It was one of those articles where I started to get a little queasy about a millisecond after reading the headline: “Why Writers Should Stop Blogging.” That the piece was written by a respected fellow pilgrim and writer only made things worse, as did the links she provided to other content echoing the same themes. I have long suspected that blogging is inherently inferior to more traditional modes of communication—kind of like the minor leagues of writing—and have reflected often on the deleterious tendencies that it tends to inculcate among it’s practitioners. Each and every one of these suspicions (and others) was confirmed in reading this post and the attendant articles. Jeff Goins’ piece called “Why You Need to Stop Blogging & Regain Your Writing Soul,” in particular, summed it up with painful precision. Read more
There are times when it feels like to be a pastor is to be the receptionist at a walk-in clinic where the doctor is never in. The sick and the wounded, the weary and confused, the angry and exhausted—in they stumble, speaking of bodies that are breaking down, of loved ones who are dying, of relationships that stagger under the weight of too many cumulative breaks and fissures to possibly think of mending, of doubts born of too much suffering and silence. In they come, assuming that the receptionist has some kind of special access to the doctor, to the healing they want and need. Read more
Hockey is Canada’s Religion! So blared the headlines yesterday after the second of our nation’s triumphs with skates and sticks on the Sochi stage. For much of yesterday, Canadian media outlets were aglow with videos and tweets and updates about brave, patriotic Canadians getting up at ungodly hours of the morning and braving frigid temperatures to heroically make their way to the pub (sometimes, without even the lure of alcohol, if you can believe it!) to watch the big game. There were even heartwarming video clips of mosques and churches that decided to show the game before morning worship. The overall mood was exultant. This is what it means to be Canadian, we rehearsed to ourselves over and over again in myriad ways. Read more
There was an hour to kill between appointments last night, so my daughter and I went to grab something to eat. It had been a day—not particularly good, not particularly bad, just, I don’t know, acceptably mediocre—and we were both a little tired. We sat mostly in silence, munching on our sandwiches, me thinking about the evening meeting ahead, she thinking… well, what was she thinking. She stared absently past me, for the most part. Neither of us seemed much in the mood for conversation.
“Does it ever make you sad that people have to eat alone?” Read more
The news is bad today. But then the news is so very often bad.
Where to begin? Violent conflicts in the Ukraine, Syria, the Central African Republic, and so many others grind wearily on, with all the predictable innocent pain and suffering that drags along in the wake of tired, old, struggles for power. A volcanic eruption in Indonesia displaces more than 100 000 people. There is political unrest in Egypt and Venezuela. There are the places that we need only name to know that there is bad news: Afghanistan. Iraq. North Korea. Iran. Haiti. And all of this bad news takes place while our eyes are mostly fixed upon a very expensive extravaganza for the rich at a resort on the Black Sea.
Every so often, usually between 5-9 pm on a Saturday night when I am lurching toward the finish line of another sermon (or grinding my teeth in frustration at the sermon that just won’t come together), a terrifying thought pops into my head. All of a sudden it occurs to me what a laughable, horrifyingly presumptuous thing it is to get up in front of a group of people and presume to speak on behalf of or about God.
I was in a social setting recently where someone introduced me as a “theologian.” I smiled weakly, fraudulently, unsure quite how to respond. I was flattered, of course. “Theologian” sounds so much more impressive and loaded down with scholarly weight than “pastor” or certainly “blogger.” But while I am well-practiced in fraudulence and generally quite inwardly pleased to have my ego stroked, I have never been particularly good at accepting compliments. So instead of a simple straightforward “thank you,” I awkwardly umm-ed and ahh-ed whilst turning a strange shade of pink and staring at my feet, and mumbled, Ah, well, you see, I’m not really a theologian… I’m at this little church… I have this little blog… But, um, thanks… that’s nice of you to say… even though it’s not technically true… but, yeah, um, thanks.
Very eloquent, I know. A real theologian would surely have had a more coherent and articulate response than, well, than whatever that was. Read more
I did one good thing today. Only one.
I did some things inadequately and halfheartedly. I mechanically responded to email, returned phone calls, chipped away at the mountain of paper on my desk. I was often bored and listless, and struggled to corral my wandering mind. I yawned a lot, and looked out the window. Read more
“We do not know how to pray” (Romans 8:26). The whole uniqueness of Jesus of Nazareth lies in this: that he knows how to pray, because he knows to whom he is speaking. His greatest miracle was not healing or walking on water or driving out devils, but teaching his followers to say our Father.
— Benjamin Myers, Salvation in My Pocket
This afternoon I did a bit of an inventory of recent encounters with the Lord’s Prayer. Read more
Our church has spent two hours over the past few Sundays wading into the potentially stormy waters of dialogue about human sexuality as part of our national church’s ongoing discernment process. Among the many interesting things that came up over the course of a very stimulating (although far too brief) conversation was the question of the boundaries of sin. “Why are we so hesitant to use ‘sin’ language?” was one question. Why indeed. It’s a good question. Read more
“Would you be interested in coming to give a short talk to a group of high school/university students?” The question came a few weeks ago and, as is my customary practice, I enthusiastically agreed without giving so much a passing glance at my calendar. How hard could it be, right? “What would you like me to talk about?” I asked. “Well, we’re wondering if you can speak on the topic, ‘What is the meaning of life?’” The meaning of life. Right.
This was followed by period of awkward laughter and dumb silence on my part. Not terribly inspirational, I wouldn’t think. Read more
Yesterday was one of those delightful brown-parcel-in-the-mail days—one of those days when the good and kind people of Canada Post come bearing glorious gifts from afar, gifts of crisp, unblemished pages, gifts brimming with fresh insights and exciting tales, gifts of possibility, hope, and promise, gifts of delight and discovery… Gifts of words.
Or, to put things a bit less dramatically, “I got a new book yesterday.” Read more
In order to relieve the tedium of trudging aimlessly around the house in a fog of sinus-clogged misery, I spent part of yesterday watching Mitch Miyagawa’s 2012 documentary, “Sorry State.” Miyagawa figures that his family might just be the most apologized-to family in history, at least when it comes to official government apologies. His Japanese father was apologized to by the Canadian government for being shipped off to southern Alberta during World War II. His Chinese step-father was apologized to in 2006 for the head tax in the early twentieth century. And, finally, his Cree step-mother was on the receiving end of PM Stephen Harper’s 2008 apology for government run residential schools. That’s a lot of apologizing. Read more
On the way back from a weekend conference, my wife says she wants to stop at the mall. Just for an hour or so.
I don’t like malls. Especially huge malls like this one. I don’t like the idea of the mall or the reality of the mall. I don’t like the orgy of reckless consumption that they represent. I don’t like the bright lights and the crappy pop music that bleeds incessantly through the speakers. I don’t like the labyrinthine layouts that seem designed to trap and confuse me, imprisoning me in the mall’s frightful and constricting embrace.
All of this not liking was pulsing through my brain as I (wisely, no doubt) replied, “Sure. Let’s go to the mall.” Read more
I’ve spent a good chunk of the past day and a half or so in a hotel room while my wife attends a conference. This has afforded me the delightful privilege of uninterrupted time for catching up on a bit of reading, napping, going for short walks. And for watching sports.
I love sports. I have always loved sports, whether this meant playing or watching. As with many Canadian kids, when I was younger it was mostly about hockey, but I could watch pretty much anything—football, basketball, skiing, tennis, track and field…. Even baseball, if I was particularly desperate. Not curling or golf, though. Never those. And not boxing (we had mercifully not yet been presented with the disgusting abomination that is UFC at that point). Even as a child, I understood that one must have standards. Read more
Among the reasons that I chose to attend Regent College in Vancouver, BC from 2005-2008 was the reputation of their faculty. Eugene Peterson, Gordon Fee, John Stackhouse, Sarah Williams, Rikk Watts, Loren Wilkinson… The list could go on an on. I was not disappointed in my choice, even if I was mildly surprised by how Reformed the theology often was (and how dismissive the conversations could sometimes be of Mennonites and the Radical Reformation in general). My experience at Regent was overwhelmingly good and profoundly life-giving in a wide variety of ways. Read more
Part of this past weekend was spent in Medicine Hat, AB where my son had a basketball tournament. Medicine Hat would probably not be thought by many to be a remarkable place. The city’s main claim to fame is probably the world’s largest teepee (the “Saamis” teepee, the Blackfoot word for the eagle feather headdress which was translated “Medicine Hat”) that sits just off the Trans-Canada highway near a historical buffalo jump. But aside from that, Medicine Hat is a lot like so many other windswept prairie towns. There are pockets of beauty, to be sure, but it’s mostly brown, flat, nondescript. There is the now familiar exodus of business and commerce from the downtown area, to the outskirts of town where there is plenty of cheap land for the innumerable fast-food joints and big box stores that pop with alarming speed and regularity, and the vast oceans of asphalt parking lots for the jacked up pick up trucks, SUVs and mini vans that rumble down its streets. Medicine Hat is an ordinary prairie town. Somewhere most people are passing through on their way to somewhere else. Calgary, Vancouver, Winnipeg, wherever. Forgettable.
But Medicine Hat is not forgettable for me. Read more