There was this fight, you see, with all the wicked words dripping with sarcasm and spite, all the refusals to understand, all the tiny, incremental decisions to hurt and refusals to love in the ways that love actually matters. It was ugly, as fights tend to be, and it ended with the slamming of doors.
These closed doors, they speak so loudly and abrasively. They speak of hurt and stubbornness and ignorance and regret. They divide and they separate, closing us off from each other, ruling out possibility. They mock us as we stare blankly, angrily at them, willing them to open, wishing there was a rewind button, wishing words could be unsaid and actions could be undone. Read more
A few days after Nelson Mandela’s December 5 passing, I checked out his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom from the local library. This morning, I turned the last page. The book was, of course, inspiring, illuminating, heartbreaking, stunning, rage inducing, hopeful, profound and a whole host of other superlatives. Given the subject matter and the nature of the story, how could it not be? Read more
So, 2013 is drawing to a close, which means it’s time to take a peek in the rearview mirror and reflect a bit on the year that has nearly passed. In the blogging world, this means—what else?!—highlighting the most read posts on this blog over the past 365 days or so. It’s an imperfect tool of evaluation, obviously—a cursory count of clicks and page views hardly provides an accurate assessment of meaningful or substantive engagement—but I suppose it give some sense of the themes that drew people here over the year. Whenever I look at statistical summaries on this blog, I find myself scratching my head. That was my most-read post?! I don’t even like that one! Why didn’t ____ make the list? Posts that I am convinced are the best thing the internet has seen since, well, two hours or so ago languish in obscurity while others that I dashed off in twenty minutes generate more traffic than I would ever have expected. I suppose such is the nature of blogging. Read more
We are halfway through Advent, and I’ll confess to occasionally feeling just a little bit restless and uninspired. The same texts from Isaiah and the gospels that we rehearse every year. The same rituals and routines, the same hopes and promises voiced, the same baby in the same manger with the same cast of characters. The same hymns and readings. Over and over again. Consequently, I was delighted to come across Ben Myers’ post today called “Forty Things I Like About Christianity” over at Faith and Theology. It was a lovely reminder of the beauty of this faith, this God, this story that we are a part of.
And it inspired me to scrawl out my own list. This list is by no means exhaustive. These are just some of the things that came to mind this morning. Feel free to add to the list!
(I’m not as smart or sophisticated as Ben Myers so I stopped at thirty :).)
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
Like so many others, Syria has been on my mind a lot recently. I’ve read dozens of articulate and well-reasoned arguments against any kind of military intervention. I’ve read many passionate and biblically sound anti-war-pleas from people whose views I deeply respect. I spent a good chunk of the prayer time during worship last Sunday praying for peace in Syria, praying that no more lives would be sacrificed on the altars of power, ideology, economics and religion. I know that this is what I am supposed to do and say and read and pray as a Mennonite, as a pastor. But it has all felt, I don’t know, a bit hollow. Read more
We had such an amazing trip… such an amazing part of the world. It’s God’s country.
I don’t even remember what part of the world the person who recently told me this was talking about. The Okanagan Valley, maybe? Vancouver Island? Hawaii? It was somewhere lush and green and fertile, no doubt, somewhere where the temperatures are usually pleasant, where the breezes are welcome, where there are hills and valleys and mountains, somewhere where there is plenty of natural beauty to spare, where it doesn’t have to be forcibly wrenched out of the plain, the mundane, the not-so-obvious. It was somewhere without dust and wind and mile upon mile of flat, featureless land. It was somewhere with more green than brown, more warm than cold. It was somewhere else. Read more
One last post about my experience at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Quebec National Event this past week. As I’ve reflected on the flight home yesterday and throughout today, few questions/topics of a bit more philosophical nature keep recurring. I don’t necessarily claim to have the answers to these questions, but I would welcome dialogue about them here. I think they are important matters to discuss as Canadians of all kinds try to work toward a more just and equitable future. Read more
A story from day three of the Québec Truth and Reconciliation Commission…
It was nearing the end of a long day of listening and I was looking for a place near the back of the hall to sit quietly for the last session of the day. Near the back of the room, I was somewhat surprised to see a flip chart stand with a drawing on it sitting in the middle of the aisle. I was even more surprised to see a young aboriginal man wildly gesticulating beside it as he was speaking in a very animated fashion to a young woman with a notepad. I edged closer to get a better look (and maybe a listen). The closer I got, the more obvious it was that this young man was very angry indeed. Read more
I’ve spent the last two days in Montreal attending the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada’s Québec National Event. This is one of seven national events held across Canada to provide a space for listening and truth-telling about the history of residential schools in our country. Events have already been held in Halifax, Winnipeg, Inuvik, and Saskatoon, and there will be future events in Edmonton and Vancouver. It has been a sobering few days. So many stories of abuse, neglect, and prejudice. So many stories of families torn apart, of addiction and violence and dysfunctional relationships. It was a hard, but good day of listening. Read more
I am a theological schizophrenic.
Some days, I am an incorrigible rationalist. I like reading philosophy and theology. I like rational arguments and logic and consistency. I like highly charged debate about abstract and arcane concepts. I am drawn toward topics that have very little “practical” value. Thinking rightly about God’s nature and God’s purposes is very important to me. I like to be right. Read more
Jesus said, I have come that they may have life,
and have it abundantly.
Whoever follows me
will never walk in darkness
but will have the light of life.
Every morning this week, these words from John’s gospel have framed the morning prayers in the prayer-book I use. They are good and hopeful words with which to greet a new day. They are appropriate post-Easter words. As is the case throughout John’s gospel, there is this wonderful contrast between the light and the life of Christ and the darkness and death we see all around us. Jesus’ words are true and good and full of strength and hope
And then I walk out the front door… Read more
The denomination in which I serve—Mennonite Church Canada—is currently asking its congregations to engage in a lengthy and challenging process of facing challenging difficult ethical issues of our day (issues around human sexuality, religious pluralism, pacifism, environmental concerns, etc.) head on and discerning together what the Spirit seems to be saying to us regarding how we are to respond as followers of Jesus. The “Being a Faithful Church” process is an attempt to put hands and feet to our theology. Mennonites affirm, among other things, the importance of community, the priesthood of all believers, the inappropriateness of hierarchical power structures and modes of relating to one another, and freedom of the Spirit to lead us into deeper and truer understandings of Scripture. The “Being a Faithful Church” process is an (ambitious!) opportunity for churches to demonstrate that we actually we believe what we say we do. Read more
A busy Christmas Eve is complete. Bundling up with the kids for skating on the pond, a lovely candlelight service at church, a delightful evening full of games and goodies with family, friends, the kids safely tucked into bed, the last presents put under the tree… And now, all is silent as I sit beside the Christmas tree, staring out into the bone chilling early morning darkness, processing a full day indeed. Read more
I had to take a short road trip today so, armed with coffee and an iPod well-stocked with podcasts and sermons, I ventured out on a brisk December prairie morning. Given its close proximity to the shootings in Connecticut on Friday, I knew that last Sunday many pastors and preachers would have been wrestling with issues around the problem of evil and suffering. I was curious to hear how others approached it—both from a homiletical as well as a theological perspective. Read more
Today was a rare Sunday morning for me in that I was not responsible for the sermon. We have many gifted preachers in our small congregation (I am so glad for this!) and we try to use them as often as we can. So, today I was able to participate in worship in a way that felt different than usual. There were still a few public duties—I read the gospel text from Luke, I led the congregational prayer—but mostly it was a day for receiving rather giving. It was a very good morning. Read more
Last night as bedtime approached, my daughter was sitting at the kitchen counter casually thumbing through one of those Bibles that has a “Where to Find Help When…” indexes in the front. It’s quite a resource. Whatever your problem—“Sleeplessness” or “Difficulty in Witnessing,” “Tempted to Envy” or “Choosing a Career”—there are 3-5 verses conveniently listed to address it. The Bible as self-help manual, apparently. Or something like that. It’s an approach to Scripture that irritates me, in many ways, and breaks any number of exegetical/hermeneutical principles along the way, but I suppose these things must occasionally do some good. I guess. Read more
Last night, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture at the University of Lethbridge by Izzeldin Abuelaish, the Palestinian doctor who made headlines around the world in 2009 for refusing to respond with hatred and anger after losing three daughters and a niece to an Israeli bomb during the Gaza War. The title of his book—I Shall Not Hate—speaks to an astonishingly determined, courageous, and compassionate response to a truly unspeakable horror, as does the Daughters for Life foundation for the education of girls from the Middle East that he has set up in memory of his daughters. A remarkable story, and a remarkable man. Read more