I sometimes think of strange things on the way to work. Today is April 8, 2014. Yesterday it was 20 degrees Celsius here in southern Alberta. This morning it is snowing. This seemed somehow wrong to me as I was driving down the highway this morning. Yesterday the window was open. Today the defrost is on and there is snow on the hood of my car. Yes, this is very wrong indeed.
As I was pondering the deep and mysterious wrongness of southern Alberta weather patterns, I began to wonder about other wrong things in our world. I began to wonder about how many things are said, each day, in our communities, cities, nations, and world, that are wrong. How many factual errors? How much sloppy and inaccurate reporting? How many people pronouncing upon things they know little about? How much of noisy chatter in Internet-land is simply misinformed and incorrect? How are we able to wade through all this wrongness and still function? 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.
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
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
I spent part of this morning catching up on some reading on “leadership” for a conference call later in the day. I have a tough enough time convincing myself that I am a leader at the best of times, but the task is made even more difficult when I spend even a minimal amount of time reading articles peppered with words like “visionary” and “outcome analysis” and “dynamic action strategies.” But good leaders use (and understand) words like these, apparently. Leaders look and sound a certain way. That’s the way things work. Read more
Let’s see if you can follow the Thursday afternoon rabbit trail….
I spent part of this afternoon hearing the story of an Anglican minister who recently participated in the El Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. We talked about the nature of pilgrimages, about history and tradition and communion with saints who have gone before us, about silence and prayer and participating in something deep and wide and long…
Jesus is hard to find.
The words came from my son as I collapsed into my seat after delivering the sermon yesterday morning. It was about the last thing I wanted to hear near the end of a worship service that came at the end of an exhausting week. I’d been single parenting for the past few days (my wife was on Vancouver Island running a half-marathon), while trying to finish preparations for the Sunday service and dealing with a bunch of other issues that were taking far more time and energy than I had to give. About the last thing I wanted at this point in the week was a crisis of faith from my son. All I wanted to do was finish the service and stumble home to bed. Read more
I’ve written a fair amount here about Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the work being done to address our nation’s history of Indian Residential Schools. Most of this writing took place in or around a trip I took to Montreal last spring to attend one of the seven national events taking place across the country (see here, here, and here). Today, however, the TRC came much closer to home. For the past two days, the TRC has been holding hearings right here in Lethbridge, AB. So, this morning I trudged off to the local hotel armed with my notebook and a stiff cup of coffee, and prepared to hear more difficult stories.
Yesterday was World Communion Sunday, a day when all kinds of churches from all kinds of places celebrate the sacrifice of love that unites us rather than the myriad petty walls that we are so determined to erect between us. Walls like, oh I don’t know, who gets to participate in the Lord’s Supper? To pick one random example. Read more
Christians talk a lot about love. We talk about the love of God and about how God in some mysterious way is love. We talk about the duty to love one another, and about how it is in the loving of our neighbours—friends and enemies—that we demonstrate that we love God. Of course, we are far better at talking about love than we are at consistently living lives of love, but I suppose that’s to be expected given our theological convictions about the pervasiveness of sin in the world and in the human heart. Read more
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:14)
I remember sitting in church listening to missionary reports as a kid. I remember all kinds of stories and images of people and places that my young small town prairie brain could barely get his head around. It all sounded so exotic. Barely comprehensible, even. I remember reading stories from one of our missionaries in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Stories of snakes and crude village huts and people who looked and sounded nothing like any people I had ever seen or heard—people with strange and (probably evil) beliefs that we were, thankfully, sending (white) people to correct. I doubt any of these missionary presentations and stories passed by without some reference to the passage in Romans quoted above. Read more
There was an unpleasant episode in our house this week. It was a predictable enough story: kids getting used to the back to school routine and coping with new demands, new classmates, new courses, etc. after a long, lazy, largely obligation-free summer, parents attempting to manage the suddenly frantic pace of life with school and sports and the demands of work and church, and unexpected expenses popping up everywhere… In short, life… And into this maelstrom of exhaustion and frenetic activity and inattentiveness/insensitivity to the needs of one another, it doesn’t take much of a spark to light a big, ugly fire, replete with misunderstanding, yelling, name-calling, slammed doors, stunned silence, and tears. Read more
We were sitting around the table on Saturday night with some good friends, and the conversation turned to philosophy. “Philosophy is kinda interesting,” one friend said, “but it can get frustrating. You can never prove anything. You just talk endlessly and go round and round in circles, but never come to any conclusions.” My wife then offered her customary response that tends to appear whenever the conversation veers into philosophical territory—a response borne out of years of laboured conversations with a husband only too eager to drift off into stratospheres of wild abstraction and impossibility: “Why don’t you just go beat your heads against the wall for a few minutes?! It would be about as productive as talking about philosophy.” Ah, my wife. A pragmatist, to the core. Read more
I have always been a lousy sleeper and I lay awake at night a lot. This proves to be fertile space for all manner of thoughts to flit in and out of my brain, some good and useful, many not so much. I think about my kids and their future. I think about philosophy. I think about soccer. I think about people who are suffering. I think about the meaning of life. I think about the many people who I have been blessed to know and who are a part of my life. I think how we end up in the places we do, doing the things we do and about what the point of it all is. Read more
This morning’s Bible reading was a bit of an unexpected one. Hosea 14. I suspect I am not alone in saying that I don’t tend to spend a lot of time in Hosea for devotional reading. It’s a fascinating book and a remarkable story about the fidelity of God to his people, but Hosea, like most of the minor prophets is a bit off the beaten path. At least for me. It’s like that interesting little town that you drove through once upon a time but haven’t visited in quite a while. Read more
As far as I can recall, the last few weeks have contained my first ever interviews. This sounds quite a bit more impressive than it is or was. One was forty-five minutes in a Tim Hortons coffee shop discussing my time in Colombia last year with a local reporter who is preparing a small booklet as part of an upcoming relief sale put on by Mennonite Central Committee. The other was ten minutes or so in front of a camera in Montreal as part of a feature about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission being put together by Mennonite Church Canada. We’re not really talking a big stage here. But still, kind of interesting experiences. Read more
It’s intriguing to me how frequently our morning worship services will contain a pleasant surprise of some kind, whether an unplanned correlation between a song and a prayer or a testimony that just fits with this or that aspect of the sermon or some other thing. It’s remarkable how frequently the Spirit of God seems to be working in similar ways and prompting similar ideas in the hearts and minds of people in our community. Read more