I'm off early tomorrow morning for Denver to spend a few days talking with Wes. More later!
After canceling the last two gatherings, "the whatever" community finally met again this week. It was a great evening so we sat out in Rob & Sarah's back yard and talked a little about the future. We've decided to meet weekly starting this fall. When you're a small group meeting every two weeks you don't have to cancel too often before it feels like months since we last met.
As a group we've also decided to incorporate a meal into our gathering. We've sort of "unofficially" fallen into the habit anyway, so it's just a question of formalizing it and spreading the work around. Doug Pagitt talks at length in his book about spiritual formation through hospitality, and I'm anxious to put some of this into practice.
Out on the deck we talked again about this journey we're on and about Christ's example of practicing some of the spiritual disciplines. He did, you know. You don't have to spend much time in the gospels before you see examples of Jesus both teaching and living out solitude, fasting, prayer, celebration, and service, to name just a few.
Borrowing from the great work of the Water's Edge community, we asked ourselves two questions:
1. What am I currently not doing that, if I were doing, would open myself up more to God's work of grace in my life?
2. What am I currently doing that, if eliminated, would open myself up more to God's work of grace in my life?
We set up two outdoor stations to help us really experience these questions, and our answers. Sitting quietly outside we contemplated these questions with pen and paper while the sounds of music reached us from inside the house.
For the first question we had a small pile of polished rocks and a couple of white paint pens. If we were able to reduce our thoughts to a few words or symbols, we used the pens on the rock, and took them with us as a reminder.
The second question took on a life of its own. We set up a large garbage can on the deck and filled it with water. This time we had larger round river rocks, and chalk instead of paint. In an act of repentance and commitment, the idea was to drop the rock into the water (ala the labyrinth experience). This was an intensely personal experience; the chalk washed off (so we could use the rocks again!)
I said the idea was to "drop" the rocks into the water. However, some must have felt a powerful conviction because they put a lot of energy into the exercise... to the point where a few bystanders were "baptized" by their efforts!
From this morning's reading:
Clearly, we cannot play life's game both ways. We have to make choices. And we will either serve the status quo or be those who work for constructive change. We will either serve the poor or support the pharoahs of this world.
Ellul is clear in his commitment. "My decision," he writes, "is to side with the poor."
Sometimes, I think, it is that easy.
I finally got back to the Grouse Grind today! I was all set to turn over a new leaf and set up a 3 times a week schedule. I did it once, and went to Toronto for a week. Once I got home I wasn't allowed to sweat on my tattoo for two weeks. Really! Well, the two weeks was up today, so it was back to the mountain.
Up on top I spent some time praying. For a while I found God in these eyes, and then He was over here for a while. Incredible. (Don't worry - there was an electric fence between God and I at all times!)
I used to have a list of articles that were meaningful to me over on the sidebar, but it got sort of messy, so I dumped it a while back. However I've come across some incredible material lately that I want to put out there, so I've put it back in a new form - Stuff That Made Me Say "Wow". (It'll remain on the sidebar until I can figure out how to set up separate pages on this crazy thing.)
Our friend A.W. is on a roll. I have it on good authority this is what he's got in store for us tomorrow:
So I said, "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts."
I have said it before and I will say it again: This low concept of God is our spiritual problem today. Mankind has succeeded quite well in reducing God to a pitiful nothing!
The God of the modern context is no God at all. He is simply a glorified chairman of the board, a kind of big businessman dealing in souls. The God portrayed in much of our church life today commands very little respect.
We must get back to the Bible and to the ministration of God's Spirit to regain a high and holy concept of God. Oh, this awesome, terrible God, the dread of Isaac! This God who made Isaiah cry out, "I am undone!" This God who drove Daniel to his knees in honor and respect.
To know the Creator and the God of all the universe is to revere Him. It is to bow down before Him in wonder and awesome fear.
Let's take God out of that box we've put Him in. It never could hold Him anyway.
From today's dose of Tozer:
Worship rises or falls in any church altogether depending upon the attitude we take toward God, whether we see God big or whether we see Him little. Most of us see God too small; our God is too little. David said, "O magnify the Lord with me," and "magnify" doesn't mean to make God big. You can't make God big. But you can see Him big.
I'm looking for a big God today.
I'm looking forward to seeing Michael Moore's new movie Fahrenheit 9/11, which will be released on June 25. (Watch the trailer here.) Roger Ebert has written a good piece on the movie. While he shares Moore's politics, Ebert never the less held him accountable for inaccuracies and errors in Bowling For Columbine, so it's worth a read. (Thanks to Jordon for pointing us to the Ebert piece.)
Kudos to Lions Gate Films (based right here in North Vancouver) for distributing the film after Michael Eisner stepped in and prevented Mirimax (a Disney company) from releasing the flick. Lots of people are hot and bothered about this one - a must see, I'd say.
While we're on the subject of transformation...
"...We need a movement of God's people into neighborhoods, to live out and be the new future of Christ. It must be a movement that demonstrates how the people of God have a vision and the power to transform our world. This is not the same as current attempts to grow bigger and bigger churches that act like vacuum cleaners, sucking people out of their neighborhoods into a sort of Christian supermarket. Our culture does not need any more churches run like corporations; it needs local communities empowered by the gospel vision of a transforming Christ who addresses the needs of the context and changes the polis into a place of hope and wholeness. The corporation churches we are cloning across the land cannot birth this transformational vision, because they have no investment in context or place; they are centres of expressive individualism with a truncated gospel of personal salvation and little else.
Our penchant for bigness and numerical success as the sign of God's blessing ony discourages and deflects attempts to root communities of God's people deeply into neighborhoods. And until we build transformed communities there is no hope for a broken earth.
Preach it, brother.
To be perfectly honest I was never much of a Bill Clinton fan when he was president. In an odd way though, it seems to me that he has come into his own since leaving office, if that makes any sense. I'm looking forward to reading his book, and I was pleased to see this news this morning:
The William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation by August could begin providing technical assistance with antiretroviral treatment, diagnostic equipment and hospital management to China to help fight its HIV/AIDS epidemic, a foundation program director said on Thursday, Kyodo News reports (Kyodo News, 6/17). China's Ministry of Health and the foundation in April signed a memorandum of understanding to improve HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in the country. Under the agreement, the foundation will provide assistance in operating HIV/AIDS care and treatment programs, establishing treatment and testing protocols and creating monitoring and evaluation programs. The health ministry authorized the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences to discuss details of its AIDS plan with the Clinton Foundation. The Chinese government estimates that there are 840,000 HIV-positive people in the country and that 80,000 people have AIDS; however, some experts believe those figures are underestimates. The United Nations estimates that at least one million HIV-positive people live in China and the number could grow to 20 million by 2010 if efforts to prevent the virus are not implemented (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/30).
(From The Kaiser Network)
My habit of pestering my favorite authors continues; I had lunch today with Stan Grenz. What a great conversation... actually, conversation is probably not the right word. I promised Stan that next time I'd actually let him talk a little.
He left me with a lot to think about, and he provided insight into some intensely personal areas of my life. We talked about the mystery of prayer, and Stan told me he is currently updating Prayer: The Cry for the Kingdom for a new release. That's one to watch for.
I had to laugh this morning as I read through the stuff they've already decided on. I sat at the beach for a while yesterday and made a bunch of notes regarding my return trip to see Wes in a week and a half. I was thinking of what I wanted/needed on my journey, and in my notes I scribbled down this:
What is it I'm looking for?
+ a few people to bounce ideas off
+ a few gurus to learn from
+ a few practitioners to learn from
It looks like lots of people are thinking along the same lines.
I've been reading Sojourners for about a year or so, and I'm always challenged and motivated by the writing of Jim Wallis. My admiration for Jim grew exponentially when he spoke at Emergent earlier this year. Jim wears his heart on his sleeve, and his passion is contagious.
I've just finished reading through the baccalaureate address Jim delivered at Stanford University on June 12. His is a voice that the church cannot ignore, and cannot hide from.
"When I was growing up, it was continually repeated in my evangelical Christian world that the greatest battle and biggest choice of our time was between belief and secularism. But I now believe that the real battle, the big struggle of our times, is the fundamental choice between cynicism and hope. The choice between cynicism and hope is ultimately a spiritual choice; and one which has enormous political consequences.
More than just a moral issue; hope is a spiritual and even religious choice. Hope is not a feeling; it is a decision. And the decision for hope is based upon what you believe at the deepest levels - what your most basic convictions are about the world and what the future holds - all based upon your faith. You choose hope, not as a naïve wish, but as a choice, with your eyes wide open to the reality of the world - just like the cynics who have not made the decision for hope.
And the realities of our world are these: almost half the world, close to three billion people, live on less than 2 dollars a day; and more than one billion live on less than 1 dollar a day. And every day, 30,000 children die needlessly due to utterly preventable causes like hunger, disease, and things like the lack of safe drinking water - things we could change if we ever decided to.
For the first time in history we have the information, knowledge, technology, and resources to bring the worst of global poverty virtually to an end. What we don't have is the moral and political will to do so. And it is becoming clear that it will take a new moral energy to create that political will."
Read the entire speech here.
"The antidote to cynicism is not optimism but action. And action is finally born out of hope. Try to remember that."
I'm here at the airport waiting for Sue's flight to arrive. Normally, I love sitting with my journal in a busy public place, especially airports, as life swirls around me. However, as I write this an Australian guy is sitting next to me trying not to throw up. That's a little too much life, and definitely too much swirling.
A big Airbus 340 is just taking off. What an incredible aircraft! Just as it leaves the ground, a Helijet Sikorsky is screaming across the field at about 100 feet. OK, maybe "screaming" is a bit much, but it is going very, very fast. (I've been on those helicopters, and they have to duck in between the other air traffic. Very cool!)
The helicopter makes me think of Harry Tick, who I just "met" this morning. It looks like Harry came to us via Rick, and he's left a great comment on See The Difference II. Did I mention that Harry is a helicopter pilot stationed in Iraq? He's also blogging over at Walking The Dogma, so swing on by. I thought Calling The Faithful was beautiful, and it reminded me that all of creation is God's.
Stay safe, Harry, and God bless.
The tattoo has been peeling now for a couple of days - part of the process. It's kind of cool, in a slightly disgusting sort of way.
Sue called me from Montreal last night!
Sofia - Vienna - Montreal - Toronto - Vancouver. Quite a route.
About half of the team of 15 women are from the Toronto area, so they're home already. The other half (from Vancouver and Kathy from Snohomish, Washington) overnighted in Toronto, and will be home today!
People say that postmodernism does away with the metanarratives of the modern world - no great overarching story unites us: not evangelical Christianity, not communism, not materialism. But as I read Hey Nostradamus!, I was surprised to discover in the four individual lives painted in this book, that Coupland in a strange way, is hopeful.
Swing on by and check out his post.
I was early for a meeting yesterday so I dropped into HMV and went dumpster diving in the "2 for $12" bin. When I surfaced I had Men Without Hats - Pop Goes The World and the debut Asia recording between my teeth.
I had the tunes cranked and was singing at the top of my lungs as I cruised home along the highway. Then Wildest Dreams came on. For some reason the words hit me like a brick, and the ride home was pretty quiet after that.
They decorated all the generals
Who fought the wars behind the lines
They had forgotten all the soldiers
The brandy put them way behind the times
Insanity has found its way to TV screens
Vision seems impossible to me
They fight for king and country
I never would have thought this in my
The evening comes, we sit and watch the VJs
Clips and rushes come from who knows where
From Washington across to California
With fighting breaking out in Leicester Square
We see the soldiers moving on to victory
And children trampled under marching feet
They fight for king and country
How many millions will they put to sleep?
No, not in this world
No, not in the next
No, not in my wildest dreams
They recommended euthanasia
For non-conformists anywhere
Some men's dreams for others turn to nightmares
This never would have happened in my
No, not in this world
No, not in the next
No, not in my wildest dreams...
Just kidding. Mark's a good friend, so drop by and say hello.
PS. There are just too many puns available. Waving or Drowning and Swimming Lessons?
"In dialogue you are not allowed to stay right where you are; you must move toward the perspective of the other person. You don't need to stay there, but a commitment to community means that you are required to visit." (p. 92)
Man, these people aren't fooling around.
I'm sitting here at 35,000 feet, and the dry air is making my new tattoo (24 hours old) hurt a little. I've returned from the washroom where I applied the all-natural Magic Dragon Mist to my ear, and the Tattoo Goo to my leg. This body modification stuff is high maintenance. Who knew?!
Last Friday night (way back in my pre-earing and pre-tattoo days) Brad asked me what my thought process was in making the decision(s) to do this to myself. The question didn't so much as catch me off-guard as make me realize I didn't have a good answer to give.
I've since given it some thought (including the 45 minutes I spent in the chair getting inked), and here's what I've come up with.
For those of you from somewhere else, the Canadian version of Wall Street is Toronto's Bay Street, and for about a dozen years I worked there and loved it. (I've talked about this before. Just humour me for a minute.) I would put on an Armani or Boss suit, lace up the Bostonians (great shoes, btw), and do my thing. Crisp shirt and tie - the whole nine yards.
The journey Sue and I are on has taken us about a million miles from there - figuratively (and about 3000 miles literally). Sure the laser-straight part in my hair is gone, and I can count on one hand the number of times I've worn a suit in the past 16 months (two fingers, actually), but that's not enough.
It all boils down to this: The inner me has changed so much that I think the outer me had some catching up to do.
That may not make much sense to you, but it does to me. Mixed in there somewhere is the freedom I'm now experiencing in my faith - the freedom to not know the answers, the freedom to be comfortable with the questions, and the freedom to revel in the mystery of God and try to fulfill my role in His story, instead of attempting to to make Him a useful character in my story.
That, and I think it all looks cool. If only Harry Rosen could see me now...
UPDATE: By popular demand, here's a shot of my pasty white shaved leg, and the tat. (You realize, of course, that you're seeing this before my wife does!)
Rick left a thought-provoking comment down on See The Difference. I started to respond, but it turned into an epic so I've set it up here as a new post. Make sure you read the original and comments first.
"I think this focus on transformation is... bondage..."
Hey Rick - I can see how we could think that way; the works thing, I mean. I had to get over that hump myself when I started down this path. (Although, rumour has it faith without works is dead.)
Let me start be saying I don't pretend to have all the answers. In fact, the longer I live the fewer answers I have. The questions, of course, keep piling up. That's OK, though. I prefer questions to answers now anyway. Answers end conversations; questions start them.
At this stage of my journey here is where my questions have led me (WARNING: Late-night random thoughts ahead):
The last part of the last point is the key: We do not do the work. On that I agree with you. I do think we have the responsibility to "prepare the soil". In our little tribe we talk about doing our part so God can do His part. He makes all this available to us, but we are responsible for working with God in this formation.
Why do I think this is the case? Well, most Christ followers I know, myself included, do not exhibit this transformation. They spend their lives regretting the things they do, and their failure to take on just a little bit of Christ's character.
Well then, you say, there's your proof. We're obviously not meant to live that way because none of us can do it. First of all, that's not true. I know some Christ followers who are inching their way along this journey. They are great examples of love and grace, and I want to be like them. I want what they have. And many have shared how the disciplines have aided in this formation, but I digress.
Second, Christ Himself tells us this is the way it should be. As believers we love to get all hot and bothered about the first half of the Great Commission.
Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 19:20)
Yes, I said the first half. The second half we as the church have conveniently neglected until it has completely slipped from our consciousness, and our definition of the Gospel.
Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. (Matthew 19:21a)
Well, guess what? I can't repay evil with kindness - at least not of my own accord. It ain't natural!
Just this Sunday I heard a sermon that talked about how all our problems would be solved if we could just love people more. of course, there was no indication of just how to accomplish this feat, and the whole presentation hinged on the closing prayer where the speaker exhorted God to teach us to love more. Then we went home.
We can't "try harder" to love more. Our ability to love grows as we spend more time in Love's presence. And as we do so we are transformed, continuously, into beings that are just a little more like Christ. As Dallas Willard puts it, I can't learn to keep the law, but I can learn to become someone who would keep the law. Personally I think that is how we go about assisting with the building of the Kingdom.
Anyway, that's enough for now - I'm starting to ramble.
Well, the connections continue. Sunday afternoon I went with my dad, brother in law, niece, and three nephews to catch The Day After Tomorrow. Not bad. A little corny, a little hokey and the science was stretched in a lot of places, but entertaining none the less.
That night I met up with Mark and Randy at a local establishment. Mark is the good friend who gave me a copy of A New Kind of Christian and few years back. I was teetering on the edge of the abyss, and he came along and pushed me right over... a deed for which I shall be eternally grateful. Randy and I had never met before, but as is so often the case it took us all of about five minutes to feel like we had known each other for years, and man, did the three of us talk.
I hate to beat a dead horse, but there is unusual power in the very act of having a written mission statement. I'm warning you now I'm going to be pretty much unbearable on this point.
There have been other points of connection that I won't bore you with... now.
I'm sitting here in Starbucks watching a guy put up one of those cheesy portable signs out front.
"See The Difference" That's quite a claim. In fact, is it a claim, a promise, or what?
"New and Improved Tide... See The Difference!" How many of us actually expect to see a difference when we use this product? Or have these exhortations been used and abused so much that they no longer hold any promise or meaning at all?
Now lets switch dimensions to the personal.
They cheesy metaphorical sign on the front lawn of my life for years read:
Lately I've been thinking a lot about the transformation we've been undergoing. When was the veil lifted, and when did I see the sign for what it was? Certainly it was a process, or should I say part of a process. I used to think the arrival of the sign marked the end, the completion, of... something. Now I believe the journey really started the day the guy in the rusty pickup came and hauled the sign away.
No more signs promising that you will "See The Difference" if you look my way. Now I want to work on there actually being a difference.
...a desire to be part of a community of faith that not only had a new way of functioning but also generated a different outcome." Reimagining Spiritual Formation, p. 37
Outcome. Outcome. Outcome.
It's about the outcome, not the inputs. So many times we get hung up on the inputs. What are the inputs? Are they cool inputs, or traditional inputs? Not that input again! I prefer the other input to this input.
"And yet we seek to do more than simply worship Jesus or hear the teachings of Jesus or gather in the name of Jesus. Our desire is to arrange our lives to follow God in the way of Jesus."Reimagining Spiritual Formation, p. 51
On Friday night my brother-in-law Gord convened a meeting of commenters to this blog. There was Gord, Robert, Brad, Dan and myself. 3 Canadians and 2 Americans, so the conversation was spirited. What a great bunch of guys! After dinner we played a little pool, and there nationality didn't matter - we all sucked.
Here's a photo of Brad (aka Billy Bob Thornton) and his daughter with the Stanley Cup. Yes, the Stanley Cup. We finally let him in on our little secret - it's written into the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that every Canadian resident has their picture taken with the Cup at some point in their lifetime. Last week they did Brad's street. See, health care aside there are benefits to living in Canada. (Actually, it's a long story that probably shouldn't be told.)
POSTSCRIPT: Looks like Oakville is as close to Calgary as the cup is getting this year.
Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not waiting passively until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient, we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later, and somewhere else. Be patient and trust that the treasure you are looking for is hidden in the ground on which you stand.
Henri J. M. Nouwen
You never know where you're going to have a conversation about Jesus. Today it happened at the tattoo parlor.
We were at The Dansing Dragon today. Steve was getting some touch-up done, and I was making some arrangements of my own. I asked Peel the artist how much of his work could be considered "religious", and he figured about 15% tops. (I think Steve is his favorite "religious guy".)
Peel then when on to say something like this:
"I'll say one thing for you religious guys, though. You never complain about the price. You heard that guy who came in asking about a demon. Tell him it'll be $300 and he says he has to think about it. He won't be back! A guy came in here 2 weeks ago and wanted a Jesus portrait. I told him it would be at least $700, and he said 'let's do it.' I mean, you guys say he bled and died for you... how are you going to put a price on that?"
Before leaving Vancouver today I did a little pre-flight surfing, and Bob Carlton pointed me to Bruce Mau's Incomplete Manifesto. I've seen it before but wanted to read it again, so I printed it out and tossed it in the airplane folder.
Christian community also includes those who have come and gone before us, our historical community. Just as with local and global communities, there are elements of our historical community that we may well find difficult to stomach, such as the excesses of the Crusades or the Salem witch trials. Though we are not called to live the faith of the past, and we need to be people of faith of our day, our current and future vision for the church cannot be formed without a sense of the visions of the past. It is through our historical community that we are reminded, guided, taught , and led in the ways of God. We are compelled to enter into the context of those who have served, loved and believed before us. Therefore we must always ground ourselves in the history and traditions of the Christian community that have come before us. There is one body of Christ through all time, and we are part of that body in our particular place and time. If we separate ourselves from the work of our body in previous times, we do so to our limitation and peril."
Now check out point #42 of Bruce's list:
42. Remember. Growth is only possible as a product of history. Without memory, innovation is merely novelty. History gives growth a direction. But a memory is never perfect. Every memory is a degraded or composite image of a previous moment or event. That's what makes us aware of its quality as a past and not a present. It means that every memory is new, a partial construct different from its source, and, as such, a potential for growth itself.
Wow. "If we separate ourselves from the work of our body in previous times, we do so to our limitation and peril." And, "without memory, innovation is merely novelty."
The same powerful caution from two different sources. As we venture out and explore the as-of-yet uncharted territories of whatever this thing is, we need to remember we didn't invent faith, and we arrived at our departure point using maps that had been painstakingly prepared for us by those who have gone before.
(Read Part I)
I paid the extra $25 to sit in the "comfort plus" section, and the seat next to me is empty, so I have reading material spread out all over the place.
Step into my office. Say hello to Stan Grenz and Doug Pagitt, who are making the trip with me. Well, they're not actually here with me, but I've been reading their books up here. That's sort of the same, isn't it?
Back in the days of Fidelity Investments I used to love this flight. When we lived in Vancouver in 2000 (before moving back to Ontario in 2001, then moving back to Vancouver in 2003, and so on, and so on, and...). That year I probably made the 4.5 - 5 hour trip (depending on which way you're going) once a month. And prior to that move in 2000 I made the trip once a week - I would spend a week in Vancouver and a then the next week in Toronto for the three months prior to the move. In Vancouver I lived at the Fairmont Waterfront and knew a lot of the staff by name. Ah, the days of the expense account...
That's far enough down memory lane for now.
The point was I loved making this trip. 5 hours of uninterrupted work! I used to save up stuff to take on the flight. In fact, I'm looking at a souvenir from that era right now - a plastic folder labeled Airplane Material.
The contents of the folder has changed, but the premise is the same. Now let's see. What else do I have in here?
I'm writing this (with pen and paper) from 33,000 feet, and from the looks of things outside the window I'd guess we're somewhere over Manitoba.I'm on my way back to Ontario to visit my parents. They've just moved into a condo after 30 years in the same house, so I figured I'd go check things out. Besides, Sue left yesterday for 2 weeks in Bulgaria, so it was easy to pick up and go.
Speaking of travel, I'm now convinced that I am a big part of the reason Air Canada is seeking bankruptcy protection. This is my first experience with Jetsgo, and so far I'm impressed. I paid real money for this ticket; with Air Canada I usually just redeem Aeroplan points. I've had at least a dozen free flights in the last 2 or 3 years, and I still have about 150,000 points left - a heady reminder of my previous life/"real" job/pre-ministry days!