So, Nelson Mandela has died and the tributes are deservedly pouring in. The world is undoubtedly a poorer place for Mr. Mandela’s absence. His story inspires and compels on so many levels. His legacy is sure and strong. Read more
Posts from the ‘Hope’ Category
Here in southern Alberta, we find ourselves in the grip of quite the blizzard. It’s been snowing for about a day and a half and there’s more on the way. With the wind chill factored in, it’s -26 degrees out there. My wife and I woke up early today to check on the status of the roads and the schools and to peer curiously out our window. Surely no one would try to get out today, would they?! Well, it’s 8:30 am, and we have already pushed/shoveled out two neighbours who were determined to head out into the wintry wonderland, despite all the warnings to stay home and wait out the storm. Not everyone can wait, it seems. 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
What is the gospel?
You would think that a room full of pastors would be able to offer a pretty concise and comprehensive answer to so basic a query, but when the question was posed at a gathering I was a part of yesterday, the silence was deafening. Maybe we thought it was a kind of trick question, that it was too easy. Maybe we were afraid that we would omit some important detail and look foolish in front of respected peers. Maybe we were mentally sifting and sorting between all the competing answers out there. Maybe we just didn’t want to be the first to speak. Or, maybe it was a genuine struggle to articulate somethings so basic to our identity. I don’t know. Read more
It struck me, as I was standing at the graveside of a family friend last week, what a truly staggering thing it is to proclaim the resurrection of the dead.
I was staring at the wet, squishy ground, wiggling my toes, trying to stay warm in the typical British Columbia November drizzle, listening to the pastor reciting familiar words from the Psalms, from the Gospels, words about how death is a beginning not an end, words about how this person is with Jesus now, about how we have a living hope. I looked at the coffin and thought about the person we all knew and loved who was about to be lowered into the ground. I stared back at my shoes. More words from the pastor. I remember thinking, “God, I’m glad I’m not in his shoes today. I’m glad I am not faced with the task of speaking these wildly counterintuitive resurrection words into the yawning chasm of death today.” Read more
“There are no atheists in foxholes,” goes the famous aphorism. It’s meant, I suppose, to get at the idea that when you’re face to face with darkness and death and horror and suffering, atheism suddenly becomes a less credible option. The reality of death makes believers, or at least desperate hopers out of us all. When our lives are under threat, God seems more palatable. That’s the idea, as I understand it at least. Read more
For dear friends on the passing of a father and friend… Dear friends whose steps must today begin to beat the well-worn path through the valley of the shadow…
But if death is the end in Christianity, it is not the final end; it is the end of an act only, not the end of the drama. Once before out of the abyss of the unborn, the uncreated, the not-yet, you and I who from all eternity had been nothing became something. Out of nonbeing we emerged into being. And what Jesus promises is resurrection, which means that once again this miracle will happen, and out of death will come another realm of life. Not because by our nature there is part of us that does not die, but because by God’s nature he will not let even death separate us from him finally.
Because he loves us. In love he made us and in love he will mend us. In love he will have us his true children before he is through, and in order to do that, one life is not enough, God knows.
Frederick Buechner, The Hungering Dark
I was standing in a line at the hospital check in desk today when I decided to start imagining.
It started innocently enough. As I was standing there watching the receptionist mechanically dispensing room numbers, I found myself imagining getting to the front of the line and hearing her say, “Oh, I’m sorry, sir, there’s been a mistake. The man you’re looking for isn’t here! He was discharged yesterday. He’s perfectly healthy, you see. He’s been made well, and he won’t be coming back here soon. You should have seen him when he left—he was beaming!” That’s what I imagined as I was waiting in line.
But she didn’t say any of that. What she said was, “Room 419.” Read more
A wise friend and mentor once told me to be very careful to cultivate what he called a “theology of holy interruptions.” “Sometimes God speaks in the unplanned, unexpected, even apparently annoying human interjections in our days,” he said. “Make sure you don’t allow your other ‘important work’ to trump the divinely appointed conversations that might cross your path when you least expect or want them.” While this is obviously a maxim that can be (and is) abused, the wisdom of my friend’s words has been borne out on numerous occasions in my relatively brief time in pastoral ministry. 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
I watched the kids play at recess today. I was waiting to pick up my daughter for a dentist appointment, and I was a few minutes early. So I just sat and watched. I noticed a girl, off to the side, standing by the corner of the building, all by herself. Around the corner, other kids were laughing, playing, kicking/throwing balls, wrestling, goofing around. She just stood there, looking at her feet. Playing with the string on her hoodie. Every once in a while she would peer around the corner at the other kids, and then she would quickly duck back, look away, back down to her feet. The bell rang. She waited until all the other kids had left, before slowly making her way toward the door. She never stopped looking at her shoes. It was an utterly ordinary scene. And it broke my heart. Read more
This morning’s tour through the aggregator yielded a couple of pieces that gently admonished self-indulgent blogger-types for their propensity to write about blogging. Nothing too serious, just a kind of slap on the wrist for those prone to indulging their already hyperactive narcissistic tendencies by making oblique (or explicit) reference to their popularity and influence (or bemoaning their lack of popularity and influence), or who commemorate blogging “anniversaries,” milestone posts and comments, or who just generally seem to assume that their blog is quite a bit more important to the world than it really is. 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
Every human society is, in the last resort, men banded together in the face of death. The power of religion depends, in the last resort, upon the credibility of the banners it puts in the hands of men as they stand before death, or more accurately, as they walk, inevitably, toward it.
Peter Berger, The Sacred Canopy
I’ve written a lot of posts about death here over the years. Usually these are reflections upon the pain and the longing that accompany death, or about what the existence of death and our reaction to its inevitability might say about what it means to be human or about the nature of God and God’s promise. Or these posts represent a personal encounter with death—they are reflections about what it’s like to walk with people through death, or the experience of grief, or whatever. Read more
Many of my days begin with a bit of time spent in an Anabaptist prayer-book called Take Our Moments and Our Days. During this morning’s prayers, my mind was scattered and I was finding it difficult to concentrate, to focus, to pray.
One line caught my attention, as countless others sailed by unnoticed:
You do not leave us alone. Read more
There is nothing more ordinary than suffering.
There is nothing more extraordinary than suffering.
Both of these statements are true.
For me, this has at times felt like the summer of pain, of hard stories. Perhaps it is simply because I am getting older as are the people in my orbit, and as we get older bad things start happening more regularly. Marriages begin to fall apart, mid-life crises make their obligatory appearance, kids go terrifyingly astray, words like “cancer” and “Alzheimer’s” and “Parkinson’s” start forcing their way into conversations, soul-shattering tragedy pops its head around the corner from time to time… Life takes its toll. Read more