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The Presence of God

Mid-way through the Christmas season, I’ve been thinking about the presence of God. This season is all about celebrating “God with us.” This is what our songs and scriptures and stories proclaim throughout the season. And is this not what we all long for? To experience God as present with and for us. Read more

Disarm You with a Smile

I found myself in a very long line up at the post office the other day. Without my phone. So, you know, pretty much the worst thing imaginable. Instead of pretending to attend to very important business or burying my nose in the (mostly trivial) minutiae of other people’s lives in worlds far away, I was forced to lift my gaze and pay attention to the actual world right in front of me. It was unsettling and disorienting. I barely made it out alive. Read more

Music, Despite Everything

Yesterday morning before worship, I saw a headline in a major Canadian newspaper imploring me to “at least try to pretend that I care about the BC drug overdose crisis.” I paused on that headline. What exactly was it telling me to do? I thought I cared at least a little about the poor souls trying to deaden their pain and loneliness and despair in any way possible (in BC or anywhere else), but it seems that it wasn’t enough. I should care more, evidently. Or care differently than I was at present. But how would I know if or when I had cared enough or in the right ways? And according to whom?

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The Only One

That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever read! This was my decidedly uncharitable and exasperated reaction to a sentence that I read over my toast and coffee morning. The offending sentence was a wildly enthusiastic recommendation on the cover of Kate Bowler’s new book No Cure for Being Human. The writer of the sentence that so aggravated me was a certain Glennon Doyle who had this to say about the book and its author: “Kate Bowler is the only one we can trust to tell us the truth.” Right. The only one. I tried (and failed) to resist the temptation of saying (audibly), “I guess that means I shouldn’t pay attention to your stupid book recommendation because I can’t trust you to tell me the truth.” Read more

A Despairing People

A bit of a follow up to my recent post, Harshly Drawn Lines. In a recent editorial for a Comment issue on our ideologically polarized times, Anne Snyder talks about the “tribal hermeneutics” that increasingly dominate everyday conversation. There are few topics these days, she says, that can’t be pressed into the service of the all-important and all-consuming task of identifying which “team” someone belongs to, whether they are safe or suspicious, whether their views are pure or poisonous. We are forever in sorting mode. Read more

On Feeling Conflicted

At 7:40 am this morning, I watched my twenty-year-old son walk out the door in full military fatigues. He is a reservist in the Canadian Armed Forces and has duties for Remembrance Day ceremonies later this morning. As you might imagine, this is a bit of a strange and conflicted experience for a Mennonite pastor. I never imagined that I would have a soldier for a son.

A while back, I wrote a piece on, well, peace. And war. And feeling conflicted. And not knowing precisely how to think about it all. Watching my son walk out the door on Remembrance Day 2021 brought it back to mind. I’ve reproduced a lightly edited version below. Read more

Harshly Drawn Lines

I have a lot of conversations these days about the anger and polarization that seems to be increasingly ubiquitous in our culture. Whether it’s the toxic spaces of online “discourse” or the high school gym where parents divide over COVID restrictions and how they affect school sports or the radioactive topics of race, gender, and sexuality, so many people seem to be really, really annoyed and really, really determined to sort people into the categories of “righteous” and “unrighteous” according to where they stand on these issues. I can’t recall a time where people have seemed so divided, where so many conversations seem to have tripwires around every bend, where normal interactions our neighbours carry with them a level of suspicion and anxiety that would have once been almost unimaginable. Read more

Over-Under

Last Sunday’s gospel reading about power and how it does and doesn’t operate in the kingdom of God was an interesting (and indicting!) one to preach on. Our cultural moment is saturated with talk of power dynamics and all the myriad ways that race, gender, and sexuality intersect with this. Jesus’ teaching represents a rebuke and a reminder to us in all kinds of ways (and across ideological persuasions). Jesus’ words also speak to us personally. As human beings, we generally like to think that we’re right and we like making other people do what we want. Jesus will have none of it. Read more

On Deciding in Advance

In her marvelous book Prayer in the Night, Tish Harrison Warren tells the story of her friend Julie, whose infant son had to undergo surgery. As the nurses were about to wheel him into the operating room, Julie looked at her husband and said, “We have to decide right now whether or not God is good, because if we wait to determine that by the results of this surgery, we will always keep God on trial.” Read more

A Power We Should Not Have and That Cannot Make Us Whole.

Mark Zuckerberg’s week hasn’t gotten off to a particularly great start. First, Facebook and its apps (What’s App, Messenger, and Instagram, most notably) were offline for around five hours on Monday. Which, when you’ve deliberately manufactured addiction your products customers have come to depend on you is, like, forever. And then, today, former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen testified before US Congress that the social network knowingly “harms children and fuels polarization” because it “elevates profits over safety.” Huh, who would have thought? Not the best few days for the brand, you could say. Read more

“Would You Write Straight with My Crooked Lines?”

I was rummaging through my bookshelves today, hunting for a book that might be useful for this week’s sermon. I didn’t find what I was looking for, but I did come across a prayer book that I bought over a decade ago and which has mostly been collecting dust on my shelf in the days since. Such is the fate of far too many good words that sit forlornly, unappreciated and under-utilized in my study.

At any rate, I spent some time paging through it this afternoon and was struck by the following prayer used in the Northumbria community. These were good words for me to pray today; perhaps the same might be true for you. Read more

Who Am I? (A Drive-Thru Existential Crisis)

What have I become? The thought occurred to me as I was pulling out of the McDonald’s drive-thru clutching my $1 medium black coffee on the way to work this morning. This was the fourth time in the last week that I have found myself in this shameful position. My daughter recently began a new job, and she and my wife have been emptying the coffee pot on the way out the door. I could have made a fresh pot but, well, you know that takes time, and I was running late, and McDonald’s has $1 coffee, so…. Read more

From Where I Stand

A few nights ago, my wife and I watched a wonderful film called CODA. Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a child of deaf adults (CODA) and is negotiating some of the complexities of coming of age and charting her own course alongside some fairly unique familial obligations. Her parents and brother (who is also deaf) rely on her to interpret the outside world to them. They need her to be present on the fishing boat where they earn their living, to monitor radio communications, listen for warning, etc. They need her to attend meetings and sign what’s going on for them. Ruby is quite literally the ears of the family. Read more

Grace, Too

Hi folks. It’s been over a month since I posted anything here. I’m not sure if that’s ever happened before in the eleven-and-a-half years of this blog’s existence, but it certainly feels strange to me. There’s no grand reason for the silence other than the usual suspects. A bit of writers’ block, a dearth of inspiration, bit of generalized fatigue, a summer holiday followed by an immediate jump into the deep end of the pool in church ministry. It’s been a stretch of time where time and energy have seemed a bit thin and where the words seem harder in coming than usual. Read more

On Incentives

One of the podcasts I’ve been periodically dropping in on lately is Bari Weiss’s Honestly. Weiss’s story is an interesting one to me. She had the job I imagine many writers covet. She was an editor and writer at The New York Times, the journalistic equivalent of reaching the summit of the mountaintop. It’s not the sort of job you leave. But last year she did. In her resignation letter, Weiss cited the Times’ drift from being a publication that at least attempted an objective pursuit of the truth toward being a tool for disseminating an implicit (or explicit) orthodoxy that is “already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.” This was not what Weiss signed up for as a journalist.  Read more

The Source

I’ve been a part of several conversations recently about resilience. What is it? How is it cultivated? And, more specifically to our cultural moment, where did it go? Why does it seem so scarce these days? The question has come most often from anxious parents observing their teenage and young adult kids. Why is everyone depressed, lonely, afraid, confused, and struggling with a mental health challenge? It has also come from those trying to help peers through paralyzing and debilitating social anxiety. Often these conversations about resilience are tinged with a hint of bewilderment. Why do so many seem to have such low capacity for some of the more basic features of living these days? I don’t remember things being like this when I was that age! Read more

Conversion Therapy

No, not that kind of conversion therapy. Just to disappoint (or assuage) you at the outset. I have no desire to wade into the fraught and stormy waters of sexual identity and public policy on such a lovely summer morning. Also, just in case you were tempted to think too highly of me (an unlikely prospect, I grant), I have just ably demonstrated that I am not above the occasional click-baity headline. Sorry, again, to disappoint. Read more

On Burning and Rotting

One does not need to be an apologist for the Roman Catholic Church or for the Government of Canada or for the wretched legacy of Indian Residential schools to be alarmed at and deeply troubled by the spate of recent church burnings that have taken place across Canada. I probably should not need to begin a post with a sentence like that—i.e., it should be fairly unremarkable that a person could feel grief and anger toward historical injustices perpetrated by the church and simultaneously be convinced that burning houses of worship to the ground is wrong—but such are the times we live in. We are forever sorting one another into moral categories. It can be a risky thing to risk the wrath of the online mob by expressing the wrong moral sentiment. Or the right moral sentiment directed toward the wrong group. Or the right moral sentiment expressed with the wrong degree of certainty or outrage. Or… well, you’ve presumably been online in the last few years. You get the idea. Read more