A few nights ago, my wife and I watched a quirky Irish romantic comedy called Wild Mountain Thyme. The film itself was fine, nothing spectacular, but an interesting story if only because it strayed a bit off the beaten path as far as rom coms go. Two eccentric single farmers struggling to find each other in the midst of navigating a land dispute in the middle of Ireland doesn’t exactly scream “blockbuster” or “financial windfall.” Not caring much about these things is a feather in any film’s cap, in my books. Read more
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about beauty. This is perhaps a strange thing to be thinking about in a year as ugly as 2020 has been and may yet be. I could catalogue all the ways that 2020 has under-performed but this is hardly necessary, right? You’re all sentient beings and have likely been tethered to your screens just like everyone else during this pandemic. And at any rate, one gets tired of obsessing and complaining about ugliness after a while. There is a seemingly limitless supply of it and the outrage/fear/anxiety machine of the internet keeps it ever before us. Perhaps some more pleasant fare will be welcome.
Like many, I’ve been following with interest the story of Greta Thunberg, the sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist whose words and actions have been galvanizing young people (and beyond) and dominating the news in recent days. Hers is a voice that speaks clearly and forcefully for a generation that is sick of platitudes and political inactivity when it comes to the looming climate crisis on the horizon. She is unafraid to speak fearlessly to the rich and the powerful—to demand action for the sake of future generations who will pay the price of the reckless and wasteful inattentiveness of we who preceded them. Read more
A few unfinished scraps and fragments are cluttering up my “drafts” folder, so it’s time for another “Miscellany” post. There’s a common thread that runs through what follows—something like “the truth and how we tell it”—but nothing cohesive enough for a single post, evidently. Read more
There’s this mildly irritating phrase that I have encountered with some frequency over the course of the decade or so that I have been a pastor. I’m sure you’ve encountered something like it in your own circles, particularly in these post-Christian, post-church, post-everything times. Oh, I don’t mind church, but, you know, I encounter God best in creation. That’s where I worship. Nature is my sanctuary. Indeed. When I am on the receiving end of this phrase, I usually smile and nod in as gracious a fashion as I can muster. Inwardly, I am often thinking very un-Christian thoughts. Of course nature is your sanctuary. A rather convenient justification for avoiding this one, I would say. Read more
The end of summer (sadly) draws nigh and, like many, I have spent these dwindling days of August attempting to tidy up the clutter, whether it’s physical, mental, or spiritual in nature. I’ve tried to achieve a bit of focus, clarity, and equilibrium before September arrives This has meant tackling my physical desk, rearranging unread books and recycling correspondence that has been rendered irrelevant by inattention, and trying to wrest a bit of order out of the chaos of random files and documents on my computer’s desktop. Things need to be put in their proper place, after all. Here are a few bits and pieces whose proper place is, evidently, another “miscellany” post. Read more
There’s a well known scene in the 2006 cult classic Nacho Libre where Nacho, a hapless monk who aspires to be a Luchador, and Esqueleto, his emaciated unbaptized sidekick, are in conflict about life and religion and fame and fortune and why they’re so terrible in the wrestling ring. At one point, Nacho blurts out, “I’m not listening to you—you only believe in science. That’s probably why we never win!” Read more
I was talking the other day with someone about the quirky ironies of the names of things. It’s weird, for example, that Iceland is actually pretty green. At least in summertime. And Greenland actually seems to be mostly ice. Why wouldn’t they call “Greenland” “Iceland” and vice versa. A strange thing, that. Read more
Last night, I drove out to the mountains to pick up my son from a twelve-day wilderness/adventure/education camp. As the sun set over a gorgeous summer evening in the Rockies, we were treated to a closing program that gave us a glimpse into what the past twelve days had looked like. Rock climbing, white-water canoeing down the North Saskatchewan River, a twelve km ascent to the top of a mountain, not to mention daily jogging, yoga, team-building exercises, leadership training, coaching on integrity and character development, personal reflection, and journaling—it was quite the itinerary! It sound like the kind of camp that no small number of adults (like, roughly 100% of us) would profit immensely from, never mind 15-16 year olds. Read more
Judging from the content pouring through my various social media feeds (and from my wife’s enthusiastic exhortation to go get a free Starbucks coffee!), today is Earth Day. Another day devoted to building awareness, promoting responsibility, and broadening horizons. I wonder if we are soon going to run out of calendar space for all of the special “days” that join the fray each year, but I am of course happy to affirm Earth Day and all it represents. Read more
I spent a good chunk of last week in Winnipeg for our church’s national Assembly. So a quiet Monday morning back home would be an ideal time to begin sifting through four days of lectures, workshops, and conversation, coming up with some kind of a coherent “takeaway” from the variously inspiring, moving, frustrating, exhausting, and rewarding time spent with Mennonites from across Canada, right? Not really, as I turns out. Maybe that synthesis will come later. Today, my thoughts are running along different lines. Read more
I spent part of my day off yesterday watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. There’s a great scene and a great line near the end of the film where Walter Mitty (played by Ben Stiller), the “negative assets manager” for Life magazine and, at least as we are led to believe at the beginning of the film, quite possibly the world’s dullest human being, finds himself, through a strange set of circumstances on top of a mountain in the Himalayas. In the scene, he has just (literally) stumbled across Sean O’Connell (played by Sean Penn), the reclusive, elusive world-travelling photographer whose work Walter has been processing for many long years at the magazine, and who he has been trying to find for the whole film. Read more
Earlier this week I turned the last page of Joseph Boyden’s highly acclaimed third novel, The Orenda, recent winner of CBC’s Canada Reads and, to the great consternation of many, long listed, but not shortlisted, for the prestigious Giller Prize. It is, as many have said, a remarkable book about the seventeenth century Huron-Iroquois wars in what is now Eastern Canada, and the French Jesuit colonial missionary enterprise that inserted itself into the mix. It is gripping, insightful, heartbreaking, and, yes, at times almost unspeakably violent.
I have an interesting relationship with silence. I like the idea of silence very much. I am easily persuaded that our culture is terminally noisy and distracted and that the church’s worship should offer a respite and an antidote to this dis-ease. I am convinced that ten minutes of silent prayer and meditation would be a far better way to greet my days than the wordy, techy ways that I default to. But I am well and truly lousy at silence. It makes me uncomfortable, restless, bored, annoyed, and a whole host of other unflattering adjectives. I like silence very much and am convinced of its necessity for spiritual, emotional, even physical health. Except when I have to be silent. Read more
I distinctly remember the first time I heard about the work of A Rocha, a Christian conservation and stewardship organization that began in Portugal through the work of Peter and Miranda Harris, and has since branched out around the world. I was sitting in a first year Christian Thought and Culture class at Regent College in 2005 and Peter Harris was lecturing on creation care. Read more
Occasionally, I get accused of being a glass-half-empty kind of guy. I don’t know where this comes from, but I will have to take others’ word for it 🙂 .
So, in an attempt to combat this persistent myth, and because it’s early September and everyone is just staggering into fall schedules and routines, and because there is the usual anxiety and apprehension about what the upcoming (academic) year will hold, and because I’ve noticed that pastors (myself included) tend to feel a bit of pressure around this time of year to “start with a bang” and make a good impression on newcomers when secretly we’re just hoping we can keep it all together with what we’re already doing, and because—well, yes, it’s true, because it’s way easier for me to focus on negatives than positives—I thought I would do something completely out of character and do a bit of bragging about the little church that I am a part of. Read more
For the better part of the last two weeks, my vacation morning routine has looked roughly the same. Wake up (usually at least two hours before the rest of my family), make a pot of coffee, proceed to the patio overlooking the ocean at our friends’ place in North Vancouver, and begin to leisurely sift through the newspaper or a novel while basking in the sun-drenched early morning silence. It’s been delightful. The patio, the sun, the coffee (mmm… Kicking Horse), the gorgeous ocean view…. But especially the silence. Read more
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
If we have a memorable experience in the age of smart phones and social media and don’t digitally capture and share it, did it really happen? Read more