December 31, 2003

what the heck?

snow.jpg

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musings

Several words have been getting tossed around of late. Postmodern, emerging, even evangelism. Given that today is the last day of the year I'm thinking about all this in the context of the year that was and the year that will be.

Before I break into Auld Lang Syne, let me share some thoughts...

I've seen several links to the Why People Quit Seminary bit from off-the-map. I finally decided to go read it, and I was reminded again why I think the way I do. Make sure you actually go take a look.

And what about these labels that we anti-label people have been throwing around? On the flight back home to Vancouver on Monday I had a chance to read over several pieces. Alan Creech has nailed my own thoughts and desires for "the church" in his December 26 "emerging" post. A few of us are going to start meeting together in January, and I'm going to incorporate Alan's thoughts into our discussions. He clearly differentiates between what he calls "postmodern churches" (bad) and "emerging churches" (good). I'm not arguing with his definitions - at least he's clearly stated what he means when he uses those terms, and goes on to say that the labels are probably meaningless anyway. I don't think we'll all ever be on the same page when it comes to these definitions, so its helpful to know where someone is coming from when they use them.

Speaking of "postmodern"... by now Chuck Colson's Postmodern Crack-Up is old news, as is Brian McLaren's excellent response. What you may not have seen yet is Ron Martoia's equally thoughtful reply to Chuck. One quote in particular from Ron really struck me:

"Jesus did not come to bring people into a belief system that is rational and defensible. Jesus seems rather unconcerned about beliefs. Jesus' opening retreat on a mountain side with his new followers had nothing to do with belief systems or rational defensible worldview constructs. It had fundamentally to do with character formation and community building."

Finally, given our liberal (no pun intended) use of some of these possibly ambiguous terms, a little "research" might be in order. McLaren has a great article on his new site that may help us place some of this strange new world in context. Check out The Three Postmodernisms: A Short Explanation when you have the chance.

Here's a quote from that article:

As a follower of Christ, I am less interested in articulating the ideal definition of this movement in words than I am in helping contribute to what the postmodern world becomes in reality. I am hoping that many people of faith and vision can play a formative role in what will happen beyond modernity and adolescent postmodernity: seeking to be salt and light, seeking to do good works, seeking to do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with God.

I think it's helpful to be reminded of what we're trying to do here. I'm under the impression that the point of this journey of being a follower of Christ is to be transformed. As we move into a new year I'm going to try and keep my eye on that ball, and not react to those who may have differing opinions.

I need to be transformed. I don't need to be proven "right".

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December 30, 2003

fellow travelers

Since last I reported new additions I've added quite a few new names. The latest is The Prodigal Kiwi aka Paul Fromont, Jonathan Finley (and American in France?!) and U2 Sermons (Santa didn't bring me that book, so I guess it's up to me).

The list keeps growing!

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goats 'r us V

Well, Christmas has come and gone again, and it's time to take stock.

Literally. Goats, that is.

Due to the generosity and enthusiasm of a lot of you good people we have, together, provided 35 "goat equivalents" to people around the globe who needed you to be instruments of Grace.

What's a "goat equivalent", you ask? Well, to keep the scorekeeping easy we converted everything to the equivalent in goat currency. In reality, however, you've contributed goats, oxen, rabbits, a cow, hens, a piglet, bees (yes, I said bees), a rooster, fruit trees, a flock of ducks and a stocked medical clinic, all through the great programs of World Vision in Canada and the US.

Congratulations!

Thanks to everyone who participated. There are a couple of special people we need to mention.

This has been Robert's project from the beginning. (He actually did the same thing last year as well). You have a big heart, Robert. Thanks also to Lisa who teamed up with Robert and launched a goat blog!

Finally, props to Darryl Dash and the folks at Richview Baptist in Etobicoke, Ontario. Darryl jumped on this right from the start and got the whole church behind it. They're responsible for a good percentage of the menagerie. Way to go!

His hands and feet, friends.
His hands and feet.

Richview Baptist

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my thumb hurts

2 of The Boys London Calling

I played way too much XBox while back in Ontario for the holidays. My nephews Coreigh, Duncan, Geoff and Quinn all got in on the action, as well as my brothers-in-law Fraser and Eric. (That's Quinn and Eric hard at it above.)

Is anybody besides me as freaked out by the "live" capabilities of these games? As someone old enough to remember Pong I have to say it's pretty cool going head to head with somebody in New Jersey and Germany at the same time. And there's just something right about racing a Mini Cooper against a guy who swears at you with a British accent.

What a world.

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new year's reading II

Speaking of books, I'm just back from the post office where I picked up my package of goodies from Bill Bean.

I've added Liquid Church and Celtic Daily Prayer (Thanks for the recommendation, Eric!) to the library, neither of which I could get through my usual (duty-free) sources at Amazon.ca.

Thanks Bill for taking on your first Canadian customer!

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December 29, 2003

new year's reading

While in Toronto I spent some time in my Dad's library. My father is a book nut, so there is a lot to choose from. I came home with about 20 books - some C.S. Lewis, A.W. Tozer, Jacques Ellul, Oswald Chambers, Clark Pinnock and more.

I picked up his copy of Resist The Powers with Jacques Ellul by Charles Ringma, and was immediately intrigued. It's a book of daily readings that takes an Ellul quote and builds on it.

I think I like this Ellul guy.

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jet plane

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Flight 1 - it doesn't get any lower than that. Departs Toronto 10:30 am, arrives Vancouver 12:40 pm. 5 hours to get some reading in!

See you on the other side of the country.

UPDATE: Back in beautiful BC. Not a cloud in the sky and snow on the mountains. Unbelievable.

PS. I read 3 or 4 great articles (and watched Seabiscuit) on the flight that are starting to "gel" into something. Very cool - more later.

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December 28, 2003

emerging

Great piece by Alan Creech. I've printed it out to read a few more times on the flight home tomorrow - check it out for yourself.

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December 27, 2003

paradox

It's mild here in Toronto, and it looks like its a little chilly back home in Vancouver. Go figure.

It's been a while since I've read a copy of The Toronto Star. I'm struck by the contrasts... 20,000 Dead in Iran and people lining up at 5 am to get a good price on electronics.

All in the same paper.

On the same day.

On the same planet.

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December 25, 2003

merry Christmas

May the Truth of the season rise to the surface for you today.
Blessings!

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December 24, 2003

union II

Todd Hunter has a whole one-in-a-row posting streak going on his new blog. He's said it better than I did:

But, the people I most admire and respect in life are not focused on "church" as a place, event or thing. They just quietly participate in non-descript churches and submit themselves to be used by God, to be ambassadors of his Kingdom in those communities of faith... as everywhere else in there their life: no dualisms. That attitude - whole life self-surrender - is rooted in a different kind of life: life from above, eternal life. It is what we must pursue for our selves and those we serve. It will make most models work.

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union

[grid blog :: advent 4]

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Today will be my last contribution to the Advent Grid Blog. I feel like I should apologize. I've been in a very "self centered" place of late, and I think it's rubbed off on my Advent posts.

As we look forward to celebrating the birth of Christ tomorrow, and then on to a New Year, I'm excited about the possibilities of Union. I want to unite 2 parts of my life which, up until recently. didn't associate much with each other. That is the dreaded Secular and Sacred. Too often we compartmentalize our lives - we strive to be transformed spiritually, and we also struggle to pay the bills, build a life and get that promotion.

As C.S. Lewis so wisely pointed out we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience. Often we would confess to believing the latter but living the former.

However I believe that going to the other extreme is not the solution either. "Too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good", and all that.

The solution? Union. Union of these two entities, who we often see as separate, and therefore probably never develop to their potential. As we celebrate the coming of Christ, who was fully God and fully man, my goal is to unite the 2 parts of myself, so that I am fully God's, but committed to the fulfillment of His purposes here on Earth.

Merry Christmas, and Peace to each of you!

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December 22, 2003

the service

I hate that word. Since when did "worship" become a "service"?

Justin Baeder has written a great article over at The Ooze you should check out.

Here's a taste:

Perhaps the most destructive effect of the worship service is to convince us that it's all there is to church - there are no other legitimate gatherings. Home gatherings and small groups are great, but they don't count as church, even in many emerging churches. The worship service is the only real church gathering. Among older churches, the attitude is "Attend church, and your life will be great." Robert Webber, in his recent book The Younger Evangelicals, points out how many aspects of boomer-generation church life were engineered to provide therapy for life's problems. Look at the sermon topics in a seeker-sensitive church, and you will find things such as "Prayer = tools for solving problems" and "How to have a great marriage." Through sermons like these and uplifting worship music, the worship service promises everything we need to be successful Christians. If you want to go deeper, you can join a home Bible study or class, but that's optional. Real church happens on the stage every Sunday.

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December 21, 2003

the source

[grid blog :: advent 3]

the source.bmp

source (sôrs, srs)
n.

1. The point at which something springs into being or from which it derives or is obtained.
2. The point of origin, such as a spring, of a stream or river.
3. One that causes, creates, or initiates; a maker.

These dictionary definitions seem very "linear" to me. "The point", "origin", even "maker" implies a time before something existed, then it's creation, then a time after it's creation. How neat and tidy.

And it works, for a while. God is the source of everything we can see and touch. He is the source of our faith. But thats as far as the analogy can go. What is God's source? There is the paradox of our faith.

He is The Source who has no source. God exists beyond our ability to understand. He exists where the laws of physics no longer apply. I am so thankful for that - who wants a God that they can understand?

I'm learning to embrace the mystery of The Source.

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December 19, 2003

the purge - but Jesus does

Read Chapter 1
Read Chapter 2
Read Chapter 3
Read Sue's Thoughts

Here are the beautiful words our friend Pete wrote for us. To hear him tell it God woke him up at 3 am one night last week and made him get out of bed to write this.

With this we'll end The Purge. Thanks for traveling this road with us.

But Jesus Does

You weren't there when we took our first breath,
But Jesus was.
You weren't there the first time we laughed,
But Jesus was.
You weren't there to see us take our first steps,
But Jesus was.
You weren't there for our first Christmas morning,
But Jesus was.
You weren't there to hear us sing in our first concert,
But Jesus was.
You weren't there the first time we danced with joy,
But Jesus was.
You weren't there the first time we said we love you,
But Jesus was.
You weren't there to meet us in Heaven,
But Jesus was.

Nobody knows how much you love us,
But Jesus does.
Nobody know how you long to hug us,
But Jesus does.
Nobody knows the tenderness of our mother's kiss,
But Jesus does.
Nobody knows how proud our father is,
But Jesus does.
Nobody knows the pain you must feel,
But Jesus does.
Nobody knows what might have been,
But Jesus does.
Nobody knows when we will finally meet you,
But Jesus does.
Nobody knows how much we miss you,
But Jesus does.

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the purge - sue's thoughts

Read Chapter 1
Read Chapter 2
Read Chapter 3


Mike has attempted to chronicle this journey of ours. I'm grateful for his effort... my mind is not very clear right now. I can't seem to focus on anything for very long. But I don't want to forget.

Right now, I'm experiencing everything at a raw, emotional level. So that's the only place I can share from.

I feel so many things from this current loss, that I don't think I can begin to share how I have felt through this whole journey. I know that I have never experienced such extremes. The height of joy. The depth of despair. The presence of God. The complete absence of God. Rage. Sadness. Grief. Panic. An emptiness that has no bottom.

When that phone call came in on Friday morning it was as if I knew why she was calling but I couldn't believe what she was saying. And then my thoughts turned irrational. What do you mean none survived? We're supposed to be coming in for 11 for the transfer. We need those embryos. What do you mean they're gone? Where are they?

And then panic set in. The only way I can describe it is that I felt like a parent who had lost her child. I couldn't find him. And for just a moment, I felt frantic. Where did he go? How can he just be gone?

In a split second, our hopes were gone. To go from feeling like you have endless possibilities and dreams to having nothing... we were stunned. Shocked. Speechless. Tears.

And emptiness. I have had the brief joy of feeling life in my body. And the deep emptiness that comes when that life leaves. This time, I had no life in my body. But again, ,the deepest feeling of emptiness... physically, emotionally, spiritually.

Mercifully, we have been spared the all-consuming anger that we have felt at other times is this journey. Now it is just profound sadness. Mourning someone we have never met but so desperately wanted to.

I feel sad for so many other things.

I want to know what it feels like to have life growing in you, moving.

I want to know what it feels like to give birth. To see the look on Mike's face when he sees his son or daughter for the first time.

I want to know that person that Mike would have become had he had the opportunity to be a father. How it would have changed him. How he would view the world. What would remain important to him. What would change. What would make him angry. What would make him laugh. Cry. How much more silly would he get.

I picture our children. Dark hair. Hopefully wavy, like their father's. My eyes. His dimples. His beautiful hands.

How they would smell. What their voices would sound like. Their laughter.

I want to experience the relationships of others with our children... our parents, our sisters, my best friend.

We may never know that. And that makes me sad.

Our memorial was beautiful. I will never forget sitting for 2 hours, in the window, watching Mike cut and carve the log that would hold the 15 candles. I felt like I was watching him prepare something for his children, preparing for their arrival. Preparing the nursery, putting the crib together. That was as much a part of the healing ritual as the actual service itself. We needed to do something for our children... to acknowledge them, welcome them and say goodbye at the same time.

I believe that our children are in heaven. I choose to believe it. That is my faith. But I don't understand it. It is a mystery.

How will I know that they are my children? Will they remain infants? Will I know whether they are sons or daughters? Will I ever know what they would have looked like? Will I be in relationship with them? Will they know that I am their mother?

I think about these questions a lot. I am trying to accept the mystery. I want to do that.

For now, we are just grieving. Our family is grieving. Our friends are grieving.

And I know that God is grieving with us.

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the purge - chapter 3

Read Chapter 1
Read Chapter 2

What we have gone through over the past 5 or 6 years really causes you to think about life. Specifically, when does it start? Over the course of these treatments we have produced 15 fertilized embryos. Little spirits with a handful of cells. We saw a photo of one once. That little guy only had 4 cells, but I'm confident he would have had his mother's beautiful eyes. We now feel very strongly that life begins at conception. Don't get all excited, I'm not about to carry a sign at your next protest. That's just what I believe. I believe those 15 spirits are now with Jesus in Heaven, doing the job which can only be done by those souls who have never experienced pain, anger, jealousy, selfishness or pettiness. I don't know what that job is, but I'll bet there is one, and I know I don't qualify.

In order to bring some closure to this chapter of our lives Sue and I felt we needed to mark it with some kind of service. So this past Saturday we gathered up at Linwood House as a community to mourn together. We wanted to place a bench by the pond, and will, eventually. In the mean time, however, we decided to take a log and use it to hold 15 candles. And God provided. Just last week one of the huge firs on the property came crashing down in a windstorm. We cut a 6 foot section, skinned the bark off and flattened the top to hold the candles. Even the preparation of the log was part of the service. When it was ready we moved it into the Great Room and placed it on the hearth. We sang, and talked, and cried, and listened, and prayed. It was the most sacred event I have ever experienced. The two of us knelt in front of the hearth, lit two candles and invited others to do the same. As the candles were slowly lit a glow spread throughout the room. Hope? Promise? I don't know, but it felt good, even in the midst of pain. Finally we shared in the Lord's Supper by candlelight.

Oh, and our prayer? Well, it was answered. Trying to have a baby has taken up a lot of our time and energy over the last several years. Now we have a clear mandate to move on and move forward. In a way it seems appropriate right now with our move into ministry. And God took care of our embryo problem. He's taken them all to Himself, so we can rest, knowing they are in the presence of the One who loves them as much as we do. I have no idea what Heaven will be like, but who knows, maybe one day we'll get a chance to meet our 15 children. I'm not sure how we'll know them, but I'll be looking for one with his mother's eyes.

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Posted by mike at 09:08 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

the purge - chapter 2

(Read Chapter 1)

One weekend up at Linwood House we met Bob and Marlene. (Linwood is the ministry house/HQ for Global Action Canada. I think I've talked about the House before. You have to see it to be believe it. God has this incredible habit of bringing together people up there who need to meet, and then He usually sticks around to see what happens.)

Bob is the pastor of a church in the area, and he and Marlene have had a lot of experience (and considerable success) praying with infertile couples. The four of us talked for quite some time. Sue and I decided that we would try one more time, and this time we placed the ball squarely in God's hands.

Yes God, we would like a baby. Very much.
But, what we want most is to see your Kingdom come, so we leave it in your hands.
Whatever would help further that goal.
And baby or not, God, we need a resolution to the embryo dilemma.
What should we do?

Sue and I prayed with Bob and Marlene, and we walked away feeling strangely at peace. We reconnected with our old friends at the Vancouver clinic, and Sue started the drugs again. This time the process would be shorter (and easier on Sue) because we would be using the frozen team. We had the nine of them flown out from Toronto. (Geez, I wonder if their meal was any better than this one.)

The process is quite remarkable. The technicians would thaw out individual embryos until they had 2 strong candidates. Normally they would expect to lose about 40% in the thawing itself. So 9 was a great number to start with.

The procedure was scheduled for the next Friday at 11 am.

Except the phone rang at 8:30 Friday morning and a startled nurse told us that none of the 9 survived the thaw.

None.

That was two weeks ago today. We've had good days and bad days since, but we are definitely grieving.

I don't pretend to understand what goes through God's head sometimes. Actually, all the time. I don't know if He causes things to happen, if He allows things to happen, or why He intervenes sometimes and not others. I don't know if He has every move orchestrated in advance. I don't think He's surprised by anything, but I also don't think we're puppets on a string. I do believe He makes good come out of bad. This time we told Him it was His decision, and I believe He took us at our word. It's this faith that allows us to move forward, grieving, yes, but anticipating a future that will be good, because He is good. It's this faith that allows us to stretch.

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the purge - chapter 1

It's amazing how your perspective changes at 37,000 feet.

Right now we're somewhere over Saskatoon. Hi Jordon. Hi Wendy. Hi LT. (That's half the population of Saskatchewan right there. If I knew the names of the other 3 I'd greet them as well. Maybe Jordon can tell them I said hello.)

Sue and I are on our way back to Toronto for Christmas. It's been 9 months since we moved to Vancouver; Sue has been back once, but this is my first visit since we flew out on March 12. I'm looking forward to it. In some ways the timing is great, in others it's a little off. It's been a rough couple of weeks, and we're not at 100 per cent. I feel like I need to get it off my chest here in front of everybody. A purge post, as I've already referred to it.

Where does one start in describing a long journey? Some of it I need to gloss over quickly or we'll be here all day (and it's only a 4 hour flight), so here's a very quick history. (I don't mean to make light of any of it, but I want to get to the recent stuff.)

Sue and I have been married for eleven and a half years, and started trying to get pregnant about 5 or 6 years ago. After a year of trying on our own, we enlisted some help, and after about 6 months of drugs we had a positive pregnancy test. Man, that was a rush! Unfortunately the rush only lasted about 10 days and we lost the pregnancy.

In the process of looking for a fertility clinic to work with, I was transferred to Vancouver. We hooked up with some great people there, and went through an IVF treatment. Again, a positive test! And again, another disappointment. This time the pregnancy was ectopic, and it came to an end about a week later.

After a year in Vancouver I was transferred back to Toronto, and we managed to get together with a fantastic doctor there. More drugs, more embryos and another IVF. And again... another positive test. But this time the numbers started to drop almost immediately. When you're trying to get pregant and stay pregnant it's all about the numbers.

I haven't got the space to share with you how devastating these events were for us. Trust me on this. I also don't have time to share with you how God blessed us immensely, time and time again. After the last IVF (July 2001) we sunk into a deep pit – our own Dark Night of the Soul. Even then God blessed us, but that story is for another day. In the end we decided to give it a rest for a while, so we put the other 9 fertilized embryos in the lab's freezer and stopped thinking about it for a while. Or we tried, but you never really stop thinking about it.

Fast forward to this year, when we're back in Vancouver. This time we're leading a very different life, but there was still the baseball team in the freezer in Toronto to deal with. We weren't really sure if we wanted to try again yet, but we were also waking up to the ethical and moral implications that these embryos presented. The options were rather limited. We could use them in another attempt, donate them to another couple trying to get pregnant, donate them to medical research, or toss them in the trash.

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December 18, 2003

trials & pain II

I've been getting a lot out of Tozer since adding him to The Daily Dose. I quoted him a couple of days ago, but I think I neglected to point out the new link.He's been talking about pain this month, and without getting too morose, that topic has been close to the surface for us for a couple of weeks.

Speaking of pain, I feel the need to write an epic purge post. I think I need some bloodletting... so don't stand too close.

Tomorrow Sue and I head to Toronto to spend Christmas with our families. We're looking forward to seeing everyone (I haven't been back since we moved in March), and I think I'll take advantage of the 4 hour flight to write my saga.

Apologies in advance.

Posted by mike at 07:02 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

shareware

Here's a Shareware Library from PC Magazine. Remember the heady days of Shareware? Well, the stuff is still around. Take a look - there may be something of use to you.

Posted by mike at 03:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

the writing life II

How To Get A Book Deal With Your Blog
By Biz Stone

Back in the day, book deals were few and far between. You had to be a literary genius, a member of the super-elite writerly crowd, or some kind of insanely talented professional in your field. Then you needed an agent, a publicist, and a body of work to prove you had what it takes to be part of the chosen few, the noble, the proud, the published.

Now, you just need a blog and some chutzpah. Blogging is hooking people up with book deals willy-nilly. Have you always wanted to see your name on the shelf at Barnes and Noble? Do you want to tell your friends, "I can't come out tonight, my editor is breathing down my neck"? Well, there are bloggers out there getting book deals right now. Hell, Wil Wheaton just signed a three-book deal and he credits his blog and its readers for his good fortune. We here at Blogger Support don't want you to get left out, so we're releasing to you, our beloved users, the secrets of blog-to-book success.

Man, I am so on my way. (Thanks Jordon for the link. For that you may get a mention in the acknowledgements!)

Posted by mike at 12:50 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

robert on the year that was

Our friend Robert has been doing some reflecting...

There are times when Life is very subtle - a gentle tap on the shoulder - about making you appreciate all you have. Then there are times when Life is like Robert De Niro in The Untouchables - remember the scene with the baseball bat to the guy's head? - making you appreciate all that you have. Yesterday was my last day at work for the year. It has been an unusual year and for most of it, I felt like it was a bad year.

It wasn't. It was an astonishing year, full of lessons - lessons I could choose to heed or ignore.

I am struck by how much I have learned, how much I have loved and been loved, experienced moments of pure joy, deep sorrow, fear, anger, relief, gratitude and forgiveness.

A year for making new friends and deepening existing relationships beyond what was possible before. Saying farewell to some. Learning more about myself than was possible before.

Life has been described as a journey. For me, it remains a work in progress.

Merry Christmas.

Those of you who have been around for a while will know that Robert is our resident atheist, although this is a title that only he takes seriously - nobody else is buying it. Robert is caring, compassionate, generous, empathetic and slightly crazy - all character traits that are appreciated around here.

Robert and I have known each other for a number of years now. He started out as a client of mine, now I am a client of his, but most importantly we are friends, to my great benefit.

Now, for those of you who are newer to this conversation I present for your education and entertainment the "Robert On..." Archives:

Robert on The C-word

Robert on Grace, etc.

Robert on Canadian Politics

50 Reasons Not to Vote for Ernie

Robert on the Fifth Commandment

Robert on Inspiration

Robert on Concern for his Neighbours

Robert on his Son's Baptism

Robert on "Perspective"

My friend, it has been an astonishing year. Thanks for journeying with us.
Novit Deus qui sunt ejus - Only God knows who are His.

Posted by mike at 04:52 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

December 17, 2003

social capitalism

From Fast Company...

The amazing organizations that received the Fast Company/Monitor Group Social Capitalist Awards have found a better way to do good: They're using the disciplines of the corporate world to tackle daunting social problems. In our first-ever exclusive ranking, we used a similarly hard-nosed approach to find the 20 best social entrepreneurs.

This online resource center builds on the article in the January 2004 issue and includes expanded profiles of the 20 featured organizations, details about our methodology, profiles of our advisory board members, additional commentary -- and ways to donate to the organizations involved.

I love this stuff. There's a lot to learn here.

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names of God II

A couple of days ago I slipped in Names of God without any explanation. Now I'd like to provide some context.

Every 2 or 3 weeks Sue and I head for a local church. (See, we haven't stopped going entirely!) On that particular Sunday Laurell Hubick sang with the worship team. We learned that she and her husband attend that church, and that she had recently released a CD. (Google also tells me that she was a contestant on Canadian Idol - but they didn't mention that in church!)

Into Your Love

The following Sunday night they had a worship experience at the church to celebrate the release of the CD. I picked up a copy... and you should too.

Names of God is by far my favorite track. I use it when I'm trying to pray - in fact, with where I've been at the last few weeks, sometimes its all I can pray. Meditating on the Names has allowed me to stretch.

Right now it's about all I'm listening to. You can listen and order here.

Posted by mike at 08:42 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 15, 2003

goats 'r us IV

Lisa and Robert are off and running with the goat idea. Pay them a visit and spread the word.

Posted by mike at 11:15 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

my head hurts

revolve.bmp

Somebody please, please, please make it stop...

What would Jesus do about clogged pores? It's a topic on which the Bible is mute. Unless the Bible being consulted is Revolve, which dresses up the New Testament to look and read exactly like a teen magazine -- complete with cover lines that promise much more than the Good News inside. "Guys Speak Out on Tons of Important Issues," declares one, hinting that the guys holding forth aren't Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Others offer "100+ Ways to Apply Your Faith" and "Beauty Secrets You've Never Heard Before!"

That's for sure. "As you apply your sunscreen," one reads, "use that time to talk to God. Tell him how grateful you are for how he made you. Soon, you'll be so used to talking to him, it might become as regular and intimate as shrinking your pores." And what exactly are those aforementioned guys speaking out on? Comportment. They like girls who dress conservatively, wear as little makeup as possible, and don't overreact if they don't notice a new haircut. Thinking of asking a guy out? Revolve girls don't. "Sorry," they're told. "God made guys to be the leaders. That means that they lead in relationships. They tell you they like you." If you need distraction from that total bummer, there are charts ranking the "top ten random things" you can do to make a difference in your community or bond with your dad. Or calendar pages that designate celebrity birthdays as occasions to Pray for a Person of Influence. (Kelly Osbourne and Anna Nicole Smith, junior varsity prayer warriors have got your back.) As well as quizzes that pose such questions as "Are You Crushing Too Hard?" and "Are You a Good Daughter?"

(Thanks Lisa, for the migraine.)

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these boots

feet.jpg

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stretch II

Check out Jonathan Finley's treatment of Stretch. That will provide the context (and translation) for his video, which he created from Bill Viola's Angels.

The 5 angel images are departing, birth, fire, ascending and creation.

Very cool Jonathan! Thanks to Jonny Baker for the link and the Viola background.

(Bob Carlton has produced a list of all the Advent grid bloggers here.)

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December 14, 2003

stretch

stretch.gif

[grid blog :: advent 2]

Sometimes its a stretch to trust Him enough to never need to know why.

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names of God

Elohim - The Creator
Jehovah Shammah - The Lord Is There
My Master - Adonai
El Elyon - The God Most High
Yahweh - You Are The Lord
Jehovah Raah - My Shepherd
Mekkodishkem - Who Sanctifies You
The Lord Our Righteousness - Jehovah Tsidkenu

Worthy is Your Name
Worthy of all my praise

El Roi - The God Who Sees
You Are My Banner - Jehovah Nissi
The All Sufficient One - El Shaddai
Jehovah Jirah - You Will Provide
Rapha - The Lord Who Heals
Shalom - You Are My Peace
The Lord of Hosts - Jehovah Sabaoth
El Olam - The Everlasting God

Worthy is Your Name
Worthy of all praise
Worthy is Your Name
Worthy of all my praise

Laurell Hubick
2003 Nectar Productions

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December 13, 2003

prayer

Father, teach me how to pray
Please
Teach me how to pray

I want to be with You
All the time
I want to love You
All the time
I want to listen to You
All the time
I want to talk to you
Some of the time

Father, teach me how to pray
Please
Teach me how to pray

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December 12, 2003

trials and pain

The devil, things and people being what they are, it is necessary for God to use the hammer, the file and the furnace in His holy work of preparing a saint for true sainthood. It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.

A.W. Tozer
The Root of the Righteous

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here we go...

The New Guy

As Prime Minister, I look forward to the opportunity to rally Canadians toward a new sense of national purpose and around a new agenda of change and achievement. I believe we have made much progress as a nation - but I believe we can do even better.

That is why I am so excited to be leading this new government, and starting a process that will lead Canada to greatness. In fact, I believe that process has already begun.

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December 11, 2003

the writing life for me

Don't just sit there - write something

Well, I finished reading Anne Lamott's Bird By Bird this week, so I figure that pretty much qualifies me to start writing.

Seriously, the book was great. What else do you expect from Anne? I've come away with a new appreciation for those who craft words into cohesive sentences. I'm embarassed to admit that I was one of those clueless people who thought published authors just sat down and puked out complete works. Anne's revelation of "shitty first drafts" was both hilarious and encouraging.

I'm going to take her advice and try to write daily. I sat at Starbucks this afternoon and contemplated this newfound discipline. Anne says write about anything. Thoughts. Conversations. Whatever.

As I sat there I couldn't help but eavesdrop overhear a conversation between two women sitting behind me in the Deep Cove Starbucks.

The one directly behind me said to her friend, "So anyway, I didn't know what to say!"

Her friend, after reflecting on this revelation for about a nanosecond, responded with, "Yeah". She didn't say it so much as sing it. It was long and drawn out, a monotone note. I think it was a F, but it could have been an F#.

"Really. I didn't know what to say!"
"Yeah."
"So I didn't say anything."
"Yeah."
"I still don't know what to say."
"Yeah."
"You know?"
"Yeah."

Well Anne, not a great start. But I'll take your word for it, and I'm going to stick with it.

I considered a couple of questions. Will this daily writing appear in the blog? No way - so rest assured you won't be subjected to this regularly. The other question is where does God fit into all this? Should all my writing be "faith based"?

Some days my writing will take the form of prayer. And some days it will be random thoughts, but I want to always consider God in the conversation.

"So anyway God, I didn't know what to say."

"Yeah."

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say it isn't so

Imagine my surprise.

Pentagon Finds Halliburton Overcharged on Iraq Contracts
By DOUGLAS JEHL

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 — A Pentagon investigation has found evidence of overcharging and other violations in billions of dollars worth of reconstruction contracts for Iraq that were awarded to Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, military officials said today.

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johnny of the cross

Thanks to Fred Clark for pointing us to another tribute to Johnny Cash.

...his life cannot be reduced to a metaphor. It was more than just one of noble ambition or grandeur of design; Johnny's virtues were just as hard-fought as his vices. In life Johnny Cash struggled for and against the God whose grip on him was so frustratingly and thankfully relentless that it was able to absorb all that fierce rage and all those addictions. Johnny could sing about murder and God in the same song and with the same voice because to do otherwise would have been dishonest. At the same time, he let that despair, agony, and rejection stand on their own—he lent them integrity. There was no serious salvation unless there was first some serious sin. Cash echoed St. Paul: "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." But there is at least one thing that Cash never was, and that is a moralist. He did not chalk doubt up to a misunderstanding. Rather, Cash showed that doubt is itself proper to faith. A God who could not stomach the darkest moments of His creation was not worth our worship, much less a song...

"If I were going to believe in God, I would believe in the God of Johnny Cash."

Amen.

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an open letter

Here's Brian McLaren's response to the Chuck Colson column we talked about a few days ago. (I've been watching for this on Brian's site, but it turns out its on the Emergent site.)

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December 10, 2003

inside/outside

"So often, whether for good or ill, one's inner state seems to have so little connection with the circumstances."

C.S. Lewis
Letters to an American lady

That's an affliction I'm trying to work on these days.

Gotta run. I'd love to stay and chat but I have more comment spam to clean up.

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December 09, 2003

this morning's sunrise

Another Day

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December 07, 2003

High Prince

I've been listening to a beautful Celtic prayer from the Northumbria Community I downloaded from Eric Keck earlier today.

As I've listened I've been thinking about why I find this so meaningful. On the surface it seems obvious. I grew up in a church environment void of liturgy, so it is fresh to me. It's more than that, though. Something I'm not yet clear on.

I think I find a prayer like this, particularly an evening office, gives me an incredible sense of "grounding". The paradox of community is the need we have to work out our salvation, which definitely has an individual component, together.

As I meditate on this prayer I feel as if the individual me is reunited with the collective community of disciples, and together we return to the Throne, restore the bonds among and between ourselves and our God, and end the day in worship.

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book launch

For my friends "back east"...

Book Launch Party in Toronto
Contributors Brian Walsh and Henry VanderSpek invite anyone in the Toronto area to a Get Up off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalog launch party on Sunday, December 14, from 7.00 to 9.00 with videos and conversation.

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o little town

Richard has posted a moving account of a real-time visit to Bethlehem.

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seek

seek

[grid blog :: advent 1]

Seek

How does one seek?
Traditional linear logic tells us that we
1. Seek
2. Find
3. Stop seeking

As we seek the Kingdom, however, that is not going to work.
In fact, it's exactly the wrong way to do it.

Logic tells us that first we "seek", then we "do".
That won't work either.

We seek something that does not exist,
Yet.
In seeking we are building.
If we wait, it will never arrive.

The paradox of seeking.

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goats 'r us III

I've had an email this morning from Darryl, and it looks like the folks at Richview Baptist have come through with goat #10! Way to go... and thanks.

Let's see. We've had participation from Canada and the US and... nowhere else that I'm aware of.

There's still plenty of time left before Christmas!

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December 06, 2003

middle earth

Numenorean



To which race of Middle Earth do you belong?
brought to you by Quizilla

(Link from Julie, who, it turns out, is a fellow Numenorean.)

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December 05, 2003

$

lore-allabout.gif

One last thought before I put the laptop down for the night...

[BACKGROUND: To say that life for Sue and I the past few years has been an adventure would be an understatement of biblical proportions. For those of you not familiar with our saga, here's an old and outdated About Me post. Suffice to say I don't work there anymore and we don't live there anymore. (We were right - the changes weren't over!)]

Here's a message I received loud and clear over the last few days. It may sound kind of convoluted, so stick with me. Of course, even if you do it still may not make sense...

It started a few days ago when a friend emailed me the real estate listing for a house. [MORE BACKGROUND: near the end of my tenure with Fidelity Investments we lived here in Vancouver for a year before returning to Toronto] The listing was for the house next door to the place we owned when we were here "the last time", as we affectionately refer to that period of our lives. Now, you have to understand that housing prices in Vancouver are normally crazy when compared to just about any place else. And they've only gone up since we were awarded the 2010 Winter Olympics. The long and the short of it is the "house next door" is listed for sale for $250,000 MORE than we sold our place for a little less than 3 years ago.

And the houses are comparable.

Ouch.

I must admit that got me thinking, ever so briefly, about the "previous life" - another of our affectionate terms. I'm pleased to say I didn't think too seriously about it, but I couldn't help it. Perhaps just a pinch of self pity crept in.

Well, yesterday was my "construction day" (I do that roughly one day a week), and I was working with Rob up in Roberts Creek (the project is an art studio). Rob had gone off to pick up some materials, and I was alone with my thoughts, and the radio.

And this song came on:

Welcome To The Boomtown
David & David

Ms. Cristina drives a nine four four
Satisfaction oozes from her pores
She keeps rings on her fingers
Marble on her floor
Cocaine on her dresser
Bars on her doors
She keeps her back against the wall
She keeps her back against the wall

So I say
I say welcome, welcome to the boomtown
Pick a habit
We got plenty to go around
Welcome, welcome to the boomtown
All that money makes such a succulent sound
Welcome to the boomtown

Handsome Kevin got a little off track
Took a year off of college
And he never went back
Now he smokes too much
He's got a permanent hack
Deals dope out of Denny's
Keeps a table in the back
He always listens to the ground
Always listens to the ground

So I say
I say welcome, welcome to the boomtown
Pick a habit
We got plenty to go around
Welcome, welcome to the boomtown
All that money makes such a succulent sound
Welcome to the boomtown

Well the ambulance arrived too late
I guess she didn't want to wait

I've always loved that song - I think I find it haunting. But yesterday I felt like it was just for me. Who knows? I don't want to be melodramatic or make more of it than I should. All I know is I walked away feeling like God had reassured me that I was where I was supposed to be. Who knows what another 5 or 10 years of that money and that life would have done to me?

Where you are supposed to be. Man, that is such a good place to be.

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a new kind III, or "blogpile!", or "pile on"!

Some more confirmation - rather than me cutting and pasting, just go see what Andrew has to say yourself!

Postmodern Truth 1.0 The Official Skinny Response

Postmodern Truth 2.0 The Cheesy Skinny Response

Postmodern Truth 3.0 The Intuitive Skinny Response

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a new kind II

The past few days I've really felt like God has been talking to me. There have been several powerful "postmodern statements" (a lousy term, but its the best I can come up with) that have given me some strong confirmation of where my head is at. Yesterday was just the first.

Here's an example from this morning's exercise bike reading - Jesus Drives Me Crazy by Len Sweet:

"The essence of the incarnation is the gospel's ability under the direction of the Holy Spirit to throw on and off the garments of its age, cross ethnic frontiers, and become culturally at home throughout history and geography. Starting at Antioch (Acts 11), Jewish disciples began to encourage Gentiles to make sense of Jesus in non-Jewish terms. Will moderns insist that Jesus make sense only in modern terms? Or will moderns permit Jesus to make sense in postmodern terms?" (page 61/62)

And then this:

"The worst state to be in - at least for a church touched by God's incarnational love - is a church out of touch with its culture. One of the most damning things for a historian to say of any religious leader is "he was out of touch with his times" or " she missed her moment." Why would the church want to make that condemnation into a compliment?" (page 64)

Amen and amen.

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smart mobs

I haven't read this book yet, but it's been making the rounds. (I think Jordon got us started on it.)

Either way, here's a Tom Peters interview with the author, Howard Rheingold.

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December 03, 2003

i like being a new kind...

Our friend Brian McLaren has a web site just out of the gate. (Go ahead Phil - take your best shot! Inside joke.)

As Brian puts it, "One of the downsides of the increasing interest in my work is this: I can no longer respond to all the emails and other responses I receive. I have usually been able to do so up to this point, but now, the flow of incoming email, mail, and phone calls has gone beyond my response-ability - especially because I am still deeply committed to my work as pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church and my role in emergent and other organizations."Brian McLaren

I'm one who has benefited from Brian's generosity with his time, having received thoughtful replies to my many eMails to him. He even treated me to burritos when I flew down to Spencerville to meet with him back in January. Thanks Brian!

There's a dialogue section to the site that looks promising. There's a great response to a question on universalism, but here's the one I want to share with you.

My senior pastor said that you are liberal. Is that true?

"Liberal" and "conservative" represent two ways of being Christians in the modern era, and since I believe we are moving beyond the modern era, I am not very excited about either label. I'm much more excited about a convergence that is beginning to occur - bringing post-liberal and post-conservative Christians together in exciting new ways. Sometimes, for conservatives who don't understand the postmodern transition that I write about in my books, anyone who isn't conservative (which means "good" to them) is automatically considered liberal (which means "bad" to them). My guess is that this is why your senior pastor said what he did. You can assure your senior pastor that I am a committed follower of Christ, deeply rooted in the Scriptures, engaging in mission and ministry, and that I am deeply grateful for my conservative Christian heritage. You could also let him know that I love and respect both conservatives and liberals, and I know that each group has its own problems and challenges, and I do all I can to be of help and encouragement to each. I hope this will not leave me in a "bad" category for him, or for you.

Man, that speaks to me. Let's pray this type of grace paves the road we're all on together.

(Brian's the latest addition to the Fellow Travelers Roll.)

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irrelevant

"Christ's example is being demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy, which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here. If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't, it will be irrelevant."

- Bono, in The Chicago Sun-Times, quoted in the SojoMail 12.03.03
(And that while many of us wring our hands over the question of whether or not we should be striving to be "relevant" or not.)

That's from a year ago, and it's getting more appropriate as time passes. Sounds a lot like Campolo the other day. Up to and including today the Campolo post has garnered exactly 0 comments. I actually expected that - the ones that hit hardest always do.

We have 2 choices when we read something like that:

1. Tell ourselves they're full of crap and get on wiith our lives as if the problem doesn't exist,

2. Hang our heads in shame, agree with them and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

There is no third option, yet we live like there is:

3. Hang our heads in shame, agree with them, and get on with our lives as if the problem doesn't exist.

Go figure.

UPDATE: Click to watch a Kaiser Foundation webcast with Bono taped this morning.

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advent

Lisa hooked me up with this cool advent calendar.

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December 02, 2003

the blessed

I finished reading The Blessed this morning. I was blessed (no pun intended) and challenged through reading the book.

Here is the closing paragraph for your consideration:

"God told me something else recently in a dream. He told me that there was something that needed to be said that only I could say. When I told my friend, Bryan, about it, He was reminded about a story from the Hassidic tradition that goes something like this: God created the world, and then something happened and it broke. It broke into a million pieces, each shard a unique shape and size. In order to heal the world, the story goes, God made each of us to bring a piece of the broken world to the others so the world might be made whole again. Do not stop to compare your piece with that of another. I can't tell you how many times I almost threw this manuscript away because I began to compare it with the works of C.S. Lewis or Blaise Pascal or Dallas Willard or Kathleen Norris or Anne Lamott. God made you because he needs you to accomplish his work in the world. There is something to do that only you can do. There are people who need a love that only you can give them. Be not afraid. Blessed are those who are willing to be transformed into Christ's likeness to bring his love to a wounded world."

Amen.

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goats 'r us II

My people at World Vision Canada (what's that? You didn't know I had people? Listen, my friend... I have people you couldn't even begin to imagine) tell me that they sold 964 goats last Christmas. Robert has decided that 10 is a good number for us to shoot for, as that would represent 1% of last year's total.

So we need (at least) 3 more.

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December 01, 2003

no time like the present

Judge Bork Converts to the Catholic Faith

Former circuit judge, U.S. solicitor general and 1987 Supreme Court judicial nominee Judge Robert Bork entered the Catholic Church on July 21 at age 76.

"There is an advantage in waiting until you're 76 to be baptized, because you're forgiven all of your prior sins. Plus, at that age you're not likely to commit any really interesting or serious sins."

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abominable

Tony Campolo on AIDS, via the latest SojoMail...

I wish you could see what I saw when I visited South Africa and Zimbabwe. Spread before my eyes were the devastating effects of the AIDS epidemic. It seemed as though everywhere I turned I met children who belonged to nobody, because they had lost both parents to this dreaded disease. In two of the schools I visited, there was a shortage of teachers because more than half of the teachers had died of AIDS. Making matters even worse was the prevalent myth that AIDS could be cured by having sex with a virgin - leading to the rape of many young girls by stricken men.

The Christian response to the AIDS epidemic has been abominable. There has been a tendency to write off those who are suffering from AIDS on the grounds that this disease is some kind of punishment that God has meted out to those who have been sexually promiscuous. The logic behind such a conclusion is beyond my comprehension. Consider the fact that a huge number of those who are HIV positive are women who have been infected by promiscuous husbands. Are they to be condemned and ignored because of what their husbands have done? And what about the children who are born with the disease? Children constitute a significant proportion of those who are facing the possibility of AIDS-related death through no fault of their own.

We should recognize that the AIDS epidemic very much parallels the disease of leprosy that we read about in the New Testament. In biblical times, those who had leprosy were deemed spiritually unclean, and others would not get near them or touch them for fear of contamination that would be both physically harmful and spiritually defiling. Leprosy was seen as having a spiritual dimension to it, and lepers were looked upon as being especially cursed by God.

It is important for us to note that Jesus had a special spot in his heart to lepers. He embraced them. He touched them and certainly did not view the disease as some kind of special punishment that had been rained down on them by the Heavenly Father. Jesus reached out to them in love, which was contrary to the legalistic pietism of religious leaders in His day. He touched them as He healed them, in spite of the fact that touching them would render Him ceremoniously unclean to the custodians of the temple religion.

The Jesus of scripture calls upon us to see His presence in people with AIDS. Mother Theresa once said, "Whenever I look into the eyes of someone dying of AIDS, I have an eerie awareness that Jesus is staring back at me." Indeed, that is the case! No one can say that he or she loves Jesus without embracing the Jesus who waits to be embraced in those who have this torturous disease.

Indifference to the people in Africa who are suffering from AIDS must be challenged. Those of us who are in the church must use what moral authority we have to speak to those political and economic structures that the Bible refers to as the principalities and powers" that rule our age. We must raise our voices against those pharmaceutical corporations that overprice the new drugs that are able to slow down the effects of the HIV virus in those who are infected. We must call the corporate community to account when they value a profit more than the lives of people. We must speak out against a government that spends trillions of dollars to build up a military machine, but provides only a pittance to deal with the AIDS crisis that is destroying Africa. But please, for God's sake, do something!

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grief

Today we mourn.

Life is embryonic;
A spark,
A flash,
A chemical reaction -
The kiss of an angel...
Life.

So today we mourn.

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blogshares...

is dead.

Now how will I get my $180,000,000?

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