Every Tuesday morning, a group of older gentlemen—anywhere from 5-15 guys, some from our church, others from another local Mennonite church—gather for coffee and conversation at the coffee shop across the street. The topics vary. Politics, history, current events (yesterday’s wildfires near Lethbridge, for example!), family, and, yes, church—any or all of these and more could find their way into the discussion on a typical Tuesday. Read more
It is not at all uncommon for me, as a pastor, to encounter some variation of the question, “So, what’s the deal with all the different denominations in Christianity? Why can’t you all agree on anything?!” 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.
Every morning on my way to work I drive past the local prison. It is a surprisingly picturesque facility—lots of big trees for shade and well-manicured green grass, a nice lake beside it with all kinds of birds, a baseball diamond and basketball courts visible from the road. Nonetheless, the barbed wire and the chain fence around the perimeter leave little doubt about the purpose of this place. The jail on the side of the road has been a regular source of interest for my kids ever since we moved back to Alberta. They often ask if the inmates are allowed to read or watch TV, or about what kind of food they get to eat, or how often they get to play outside. A few weeks ago we happened to drive by while a baseball game was going on. The kids were very pleased. Read more
A few weeks ago, someone who has been worshiping at a Mennonite church for nearly a year, and who had no prior exposure to or experience with Mennonites, remarked to me that, while they had deeply appreciated their time with the community, it seemed to them that Mennonites were basically people who did lots of good stuff and liked to do things together. It is a common enough sentiment. Many expressions of Anabaptist faith can come to seem like little more than an ethical system designed to produce Christ-like behaviour and character with little, if any attention, paid to the indwelling presence of Christ and the ongoing power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Read more
Today is National Aboriginal Day here in Canada. It is a day which, since 1996, has been set aside to learn about and honour the diverse cultural heritage of Canada’s First Nations, to recognize their ongoing contribution to Canada, and (hopefully) to remember that there remains much work to do in addressing the many problems that remain from Canada’s mistreatment (past and present) of its first peoples. Southern Alberta has a significant aboriginal population, with the Blood and Peigan tribes to the east and the south and the Siksika to the north, all three of which, along with the South Peigan in Montana, are part of the Blackfoot Confederacy. It is a region of Canada blessed with a rich and diverse aboriginal heritage. Read more
Over the last few months, I’ve noticed an increase in the phenomenon of bloggers putting up something like a weekend roundup of links, videos, or whatever else they found interesting over the past week. I’m not sure what I think of the “weekly link dump” genre of blog posting yet—I confess that I almost always just ignore these posts in my reader—but today I find myself with a handful of interesting and completely unrelated ideas and links bouncing around in my skull, so I will unload them where I unload so much of my disorganized mental freight: here.
In around a month or so, it will be one year since we packed up and left Vancouver Island and returned to our roots in southern Alberta. For the entirety of this time, Ronald Rolheiser’s The Holy Longing has been sitting on or around the shelf beside my favourite reading chair. The book was a parting gift from a dear saint in our previous church—a woman whose spirituality was thick and deep and broad, and from whom I learned a great deal over the course of my three years on the Island. She said it was a book that had impacted her like few others. I accepted her gift with gratitude and no small amount of curiosity. Read more
We have a tendency to want to create a God in our own image who we can then emulate.
These were the words of Perry Yoder, professor emeritus of the newly renamed Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, at a theological studies conference put on by Mennonite Church Alberta that I have been attending in Calgary over the past few days. We have been talking a lot about how we read the Bible—about the presuppositions that inform our interpretations, about how our various traditions dispose us toward certain possibilities, about what to do about seemingly irreconcilable texts, and myriad other issues around reading and understanding Scripture. Including, as the quote alludes to, the constant temptation to read Scripture with an eye toward the God we expect (or would prefer) to find. Read more
Well, after a long and exhausting day of travel yesterday that began at around 9:30 pm on Monday night in Bogotá, Colombia and ended at around 2:30 yesterday afternoon back in southern Alberta, I am finally sitting at my desk with an opportunity to begin the process of synthesizing, analyzing, or somehow responding to what I have seen and heard and experienced over the last ten days or so. Read more
Late last year, someone involved with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) here in Alberta approached me about the possibility of taking part in a “pastors learning tour” to Colombia in the spring of 2012. Initially, I was a little hesitant. I didn’t really have the resources to consider international travel and I wasn’t sure about the security situation in Colombia. I was, of course, very interested in the opportunity to travel and learn more about a country I know little about, but still, the trip seemed like a bit of a longshot to me when I was first made aware of it. Read more
You should take a few minutes (or hours) to read Kim Fabricius’s Good Friday sermon “Wackos” posted over at Faith and Theology today. His final paragraph is lodged in my gut as I head off to church this morning: Read more
I always enjoy Kim Fabricius’s theological “doodlings” over at Faith and Theology. He’s got a real talent for coming up with short, punchy, provocative statements that are invariably theologically insightful and interesting, and amusing to boot!
Today’s post is well worth a quick visit. Here are a few of my favourites: Read more
I’ve remarked here before that I am, by nature, a bit of a pessimist. I’m not particularly proud of this, but my default position seems to be to see the glass half-empty. I tend to expect the worst in life, for myself and for those I love, as a kind of protective mechanism—this, despite the fact that this strategy has proved to protect me from precisely nothing and, in fact, almost certainly closes off certain possibilities for joy and peace. Just this morning, in a conversation with someone about a person of mutual interest, I responded to an expression of hope and optimism in with something like, “yeah, well I’ll believe it when I see it.” Read more
Gratitude was the topic du jour on my morning commute today. CBC Radio’s The Current had a psychologist from Northeastern University on the program to talk about the “upward spiral” of gratitude and generosity that can result if we cultivate these attitudes and behaviours, and how this upward spiral can be passed down our social networks leading to strengthened relationships and healthier mental well-being. Sounds pretty good! Read more
Steven Pinker has a new book out called The Better Angels of Our Nature and is currently doing the rounds to promote it. I heard part of an interview with Mr. Pinker on CBC’s The Current yesterday, and today read an article on the book from The New York Times. I’ve not yet read Pinker’s (apparently massive!) book, but as I understand it the basic thesis is that, contrary to what one might expect to hear from an evolutionary psychologist committed to the a view of the world that sees natural selection as the driving force behind human history, we are becoming more peaceful as a species. Read more
Part of this week was spent at a gathering of Alberta Mennonite pastors just north of Calgary. The drive alone would have made the trip worth it. I had forgotten how spectacularly colourful autumn in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains can be! More importantly, though, it was a good opportunity to connect with new colleagues, as well as to get a sense of some of the strengths, challenges and theological perspectives of a conference that is still fairly new to me. Read more