbers on disk from my computer. It’s unfortunate that good people are dying because there was not enough effort put into helping them when we lived in the area.



Fri, Jul 18, 08 at 02:02 AM

I just want everyone to know that Angel was a real person. She was very close to my sister when we were all yonger. I remember having one of the best snowball fights of my life with her on new years eve. When you are 13 it is hard to imagine what your life will be like in five, ten or fifteen years; even though I havent spoken to Angel in a very long time I know she had walked a very hard path. My sympathy also goes out to her parents, I’m sure many of you may not know this but Angel had a sister who passed away almost ten years ago. It is a tragedy for a perent to lose a child, but there are no words to describe how it must feel to lose two. Drug involvedment or not, whenever any person passes away it is a sad event fro those who loved them and I know Angel was still loved.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Embrace the Blessings!

Yesterday morning my eighty-four year old mother quoted a poem to me. My mother, like anyone else in their eighties has survived many of life's toughest challenges and she has come through with her sense of humour and love of life and God intact. She has lived through the Great Depression and Second World War. She has survived raising four teenagers during the turbulent sixties. She survived the death of her husband and then rebuilt her life with another wonderful man, my step-dad. She has survived breast cancer and currently lives with lymphoma in remission. My mother is a survivor and a wise old woman - the Matriarch of our family.

So she read me this poem over breakfast yesterday morning and I found myself initially thinking how schmaltzy it was - sort of an extended Hallmark card. I smiled indulgently trying not to be distracted by my opinion of the quality of the poetry.

Later that morning I watched as my mother also tried to share this same blessing with her grandson, my oldest child. And I squirmed as he pulled back in irritation, interpreting her efforts as "pushing her religion."

I see now that he and I were both rejecting a Blessing.

I thought about how often I reject offerings of love and Blessing that are sent my way because my inner editor distracts me regarding the quality of the language being used, or the music being played or the world-view being expressed. This latter one especially. I now realize that when anyone reaches out with a blessing it is only natural - in fact necessary - that they do so from their own worldview - not mine. So why should I be offended and reject a blessing because of that?

Why should I not accept a greeting of, "Have a good day!" from an atheist because I wonder how an atheist judges good or bad without an over-arching moral code emanating from a moral creator? Why should I deny a blessing of "Good luck!" from a fellow being just because I wonder if luck exists. I'm missing the point. Why should anyone deny a blessing of "Go with God," just because they disagree that God exists or know her by a different name? Why should I deny a blessing of "Salem" from Muslim or Jew simply because my view of God differs? It makes no sense.

Interestingly, the one member of my family who beamed at my mother's poem of blessing and received it whole-heartedly with a big smile, hug and "thank you!" was my dear wife. This woman is known as a blessing to all who keep her company. She laughs easily and loves deeply. She turns everything she does into a joyful adventure throwing herself into it with all her might. Consequently, she is successful, wise and charming. Despite serious setbacks during her life she remains constantly optimistic, positive and encouraging. If ever there was a "proverbs 31 woman," she is it.

I wondered at the connection between her openness to my mother's blessing and my wife's success in life. Surely there is a connection. Surely she is onto something that I have missed. Surely life goes better, no matter what our circumstances, when we are open to the blessings being offered us on all sides. From the physical helps of friends and neighbours, to the friendly greetings of passers-by, to the expressed love and support from our closest family members. Blessings abound. If we will only recognize and accept them.

May I learn this lesson well - to Embrace the Blessings!

By the way, here's the poem my mother recited - I offer it to you as a blessing:

you are here for a reason.

you are part of an intricate plan.

you're a precious and unique design,

called God's special woman or man.

you look like you look for a reason.

our God made no mistake.

he knit you together within the womb,

you're just what he wanted to make.

the parents you had were the ones he chose,

and no matter how you feel,

they were custom designed with Gods plan in mind,

and they bear the master's seal.

no, that trauma you faced was not easy,

and God wept that it hurt you so;

but it was allowed to shape your heart,

so that into his likeness you'd grow.

you are who you are for a reason,

you've been formed by the master's rod.

you are who you are, beloved,

because there is a God.

Thanks, Mom.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What do you see when you turn out the lights?

I heard of a "guru" nearby who leads his congregants through a fascinating exercise. He asks each member of the group to make a list of the ten most important things, aspects or qualities of their lives and rank them in order of significance. Participants come up with items such as: my spouse, my children, my musical talent, my painting ability, my stamp collection, my job or my ability to work, etc... There are no particular rules about what can be on the list. The items just have to be your way of expressing the most precious aspects of your life.

Then the guru has them work up the list meditating on: "What would happen if that was taken away from you? How would you feel? How would you cope? How would you go on?" It's an exercise that takes most of the day, and requires the participants to reflect deeply as each item is torn away. And they are left to ponder: "What is left when the entire list is gone?"

When I heard of this I thought it was a great exercise because this is exactly what life does to each of us. Whether gradually or suddenly life takes away pretty much everything we have and everything we are.

Think about it. At some point everyone we care for will die - or we will die - either way those relationships are lost. Age takes away our physical abilities. We lose our vitality and health. Our limbs lose strength. We lose our ability to play, to ski, to skate, to run. We lose our beauty. We lose our voices and our ability to sing. We lose our agility to play musical instruments with the finesse we once did.

Our eyes grow weaker so we can no longer read. We lose the ability to work, to earn money. We lose our money one way or another - we can't take it with us no matter how wealthy we may be at the end. Nor can any amount of money push off death forever.

Life eventually strips us bare with no hope of reprieve in this world.

So are we left with nothing then? Isn't there some final "essence" about us that nothing can touch? Is there anything to show for our voyage through this life?

That's an important question. Answering it should be the goal of our spiritual lives. I think that's what the philosopher meant when he said: "The unexamined life is not worth living." As Steven Covey says, we might spend our lives climbing a ladder only to discover when we arrive at the top, that it was propped against the wrong wall.

In my quest for an answer I've come to a couple of conclusions, half-baked as they may be for now. The first comes from my sister who was once told that in dying we take nothing with us. Her response was that this is not true. She said, "We take our character with us. We take into our grave and beyond whatever character we've formed during this life."

I see her point and agree. Finally, we are left with ourselves. With who we are. With what we've become through our choices in life. If I take a line from those gurus of my youth, Lennon and McCartney: "What do you see when you turn out the light? I can't tell you but I know it's mine."

I thought that was 'the answer,' but now I've seen that it leads to a more important insight. For our personal identity is by and of itself, ironically, meaningless.

When the lights go out if I'm left with only myself - if I'm totally alone and have only my individual life remaining - then I am in a bad way. I have no ability to know who I am. Where I am. What I am. Or even that I am. Nor do I have any hope of determining anything as I have nothing for refernce.

If a single point exists in an endless void of nothing, then there is no way to know anything about that point. Is it large? Is it small? Is it moving? Is it facing up? Down? Does if have a shape? We can know nothing about it without some frame of reference around it - some measuring system that exists beyond it.

Likewise, our selves - our identities, our being, our character - cannot exist in a void of aloneness. Unless we exist within some sort of community we become totally irrelevant and without meaning. Our very existence becomes impossible to prove. Illogical, as Mr. Spock might say.

Then I realized that thankfully, when the lights go out, I am not alone. There is always an overarching Presence that provides the frame of reference. I am eternally part of a communion with God, who in and of himself is also a tri-union of being (that we struggle to understand as Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and in another sense, he/she is an entire communion of (potentially) every human who has ever lived.

So, to give Lennon and McCartney the last word: "I just need someone to love."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Laughing With God

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one's laughing at God when they're starving or freezing or so very poor

No one laughs at God when the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one's laughing at God when it's gotten real late and their kid's not back from that party yet

No one laughs at God when their airplane starts to uncontrollably shake
No one's laughing at God when they see the one they love hand in hand with someone else and they hope that they're mistaken
No one laughs at God when the cops knock on their door and they say "We've got some bad new, sir,"
No one's laughing at God when there's a famine, fire or flood

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party while listening to a good God-themed joke or
Or when the crazies say he hates us and they get so red in the head you think that they're about to choke

God can be funny
When told he'll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie
Who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus

God can be so hilarious
Ha ha
Ha ha

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one's laughing at God when they've lost all they got and they don't know what for

No one laughs at God on the day they realize that the last sight they'll ever see is a pair of hateful eyes
No one's laughing at God when they're saying their goodbyes

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party while listening to a good God-themed joke or
Or when the crazies say he hates us and they get so red in the head you think that they're about to choke

God can be funny
When told he'll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie
Who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus

God can be so hilarious

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war

No one's laughing at God in a hospital
No one's laughing at God in a war

No one's laughing at God when they're starving or freezing or so very poor

No one's laughing at God
No one's laughing at God
No one's laughing at God
We're all laughing with God

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

God is on both sides

It's a concept that changes everything but I'm not sure how.

God is on both sides of every transaction.

I'm thinking of the kinds of transactions that cause people to doubt
God's very existence or at least his loving nature. Things like
rapes, assaults, beatings, attacks, aggressions of all sorts. If God
is equally vested in the eternal well-being of both the perpetrator
and the victim, if God views each of them as a beloved child, albeit
perhaps a severely wayward child - how does it change things?

It has me wondering who's really "doing" what to whom? Who really is
in charge of the transaction? What if through the so-called victim,
God actually is accomplishing something sacred beyond our comprehension. Something involving the salvation and sanctification of all?

What if in some cosmic sense the so-called victim is actually an accomplice?

A strange idea? For sure. One that get's even stranger when we include the suffering of animals under human jurisdiction.

Yet, isn't something like this what was going on at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Surprised by Hope


Linked me to this... Which looks like an interesting read... to me at least.
From Publishers Weekly
Wright, one of the greatest, and certainly most prolific, Bible scholars in the world, will touch a nerve with this book. What happens when we die? How should we think about heaven, hell, purgatory and eternal life? Wright critiques the views of heaven that have become regnant in Western culture, especially the assumption of the continuance of the soul after death in a sort of blissful non-bodily existence. This is simply not Christian teaching, Wright insists. The New Testament's clear witness is to the resurrection of the body, not the migration of the soul. And not right away, but only when Jesus returns in judgment and glory. The "paradise," the experience of being "with Christ" spoken of occasionally in the scriptures, is a period of waiting for this return. But Christian teaching of life after death should really be an emphasis on "life after life after death"-the resurrection of the body, which is also the ground for all faithful political action, as the last part of this book argues. Wright's prose is as accessible as it is learned-an increasingly rare combination. No one can doubt his erudition or the greatness of the churchmanship of the Anglican Bishop of Durham. One wonders, however, at the regular citation of his own previous work. And no other scholar can get away so cleanly with continuing to propagate the "hellenization thesis," by which the early church is eventually polluted by contaminating Greek philosophical influence. 
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. 

"This book is N.T. Wright at his finest." (Rob Bell, author of Velvet Elvis )

This book will be widely read because it stirs together Scripture, tradition, art and world affairs with pleasing metaphors and public courage. (The Dallas Morning News )

"Wright's unwavering faith in the resurrection is quite evident as he defends the Easter narratives on historical and theological grounds." (America Magazine )

"N.T. Wright can write. . . when it comes to questions of Christ's resurrection and what that means, no one is more persuasive. Wright's new book, Surprised by Hope, builds on C.S. Lewis' succinct defense of the faith and takes it to a new level." (World Magazine )

His conclusions are both simple and world-shaking (Library Journal )

A crystal-clear, powerful course-correction for all of us--Christian or otherwise. If you want to know what Easter is about, get yourself a copy of Surprised by Hope and hunker down for the read of a lifetime....literally. (Phyllis Tickle, )

"In calling Christians to an epistemology of love and a re-emphasis of the Easter season, Wright knocked it out of the park." (Beliefnet (A "Top Religious Book of the Year") ) 

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Let There Be Light...

For three days, two thousand years ago, the flame was completely extinguished and the world grew dark. Perhaps darker than it had ever been.

But then from the depths of that particular tomb, a small but incredibly bright flame burst out. Over the next several days this flame ignited other small sparks around the middle east. And then on the day of Pentecost, that flame divided into several small tongues of fire and filled an upper room in Jerusalem with light. Small lights and not so bright as the one intense light, to be sure, but now there were many.

Since that day the fire has been spreading. Many becoming legions, ultimately bringing light to every corner of the earth. Today there are literally millions of points of this pure light. True, many of these flames barely flicker. The wicks often fizzle and threaten to extinguish. They often produce more smoke than light. Yet they always remain capable of suddenly, surprisingly springing back to life.

Many others glow robustly, giving a clear light to the surrounding atmosphere. And there are a surprising number of even brighter flames whose color comes closest to the original pure white light of the original flame. Some of these bright lights we have even known by name down through the ages. Names such as Peter and Paul for certain. But also many others. Francis, and Mother Teresa and Billy Graham come to mind. And some of the brightest flames faithfully repel darkness and obscurity as they burn on, completely anonymous. Anonymous that is to us, but not to the Giver of Light.

And always, little by little, since that Great Darkness was shattered 2,000 years ago, the darkness is continually being driven back. Slowly, oh so slowly, yet inevitably, the Light is coming into the world.

Jesus said: "I am the Light of the world." Even so, Lord Jesus, Come!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Good Friday contemplation poem

In this dying light- a tenebrae prayer.

darkness gathers about the cross, the light there dying draws it.
like lions circle prey
all darkness dances about the cross, for the light there dying draws it.

O tell me this is a ruse,
that you bait destruction with your failing flame,
that you draw it from your nestlings with your broken wing,
that this is not what it seems.

where now is the promise of death’s death in this dying light?

sorrow tarries for the night…
keep me, Lord, keep me ‘til the morning.

- by Brian Wilke

March 28th, 2009
Location: steve bell with the Ottawa Symphony orchestra,
Dominion-Chalmers United Church, Ottawa Ontario.
Music: steve bell moon over berkenau, dark night of the soul.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Passage and Beyond...

I'm about to re-read a book by one of my favorite authors, Connie Willis. It's called Passage and deals with death and the so-called near death experience (NDE).

I was googling this morning and I was surprised to discover many recorded instances of the dead coming back to life. Which as a Christian fascinates me of course. The bible records several instances of dead people returning to life. The most famous and crucial one for us of course is the resurrection of Jesus.

Interestingly, Jesus is the one whose body has been most damaged prior to his death. He has been scourged and crucified, producing huge trauma and blood loss. Death on the cross usually occurs by a sort of drowning in the lungs from fluids and in fact before taking down the body a Roman soldier pierces his side and out pours blood and water. Exactly what one would expect.

Yet, miraculously after three days and the accompanying decomposition, Jesus' body is brought back to life. And then, even more significantly his body ceases to exist in this realm. He is raised to his Father. Think about that and decide if it could be true. If his body was still around here somewhere and his followers had discovered it they would not have believed and gone on to do and say the things they did. Or his enemies would have found it and used it to discredit his disciple's claims. Could someone have removed it from the tomb guarded by Roman soldiers and hidden it? How could anyone keep something like that a secret? How could a Roman guard be so easily circumvented?

And then even more miraculously, over the next several days and weeks, Jesus begins to reappear to people, in a recognizable body. Often this body materializes inside a locked room, where he demonstrates that he can eat, he can be touched and held. And then he disappears again. Without these experiences, how could his disciples have been transformed from people cowering in a locked room, fearing for their lives, to powerful witnesses of his Life who founded a world-changing movement?

So, I guess when we refer to the resurrection of Jesus, it's not just that he comes back to life that is significant. That apparently happens more frequently than we might realize (see videos and links below and decide for yourself if these are real.) When we refer to Jesus' resurrection, the truly unique and awesome aspect is that he then goes on to be Raised to the Father. He is fully re-united with God, while keeping a physical aspect! And then he moves in and out of our time-space continuum. Now this boggles the mind - as intended.

Happy meditations on all this during the Passover & Easter seasons!

A Discovery Channel show (also some links below to more stories):

Friday, March 20, 2009

Balanced Reporting

It's good to find a news report that looks at the broader issues and doesn't merely promote an agenda:

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Flying Man - a movie in production

I just read this following quote in an article by Phil Calloway and I believe he touches on one of the most important aspects of what makes a society strong - or not. That is, who do we spend time "idolizing" and admiring? ...

"At this particular time in my life, I cannot afford to be sidetracked by the trivial. If I am going to write about people, there needs to be some depth, some honor, something bordering on nobility."

Then I read of a new film underway about the later life of Eirc Liddel (Chariots of Fire). I hope the film lives up to the hopes for it! Eric Liddel was certainly someone of "...depth, ... honor ... bordering on nobility..."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

One Love

One Love, One Heart
Let's get together and feel all right
One Love, One Heart
Let's get together and feel all right
As it was in the beginning (One Love)
So shall it be in the end (One Heart)

Let them all pass all their dirty remarks (One Love)
There is one question I'd really like to ask (One Heart)
Is there a place for the hopeless sinner
Who has hurt all mankind just to save his own?

Let's get together to fight this Holy Armageddon (One Love)
So when the Man comes there will be no doom (One Song)
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
There ain't no hiding place from the Father of Creation

Sayin' One Love, One Heart
Let's get together and feel all right
I'm pleading to mankind (One Love)
Oh Lord (One Heart)

--- Bob Marley

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Check Brains at Church Door? NOT!

Some people have the impression that to follow Jesus one must "check their brains at the church door." Nothing could be further from the truth. The Apostle Paul continually challenged early Christians to "Prove all things. Hold fast to that which is good." Thinking and bringing the philosophy of Jesus to a kitchen table level where it applies to daily life is the specialty of Ravi Zacharias - one of my favorites:

Monday, February 9, 2009

Healthy Fence Sitting...

Many divisions exist within the body of Christ. Some more valid than others in my opinion. Paul once wrote this:

Romans 14 (The Message)

1 Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way you do. And don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.

I'd like to present this article on Lou Hodapp's blog . Lou describes a way to deal with the essentials of our faith rather than the side issues that so often cause needless division and separation. Well worth a read.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Church on the Front Lines

I came across some notes I made while reading some books by Charles Colson. I thought this is worth sharing:

pp 191; Chapter “The Church on the Front Lines” [the error of our ways...]

...Too often, though, the church’s strategy for reaching those who “don’t belong” is exactly backward. Priority goes to constructing an attractive edifice in a location near a growing suburb and as far from crime-infested downtown as possible. Next come the committees organizing concerts, covered-dish suppers, Bible studies, slide shows, and the like. Then, with fresh welcome mat at the door, the members enthusiastically wait for all the lost and needy souls to come and join them.

Of course they never do. What the church attracts are the neighbors who are bored with their old church anyway, or those looking for a group with a bit more “status.” The folks “out there” have no interest in the handsome sanctuary and progressive programs and wouldn’t feel comfortable inside no matter what wonderful attractions were offered. (And probably the church members wouldn’t feel comfortable if they did come.)
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus didn’t set up an office in the temple and wait for people to come to Him for counseling? Instead, He went to them -- to the homes of the most notorious sinners, to the places where he would most likely encounter the handicapped and sick, the needy, the outcasts of society.

I am not naive enough to think the church can bridge the cultural chasms overnight. But I do know we can come out of our safe sanctuaries and move alongside those in need and begin to demonstrate some caring concern. Our presence in a place of need is more powerful than a thousand sermons. Being there is our witness. And until we are, our orthodoxy and doctrine are mere words; our liturgies and gospel choruses ring hollow.

Monday, February 2, 2009

God Don't Do, "D'Oh!"

I don't like the way many people interpret the Garden of Eden story where it tells of the first sin that separated humankind from God. I don't think that "getting back to the garden" is our goal. Here's why:

Going back to exactly the way things were in the Garden of Eden seems to negate all we go through in our lives.

If the end is identical to the beginning, then all our suffering, pain and struggles become for nothing. I can agree that we want to regain something of the garden - the fellowship with God and one another and all creation I long for. But it has to be something more than it was or the journey was a throw-away event. And I don't believe God throws away our pain and sorrow in this world. Instead he ensures that it refines and polishes us into something more precious than gold or diamonds.

Our current journey is not an "Oops!" It is part of the plan.

There are at least two passages I think of that say that Jesus' sacrifice was in place before human history began. Revelation Chapter 5 pictures a being who takes and opens a scroll representing all of human history from the Father's hand. This being appears as a slain lamb.

1 Peter 1:20 says "Jesus was chosen before the creation of the world..." If the sacrifice for our souls was already chosen and prepared before the world began, then God knew sin to be part of our story.

Doesn't our human saga express the essence of something called the Hero Journey not to mention the journey of the Prodigal Son?

I haven't read much by Joseph Campbell but as I understand the so-called Hero Journey he says that in all our great tales and myths the hero sets out, goes through many trials, and eventually returns to his origins. But due to his journey he now sees it with different eyes. It has taken on a new and much greater meaning. I'm not saying I think the bible is mythology. I'm rather saying that this very concept of the hero journey is built into us as beings.

I'm reminded of the Prodigal Son. He leaves home as the beloved, adventurous and naive child. He returns as an adult full of humility and neediness, with a much deeper, more abiding love for his father. The older son, meanwhile, doesn't leave at all but his relationship with his father has never matured into love. Instead he only obeys his father from a sense of duty and complains of their dead relationship compared to the younger brother. This parable also encapsulates what Christians call the Old and New covenants. And surely the New Covenant is absolutely necessary in any Celestial Plan where God knew beforehand that we would make mistakes along our way to becoming sentient, mature, loving beings.

Did Adam and Eve love God?

I would argue that they did not. They might have adored him the way an animal adores its master. But that kind of love doesn't go deep enough somehow, does it? Mature love must include the real possibility of rejection. Was the Prodigal Son the same man after his return as he was before he left? So too, each of us becomes somehow more in Heaven than Adam and Eve were in the Garden. But could there have been another way? I don't know. God put the tree in the garden. God knew what the outcome of that would be. You tell me.

Our before and after pictures are represented in the bible by the Garden of Eden in Genesis and The New Jerusalem in Revelations.

One is a garden where only Adam and Eve and the animals live with God. The other is a heavenly city where huge numbers of people from every tongue and tribe live amongst the heavenly beings with God himself. In the garden no one is portrayed as worshiping God or actually loving him. In the City of God there is endless praise going on. In the Garden life is naive and simple and child-like, but in the City we are told God wipes away all tears and pain and sorrow. That is, they are known but finished. No longer dwelt upon, but worked into the fabric of our being. That part of the journey is done and a new and even more amazing life begins. Not by returning to less than we've become, but by embracing the good in what we've been through and going on.

Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent - or not? We can't have it both ways.

One more aspect of the traditional presentation of the Garden of Eden story that troubles me is that it can easily be misinterpreted as, God makes mistakes. Or, Satan throws sticks into the spokes of God's Great Design and sends God scurrying back to the drawing board wondering how to clean up an unexpected mess.

This doesn't fit with belief in an Omniscient God, does it? Or as Homer Simpson might express it: God don't do "D'Oh!"

All through the Bible even though passages may be written as if God needs to learn something about us, I think the more theologically correct view is that we need to learn something about ourselves. We need to see ourselves more truly. For example, God may say to Abraham, "Now I know you will withhold nothing from me..." But I think it's really a case of now Abraham realizes this. God knew it all along or he isn't Omniscient.

I think we subtly undermine our confidence in God when we fail to recognize his true nature. God does not struggle against Satan, though we do. Nor is Good equal and opposite to Evil. Evil only exists in the shadows where people do not allow the Good to penetrate. It is the absence of light that causes darkness, not the other way around. Light is the controlling factor.

In closing, just to illustrate how deeply this idea of "Getting Ourselves Back to the Garden" penetrates our culture, I'll close with this hauntingly beautiful song by Joni Mitchell: