The mind of a teenage boy is, I am discovering, a fearful and wonderful thing. Beautiful, strange, unpredictable, irrational, surprisingly generous, unspeakably kind, maddening… All within a few hours, sometimes. Yesterday, I bought my son new strings for his guitars as a few of the old ones had snapped. He came home from a youth event at 10:00 convinced that now was the time to re-string his guitars and not go to bed. His father disagreed and the stage was set for a rather unpleasant end to the day.
But the sun is in the habit of rising anew each day, full of promise and possibility.
I’ve written here before about delightful “holy moments” that I have experienced in the church I serve (see here and here, for example). These are often moments when something unexpected happens, something that spills out of our careful containers of planning and order, something that points simply, poignantly, and powerfully to the hope of the gospel in a way that no eloquent sermon or finely crafted liturgy ever could. I love these moments. Even when I don’t notice them. Read more
A few years ago, when I was taking my first steps in my present role as pastor, a church member timidly approached me sometime around mid-December with a question: “I know it’s Advent, and Advent is about waiting, but would you be OK if we sang some Christmas carols during the Sundays before December 25?” The question was probably more pragmatic than theological. Our church doesn’t have a Christmas day service, and the Sunday between Christmas and New Years is usually among the most lightly attended of the year. There simply weren’t as many opportunities to sing these dearly loved songs as some people would like!
One does not typically expect to encounter theological inspiration at a church finance meeting. Well, I suppose some might, but I do not number myself among such strange creatures. For most of this week’s church business meeting, things proceeded according to the script. There were facts and figures and updates and PowerPoint slides and motions and seconders to motions and questions and clarifications and dialogue and decisions and then we were done.
I watched part of the Grammy Awards last night. The decision-making process was a tortuous one. I had serious reservations about the worthiness of the Grammys to occupy my Sunday evening time due to, a) the overhyped, oversexed, undertalented spectacle it seems to have become; and b) the fact that I was far from convinced that I needed to spend over a third of the next few hours subjecting myself to mindless advertising. As it happens, the stasis produced by a fairly exhausting weekend full of church activities won out over my myriad principled objections to watching the Grammys. The best laid plans, and all that. Read more
Like hundreds of millions of my fellow humans, I spent part of Sunday watching the Super Bowl. I don’t particularly care for American football (I prefer the real version, where they don’t wear armour and stop for a break every 10 seconds or so), but we were invited to someone’s place to watch the game, and there was to be good food and good people present, so off I went. And, leaving aside the mind-numbing tedium of so much advertising and hype and endless time outs (some unexpected) and the bizarre pre- mid- , and post-game commentary about how God may or may not have been involved in the outcome, it was a pretty good game. Read more
Like most of the rest of the world, I spent part of yesterday watching the closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics (yes, I realize that I was critical of these kinds of spectacles in a post I wrote a few weeks ago. I also admitted that I was a hypocrite, right?). Last night’s ceremony was, as expected, a spectacle for the ages.
My son has always been a bit of a hoarder. Ever since he could walk, he would collect things while we were out and about—sticks, rocks, discarded toys, little pieces of plastic, empty cans… whatever. Going for a walk with him was always an adventure because you never knew what you would come home with (and would subsequently spend the rest of the week picking up around the house or finding underneath his pillow!). To this day, his room is a cluttered mess of “treasures” that he has discovered whilst walking to and fro about town.
Due to coming across a number of their videos and links over the last few days, I’ve been listening to The Avett Brothers a lot lately. I first encountered them via a Starbucks pick of the week iTunes card featuring “I and Love and You” a few years ago, and have loved their sound ever since. Their performance of “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” at last year’s Grammys alongside Mumford and Sons and Bob Dylan is well worth checking out.
Anyway, I was just washing dishes to “Living of Love” and thought, why not share a song on a Friday afternoon? It’s the first time I’ve heard this one, and both the music and the lyrics speak to me today: Read more
This past Sunday evening was our children’s Christmas program. It was a wonderful and wonderfully diverse production. From pre-schoolers playing “Silent Night” on hand bells to high schoolers’ strumming “Jesus Messiah” on electric guitars, to little Marys and Josephs in housecoats and shepherds and angels and botched candle-lightings and memorized poems and rousing renditions of familiar carols, it was a delightful collection of parts that contributed to a marvellous whole. Read more
As another week nears its scrambly conclusion, and as the pace of life begins to pick up as it inevitably (and unfortunately) does each year around this time, and as I begin to turn my heart and mind towards themes of Advent—themes of waiting, expectation, longing, hope—and as I begin again to ponder once again what it means to affirm and follow a God who I believe has come, continues to come, and will come, it was wonderful to hear Derek Webb’s version of William Gadsby’s classic hymn “The Love of Christ is Rich and Free” come through the random iTunes shuffler this morning. Read more
Part of this morning was spent listening to an interview with Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland from Coldplay on CBC’s Q with Jian Ghomeshi. I am one of those people who has always unapologetically loved Coldplay. I realize that they have grown too popular to be respectably cool anymore—that they are too mainstream, too commercial, too pop, too successful, too rich, too catchy, too whatever. I don’t really care. I have loved every album they have put out so far, and their newest offering, Mylo Xyloto, is no exception, whatever pronouncements might come down from on high via the musical intelligentsia. Read more
One of the “joys” of driving around town with my kids has been my forced reacquaintance with top-40 radio. For some reason, my children don’t seem to appreciate listening to CBC Radio One, and it usually takes approximately thirty seconds of time in the car before we’re bouncing along down the highway to the latest offering from whatever band or artist is currently enjoying/milking their moment in the sun. It’s been remarkable to hear the many different ways in which the same four chords and the same two or three themes can be employed to produce an astonishing amount of truly abysmal music. Read more
Last night was a gift. Amidst the usual busyness of life and work and kids’ activities and meetings and appointments, a few friends and I stole away to see Welsh folk singer Martyn Joseph at a tiny house concert in a hamlet outside Medicine Hat, AB. I’d never heard of Martyn Joseph until my friend asked me if I wanted to go a few weeks ago, but since then he’s been getting pretty regular play through the headphones. He did not disappoint. Read more
It is not at all uncommon to hear some variation of the story that 18-30 year olds are one of the most under-represented groups in the church today. It seems that young adults are fleeing the church as soon as they leave high school, and only starting to trickle back once they have their own children, if they make their way back at all. While some of the reasons for this are undoubtedly related to the general transience of this age demographic, it’s a worrying trend that has been and continues to be the subject of exhaustive analysis. Read more
I was at a meeting with some pastors and other leaders in our community today, and one of the things that was on the agenda before lunch was “worship.” And so, as we waited for our lunch to appear, a guitar was pulled out, and a few songs were sung around a board room table with great enthusiasm. One of the songs we sang was one that I gather is a fairly popular one in evangelical churches these days—Chris Tomlin’s “Our God.” Read more
Just because it made me chuckle on this rainy Sunday afternoon…
(h/t to Waving or Drowning)
I’ve posted enthusiastically about the work of Canadian singer/songwriter Steve Bell a number of times over the last few years (here and here, for example). His music has long been a refuge for me, in many ways. So today was a happy day as I was able to finally get my hands on his new album, Kindness. I’ve just finished a first listen and it is fantastic, as usual, both musically and lyrically. There are a number of contributors to this album (including the title track, written by none other than Brian McLaren), but overall the sound is delightfully familiar. Read more