\”Concepts create idols, only wonder grasps anything.\” – Gregory of Nyssa

Authenticity

Rochester Rule of Life: Finding a Rhythm

Rule of Life

1. We acknowledge that God is our Father Who desires intimacy with His children and is the source of life and desires to impart life.

AND

We vow to welcome and receive intimacy with God by the practices of silence, solitude, simplicity, prayer, and scripture.

  •  I will practice the openness to recognizing whatever scripture I am in daily, that it will speak into the experiences, events, and life practices I partake in.
  • I will seek the invitation of God and His story in all people I meet while inviting them to be a part of my story.

2. We acknowledge that God’s Trinitarian nature reveals a mutual submission among His Persons.

AND

We vow to practice mutual submission as we live in the context of community.

  •  I will give myself in service to the needs of my wife, my tribe (church), and my community as they have need or desire for the work of the Kingdom.
  • I will pursue the understanding of my community’s needs by developing and fostering a relationship with community leaders and civil servants.

3. We acknowledge that God is a welcoming, gracious, merciful, lover of all people Who stands in solidarity with us and desires to be with us.*

AND

We vow to practice both giving and receiving hospitality and neighborliness.

  •  I will seize every opportunity to pursue a relationship with my neighbours while creating environments of connection by being personally visible on the street as much as possible.
  • We (Bonnie & I) continue to have an open house as we welcome any and all to out table over visiting and tribal gatherings.
  • I continue fostering relationships with the other amidst diversity in beliefs, understandings, and cultures.

4. We acknowledge that the God who raised Jesus from the dead is a redeeming God Who is in the process of restoring all things.

AND

We vow to participate in practices that actively restore shalom.

  •  I will continue serving at the Calgary Mustard Seed while developing friendships and relationships with the many homeless on Calgary’s streets.
  • I will seek every opportunity to speak out against injustice, prejudice, and worldly labels particularly in the issues of euthanasia, mental illness, and those considered “disabled”.

5. We acknowledge that God is the creator of this world and all things belong to Him and are for Him
AND
We vow to live as faithful stewards of God’s creation including our bodies and resources

  • I will seek to live a healthy life by educating and developing a greater understanding of the workings to a holistic life.
  • I will seek to train my body through exercise every week by weight training, wheeling, and healthy eating habits.
  • I will submit to the continued understanding that I am not my own person, I am a temple to the Holy Spirit, and therefore under the possessive communal dwelling of his continued eternal presence amidst my own.

Captured in the Word of God and the Rule of Life

Carpe DiemI will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord.[1] God’s words here leaped in my heart as I reflected on the meanings to a rule of life. A rule of life must not be one of doctrine, complexity, or teaching, but rather an embrace of breathable naturalism and simplicity to which we ascribe in living communal practice with an expectation of becoming that which we are. Fyodor Dostoevski put it as, “The whole law of human existence lies in this: that man be able to bow down before the infinitely great”[2]

The submission to communal life as a Christian is not sustainable through the life of just one and as our creator, it is God who first makes those relational ties with our inner being as he seeks intimacy and knits the fabric of life into the community around us (Jer. 1:4-10). Miroslav Volf rightly identifies that, “The Christian faith is not primarily about human doing but about human receiving. The barebones formal injunction to which the gospel can be produced is, ‘Receive yourself and your world as a new creation.’”[3]

Catalyzing this receiving of new life and intimacy is the reality of God’s being in the foundation of love. This is not a reaction of motivated love but rather, “God’s love for humanity [as] freely given… The one true God does not need anything from humans, but exists as self-complete and yet not self-enclosed plenitude of self-giving and other receiving of love.[4] It is in a submission to receiving that love that we can then reflect it in response as an attribute to our being in the imago Dei. This existence however is not limited to our relationships solely between God and us but also in creational community. As we live deeper into this rule of life we recognize that love is not quantifiable and therefore not ours to give and receive, rather there is only one love in the identity of God which is shared and mirrored by all of his creation and intrinsically woven into the DNA of communal practice.

The universal inclusiveness of the Christian community gives birth to an alienation of its practice from that of the world’s understanding. Volf reflects the thoughts that, “through the new birth into a living hope, a ‘sect’ is born. And indeed, before the new born child could take her first breath, her difference, her foreignness, was manifest.[5] Hospitality and acceptance in the world’s perception is founded on a belief that it is quantified through personal individual meriting and yet, as Christians we fully live out an inclusiveness of hospitality and acceptance for all, despite difference, diversity, or social dictums. We love and entertain as God loves and entertains all!

The freedom in this endeavor to pursue God’s love and redemption of all things, returning his love to that which he creates, brings not a sense of enslavement, but a radical becoming and returning to who we are and who we were meant to be. No longer are we trapped by the self-consuming rules of ego but catalyzed by the movement towards communal self-realization and the rule of life. In Volf’s terms, “Every act of knowing God both satisfies and engenders human curiosity, every encounter with God both quenches and deepens human thirst. In the infinite being of God, the incessant movement of the human spirit begins to arrive at its final rest.[6]

Rest… indeed, a life long meditation on the practice of Sabbath!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Je 31:33–34). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Dostoevski, Fyodor, Quoted in Philip Yancey’s, Reaching for the Invisible God: What Can We Expect to Find. (Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000),123.

[3] Miroslav Volf, Captive to the Word: Engaging the Scriptures for Contemporary Theological Reflection. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 51

[4] Ibid, 140.

[5] Ibid, 89.

[6] Ibid, 177.


Identity Crises: A Practice of Listening and Responding

IdentityBefore I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you;” (Jer. 1:5)

God knew me! What does that mean? How does he know me? It seems incredibly powerful to think about the fact that God dreamed of what I would be like! The things I’d say and the things I’d do! To fathom that he even knew my faults!

The reality is I am still learning about myself and I don’t fully know who I am in the course of life. That is what I really am about; I am journeying through life slowly learning more and more deeper, who I am. The realization being that if I really want to know who I am, I need to seek the one who created me as only he can fully know who I am.

Still, I can make some key notes in my characteristics…

  • I am a man. It seems silly to note but the reality is my sexual identity creates a defined role I have in existence. That role being not only individual but also in my community and society.
  • I am a husband. This of course creates a intrinsic reality that my character and identity not only shapes just who I am but also that of my wife too. Of course the reverse of that is also true in that she shapes who I am too.
  • I am intelligent. It’s not meant to sound in any kind or arrogance but, God wants me to learn and as such learning is meant to be done not just in knowledge, but also in exercise. Intelligence is the willingness to take knowledge and process it into wisdom.
  • I am passionate and emotional. I cannot lie, I shed a few tears every once and a while when a good movie is on. Joking aside, I can be very passionate about the callings I have and the people who are a part of my life. I do not think I should separate my emotions from the decisions I make in life. Of course, I don’t think my emotions are the sole elements I rely on for my decisions.

I could go on here with some other notes but this is a start.

I think it is interesting that God also said he “consecrated” me. In that way, my separated sense of self consciousness and self awareness was given by him. There is, in a sense, a piece of God inside of me as who I am. A finger print of sacred exists in a way. I am unique!

I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer. 1:5)

There is a realization here that God created me with a purpose, a mission in mind. A prophet is one who not only hears from God but speaks with and for him. It is a vocational calling to which transcends my identity in everything I do and am. I have a deeper calling to listen to God and respond to him whether in actions or words.

That vocation however, is not separated from the appointment of that calling to which is the “nations”. A nation is not necessarily a political country, but rather it can be a people group of affiliation or locality. In that sense, I realize that my identity is to listen and respond to God’s presence in the midst of all the people who are around me in life. This means in work, at home, on the street, and anywhere I find myself at any given moment.

These are a few thoughts I have had while meditating through Jeremiah 1:4-19 as a start.


Old Tongues, Translators, and Jumping Back In the Deep End

ListenIt’s been a week of Face Time and Skypeing into Dallas Texas with a new tribe out of Rochester Michigan as I start my studies for the MRE (Masters of Religious Education) and Missional Leadership out of Rochester College. I wasn’t sure what to think of hitting the books again and although being unable to travel, I was a bit nervous to using Skype as I had never done so before. It took a few days to settle in but even sitting in the comfort of my home, the Intensive Week lived up to its name. I am exhausted!!

Listening to the stories of the other students really moved me and inspired me as I could see the awesome impacts of God in their lives! Story after story of deliverance, compassion, suffering, redemption, and God led mission left me feeling very small in the world and yet recognized as a brother in a Kingdom far greater then I or you could imagine! I greatly look forward to growing closer and learning from this tribe in the years ahead!

A few days in, the language began to incline and I recognized the old familiar tongue of missional latitude that I suppose I should expect from higher education and deeper waters of missional thought. From the discussions of narrative and meta-narrative to the formulation and defence of hermeneutical interpretation, I recognized a need to brush up and grow my linguistic skills. This left me with a pondering to our roles in community and how we embody biblical, or God’s word, in the community narrative? (Ah yes, it seems to be taken an old road again! ;) )

A few days ago, a fellow student made the statement, “I’m struggling with the big words.” My mind reflected to seven years ago as I left the Bible College and started enacting the call of mission in my community. Over and over my family and friends would tell me, “We don’t understand this missional language you are speaking. You have to speak to us like a normal person!” Epiphany hit me, Alan Hirsch was right! Even as missional leaders, we need to learn the language of the community and for the next seven years that is exactly what I learned to speak!

The role of missional leadership is to take the missional narrative and linguistics and in a sense, learn to become a translator who embodies God’s word not only in action but in spoken word. The meta-narritive is taking the hermeneutic and putting it into the story of… the Simpsons! ;)

Yes, I’m back into the deep end of the pool again and I’m sure there are some sharks about, be they institutional or my own endurance to tread water and keep my head up. I just pray that as I swim away from the boat again, that as I come ashore, Jesus is there waiting by the fire. (Interesting note of thought – the last boat I swam from was the institutional church (See Here). Now I’m swimming from the “missional” front lines!)


Bridge Nets, Meaning and the Co-curricular By Ron Fraser

Bridge NettingThis fall tens of thousands of young people have begun studies after high school. They have worked hard for this. Having won the prize of admission reserved for those disciplined in study, they will enter rich academic environments, richer then they have ever known, to pursue the promise of a good job.

They will find courses devoted to every question under the sun. But there is one question for which they will search in vain: the question of life’s meaning, of what one should care about besides a job and why, of what life and living is for.

I’ve been thinking about this vacuum recently. Western public education began with the notion that life’s most important questions are appropriate subjects for students to explore. This has all but disappeared. It is perhaps truer to say that what is most important in life has been collapsed, within education itself, to economics. Economic globalization of the last three decades or so has been the final squeeze to push questions of value and meaning out of formal learning. The disciplines with the oldest, deepest connection with these questions, the humanities, including the study of religion, have been badly weakened, even within secular universities. Research, the capacity to produce “true value” for new economic opportunity, is now king. Education is about commodities and the quantifiable. The question “What is life for?” is homeless here.

The loss of the quest for meaning has come at a staggering price. The September 2012 Maclean’s headlined Canadian students  feel hopeless, depressed, even suicidal. Among other things it discussed the results of a 2011 survey of 1,600 University of Alberta students, where “about 51 percent reported that, within the past 12 months, they’d felt things were hopeless. Over half felt overwhelming anxiety. A shocking seven percent admitted they’d seriously considered suicide, and about one percent had attempted it.” Canadian universities don’t have a monopoly on these things. At Cornell University in New York, the solution for hopelessness and depression has been to install bridge netting under the seven bridges leading to campus to catch jumpers on their way to class. Sadly even the article itself reduced the problem to one of “mental health“. Mental health is serious stuff, and important to acknowledge and deal compassionately with. The issue though is complex. Hopelessness, depression, and anxiety has much to do with the conditions of life, like prior to a major assignment. There will, as the saying goes, “always be prayer in schools as long as there are exams.

Despite globalization, the quest for meaning persists. At one level it helps us cope. With a “why“, Victor Frankl observed, we can deal with any “how“. For Christians though, our longing for transcendence empowers us to invest in riches that can be enjoyed forever. The scriptures call it “hope in Christ” (1 Cor. 15).”Hoping in Christ” helps us to endure too. It also gives us the Model for living, a Christ shaped character, and a horizon far past the hollow promises of consumer culture, a reason to spend life for the sake of others.

Since questions for meaning are always questions of the spirit, and the right and proper subject of Christian education, it would be easy to say here “Hooray for Christian education!

However, life’s meaning is far more than “a question” of the spirit. It is rather a quest, a hunger of the spirit. That’s why not all churches or even places like ABC are automatically places of authentic spiritual food. Sometimes Christian institutions  bear a strange similarity to religious studies classrooms where information about God or belief systems is passed off as sufficient for Christian discipleship. Information however, while important and necessary, is hardly sufficient for becoming a follower of Jesus.

At the heart for our quest for meaning is Jesus who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” He didn’t say, “I’ve come to tell you ‘Ten steps to walk in the Way.‘” He didn’t say, “I’ve come to tell you the Truth.” He said, “I am the Truth.” He offers Himself. This of course matches our yearnings precisely. They are for Love Himself. Information is not enough for the quest!

Jesus knew all of this! He knew that what disciple-learners needed more than anything in their quest was a model of loving surrender to the Father. This was a lengthy process, even under the master Teacher! Along the way there were questions, doubts, fears, denials, prejudices, jealousies, and a host of other distractions. Their enemy was ours too: they thought that the “Way” was the way of privilege and power. All of them desert Him at one point. After three years of instructions they still think that (Acts 1:8). Throughout this jagged journey to learn Him, every moment was a teachable one. He never gives up on them.

Regardless of how that quest unfolded in particular cases, the common thread was that Jesus was always with them, entering life with them, challenging, encouraging, whittling away their self-preoccupation. All this to say that for Jesus curriculum was not enough. He longed for them to experience His inner life. His presence was key!

Dallas Willard puts it this way: “…spiritual formation rests on the indispensable foundation of death to self and cannot proceed except in so far as that foundation is being laid and sustained. You cannot follow Jesus from a distance. You do life with Him.” (Renovation of the Heart, Page 64)

The quest for meaning is satisfied through the challenging conversation and encounters where life’s big questions are faced honestly. In fact, our gospels are both declaration and a “working through” of the conversations about what it means to live for Someone else. Without those conversations, they wouldn’t exist! Peter Berger is correct: “Worldview hangs on the thin thread of conversation.

As they walked with him, Life seeped in. Jesus’ own dreams of a new, Other-oriented life took shape. They learned to serve by serving. They learned to love by loving. They learned to be loved, by being loved. Meaning arrived not by armchair philosophizing, but through fresh encounters with Life Himself. Jesus knew that the transformative turning points of life are already in the journey, not just in the synagogue.

It is easy, and so tempting, to think of what is done outside the classroom as unimportant. It is not. The stakes are too high, the consequences too stark, the possibilities for Others too rich, and the horizons of meaning to beautiful, to abandon the co-curricular.


Unconditional Gratitude – An Open Letter to Brian McLaren

LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS 1I tend to like the dark. Truth is, I spend most of my best reading time in the dark; staying up late into the night in bed with my book in front of me and my small little reading light curled over the top of it as I envision the author standing before me speaking the words I’m reading as though we were engaged in a deep conversation. I’m not sure why but I feel like my mind is just more focused that way, more willing to engage in what the text is saying.

It was a few nights ago though that after starting Brian McLaren’s new book ‘Naked Spirituality‘ that I came across a conversation he expressed having about gratitude that deeply disturbed me. I usually am greatly inspired by his writing which is why it took me back so much when reading it. Try as I might, the discontent would not leave so I thought it best to put pen to paper and express my thoughts in an open letter here. Will McLaren every read it? I do not know but, I hope by verbalizing it we might all grow to find a deeper, more unconditional spirit of gratitude.

Dear Brian McLaren,

I remember the first time I ever picked up one of your books. I was in  a Chapters book store here in SW Calgary looking for something different and came across your writing of ‘A New Kind of Christian‘. Like most other times in book stores, I began reading it in one of the aisles and found I could not put it down. Most often I like to read apologetics or theology books and it is my wife who reads the narratives and biographies but your thoughts in this book where mesmerizing! Needless to say I was finished it in 3 days and on to find the 2 follow ups after it.

Since then I have gone on to read a number of your other books including starting most recently your latest work in ‘Naked Spirituality‘. After hearing so many of your thoughts in your other books though I must admit to being a bit distressed in a story you speak of regarding a spirit of gratitude. You say,

When I was still a teenager, my friend Mary asked me, “How much money would you give to keep your eyesight if you knew you were going blind?”

“A lot,” I answered. “Everything.”

Then she asked, “What if it was your ability to walk – if you had a disease that would leave you wheelchair-bound unless you could pay for a cure. How much would you spend?”

“Everything,” I said. “I’d liquidate everything I own and go as far into debt as I could to save my mobility.”

“How about your hearing?”

“The same,” I answered.

“How about your sanity – your mental health, your intelligence?”

Finally I asked, “What’s your point?”

“I’m just trying to save you from BYTS – the Big Yellow Taxi Syndrome,” she said, evoking the newly released Joni Mitchell song. “If you were to loose any one of these abilities, you would pay millions of dollars to recover it, so each one is worth millions of dollars to you. You would rather have the ability to see or hear or move or think then tens of millions of dollars in the bank. Well,” she smiled and gave me a little shove, “you have them! Which means you’re better off than a multimillionaire! You have to know what you’ve got before it’s gone.”

Box FramingI realize that we live in a world that likes to box frame such things as success, richness, blessings, normality, and capability but in honesty I can’t help but feel personally towards this story. In open truth, here I am, in a wheelchair, paralyzed as a quadriplegic after a car accident 18 years ago, reading this story, and what I’m hearing is you would rather do anything, including go as far into debt as possible, then become like me!

Why? What is wrong with me? What am I lacking that makes your abilities more valuable then my own? Should I then go and do “everything” to not be this person in a wheelchair?

Let me share a story with you which comes from an experience I had prior to the car accident that has placed me in this wheelchair and is strangely similar to your encounter under the stars. It was about a year before my life would change in such a dramatic way and like most days I was found dribbling a basketball down the street. I was always athletic competing in just about everything and being a 6 foot 210 pound 15 year old I was as invincible as you could be!

Growing up in the church I understood the concept of God but I really didn’t take the conversation seriously. Anyways, there I was, dribbling down the street towards the courts and I distinctly remember an inner voice speaking to me. It said, “How would you like to be in a wheelchair for the rest of your life?

Now my mother had worked with people in the health care industry before who had been in wheelchairs and so it wasn’t like I wasn’t aware of some of the challenges these people face in life. Still, without really taking notice of who I was talking with and the implications of what I would say, I shot back, “Sure, I could do that! It would make me cool, unique, and I’d be some what revered!

Let’s be honest here; I had no idea what I was talking about. More to the point, I had no idea who I was talking too! Looking back now I can honestly say that I know I was talking with God that day and he was preparing me for what was going to become very shortly, a new projection to the pilgrimage of my life. Still, what was I looking for here? What was the deeper desire? Maybe even, what would make me grateful to be who God created me to be?!

Let’s look at it from the perspective of the secret vision of Jesus. (Thought you might like that term ;) ) Jesus’ disciples loved asking questions and they were constantly asking him about the “why’s” in life. One time they were walking on the streets of Jerusalem and they came across a blind man begging on the side of the street. His followers turned to him and said, “Teacher, why is this man born blind and disabled since birth? Is it because he himself has displeased God or did his parents offend God?” (John 9:2)

Jesus looked at them and answered, “It is neither because God is displeased in this man or offended by his parents. It is so that he can do the incredible works of God through being who he was created to be!” (John 9:3) Blindness was seen by Jesus not as a lacking or deficiency  but rather a personification of God given character and identity. This man was special, unique, and cool because of who God made him to be!

I have been in a wheelchair for many years now and gained much more wisdom and appreciation for the gifts God has placed in my life because of the wheelchair I live in. As such I must admit to recognizing that you probably are writing this false understanding of gratitude without realizing the danger nor damage this sense of false gratitude can create. But, we must see beyond the world’s sense of segregationalized and marginalized gratitude. Our eyes must be blinded by the glory of the cross which drives gratitude straight to the hearts of the segregated and marginalized!

I have been around some incredible people who face incredible physical and mental challenges in life and one thing that has been greatly impressed upon me is the real spirit of being able to accomplish all things through Christ’s inspiration and guidance. (Phil. 4:13) Perhaps something I am most grateful for is the encountering of Christ’s presence through such relationships and events!

We have met one time before a few years back when you came to Calgary to speak with Bob Goudzwaard on your book ‘Everything Must Change‘. After your talk I came up and shook your hand while you signed my copy of ‘A Generous Orthodoxy‘. Perhaps this is something else that must become more generous in recognition and must change in our society’s understanding of appreciation. A real spirit of gratitude is not an appreciation for what we quantify as the justifiable right in our life; but rather the physical, mental, and spiritual diversity and beauty God has placed in each one of our lives both individually and communally. Sharing those things together as equals and sharing full equity between each other despite differences; those moments are truly miraculous and filled with the glorious spirit of eternal gratitude!


An Open Letter To My Friends: Exposing the Elephant in the Room

Losing the Light

Silence.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” – James 1:19-20

Silence. It is a theme which has filled my life right now. Not the kind of silence where everything around me is quiet but rather the opposite. I have grown silent and for me, it is becoming stifling. It is difficult to write, to dream, to share my thoughts with others, and to speak in public spaces.

As a boy I can remember it being told to me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then you shouldn’t say anything at all.” In a lot of ways I can agree but at what point does it become unhealthy for a person? When is silence no longer good for me; even if I am struggling with the inner wrestlings of unease, frustration, anguish and that which is considered not good?

No; silence is not working out for me any longer. It is over taking me, drowning me in its deafening noise, and killing my spirit. I need to get it out. I need to expel it from my thoughts so that I might better defeat its grasps.

The things you read here may not always be right and they certainly may not always sound good. I just hope you can extend me some grace as I try to put this out so that I can possibly leave it behind.

Vision Casting and the Things of Dreams

For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words… For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.” – Ecclesiastes 5:3, 7

Not long after graduating from Alberta Bible College with my Bachelors Degree in Theology I began asking myself the question; what is my mission in ministry and how can I tie a number of our past projects around an actual vision? I found myself drawn to the story in Matthew 16:13-20 when Jesus and his disciples where passing through Caesarea Philippi.

Jesus, while passing by the shops in the streets, turns to his disciples and says, “Who do the people say that I am?” Their answers vary from a teacher, a moralist, a prophet, and a healer. But he then turns the question around to being very personal in nature as he says again to them, “Who do you say that I am?” What a fascinating and telling question for Jesus to ask! I imagine the surprise as his disciples are taken back by the question. Jesus doesn’t care so much what the people think of him. He wants to know what his followers think of him, and more I think to the point; what they personally think of him. Peter’s answer hits the nail right on the head, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Meditating on that crux in the question it seemed to me that Jesus’ words were transcendent over time. It wasn’t just a question for his followers in Caesarea Philippi. It is a question he continues to ask me and each one of us here today. Who do we say Jesus is? The expressions and answers which we give being worked out not only in our statements and words, but also the actions and lives we live out day to day.

This was a vision I could follow; this was a dream which took over my heart. Seeking expressions of Jesus as Lord in Life and Community. The birth of Expressions.

It was my hope that Expressions could be a community of groups which not only found and built bridges between our culture and the gospel through unique and dynamic ways but that it could also be a place where everyone could grow in leadership through the distinctive callings and gifts Christ’s Spirit placed in each of our lives. The movement of Expressions would not be confined by the traditional avenues of Sunday morning church practices alone but also find new ways to revealing the gospel and the Kingdom of God in all things and in all places.

I shared this vision with our home church community and with the elders. In discussion they seemed concerned over a few issues with Missional Theology but were intrigued and wanted to see more in the way of these groups taking shape.

Over the next two years I developed a number of groups including Re:Genesis, God at the Movies, Expressions of Compassion, Conversations in ESL, Mars Hill Adventure, Adorations, H2O: A Journey of Faith, and a number of community events such as the Grey Cup of Coffee Event and the Super Bowl of Chili. It’s not an exhaustive list of everything we did over the next few years as there were other events but, it is the staple of who we were. I loved every minute of it and felt as though I was living a dream!

Supporting these ministries solely on our own though, I soon realized that I could not keep up this pace while supporting my family and looking after my own personal health. I needed the support of other leadership and those who would dream, aid, advocate, be a voice, build along, and journey with me. So I again turned to the elders in our home community.

A bombshell was dropped. They explained they could not support us as we were seen as an “outside identity” and not really a part of the church.

Feeling Sold Into Slavery

Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver” – Gen. 37:26-28

An outside identity. I felt so alone and unwanted by the elders and leadership in the church. We had been a part of the church community for over 8 years and yet we were still considered an outside identity. Still, the words seemed foreign to me and stung deeply. I found it harder and harder to sit in the back during worship and hold back the tears from filling my eyes, and rolling down my checks. I couldn’t do it any longer and turning to Bonnie I said, “I can’t go back to that church anymore and simply sit in the seats while passing in tithes. There has to be something more.

I felt as though I was being sold into slavery by my brothers. We left. It hurt doing so as we have so many friends and spiritual family there. We still do. I just couldn’t seem to go anymore without the pain of those words cutting deeper and deeper into my heart. I only hope they can understand and find forgiveness.

Exposing the Elephant in the Room

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” – James 5:16

Over the last year and a half we have continued with a number of our groups in Expressions on our own while struggling to maintain a balance with health, time, and finances. In trying to support a number of our groups as well as our own needs; a few years back I took up a job in the local Home Depot. It wasn’t meant to be a long term job as I had hoped to find a place soon on staff in a church community and it wasn’t much in the way of financial support but, it helped with things and enabled me to continue with some of our groups in the house. It has been hard though as it leaves little time for personal health needs and times for rest or family gatherings.

In the last few months I have taken a few personal leadership classes as well as evaluational courses. They’ve been difficult. Not in the intellectual sense but rather because their forcing me to look internally at some things which are glaringly confronting me. They always seem to start with the question, “If you can sum up who you are in one brief sentence, who are you?” Searching for an answer this small voice I’ve been hearing over the last year creeps up inside of me:

  • You are a joke!
  • You are not a pastor nor will you ever be one.
  • You are useless and pathetic.
  • You are the running joke of the pastor community.
  • All the times that people have said that you are great at speaking, teaching, leading, ect… They are only being polite and don’t really mean it.

They are statements which leave me with the questions:

  • What is wrong with me?
  • Is it because I am in a wheelchair?
  • Is it because Bonnie and I do not have any or cannot bear any children?
  • Is it because I do not have enough education or a Seminary Masters Degree?

Call it burn out, a broken heart, or call it something else; I don’t know. What ever it is; it has robbed me of my self confidence entirely. The more I wrestle with this elephant which has invaded the space I call my personal identity; the more I realize that I am facing a deep depression within myself and I don’t know how to defeat it. This depression has slowly eroded my ability to dream and find hope for the future. I don’t know if I have any meaning in my life and if I am of any significance or for any purpose.

This must change…

Repentance and a Desire for Reconstitution

In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!

Psalm 31:1-2

This must change. I honestly do not know how, but I know it must.

We need to learn the difference between the convictions of the Holy Spirit and the accusations of Satan!” Those where the words Scott Weatherford spoke from the front of a church Bonnie and I had gone to after I felt a deep need to be in worship with a community we had not been a part of before. I’m not sure why the words stuck with me but I just seemed to keep playing them over and over in my head. Perhaps God was speaking to me.

Looking back I can realize that this voice that has been speaking to me seems far more accusational in nature then it does a convictional calling to walk in righteousness. I don’t think this excuses the impact of the failure in human leadership within my story and yet I realize my struggle is one which is internally a true battle not against flesh and blood, “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) I only pray God might restore my strength, redeem my confidence, and reconstitute  the person he wants me to be in leadership and life.

Over the past few weeks I’ve felt called to commit to some personal steps. I don’t know where they might take me but, I’d like to share them with you.

  • I’ve begun reading through the Psalms. David was a man after God’s own heart and I pray for nothing less then that for myself.
  • I have a deep desire to find a home church which would encourage and help me grow not only spiritually but in leadership and ministry. This might redefine Expressions, and it may not. I leave that in God’s hands as it is in His Kingdom that I serve.
  • I have cut my hours back at work in the Home Depot. This will make things a little tighter in the budget but, I need the time to focus on my personal health and to search out where God may be leading me.

As I mentioned earlier, I realize that things must change and I’m not quite entirely sure how. I only hope that these steps might help and as I take them, Jesus might show me and guide me to the next steps in the journey he wants me to take. If I can borrow Thomas Merton’s prayer, “My Lord God, I have no idea where I’m going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.

I thank you all for your prayers and for the words you might share with me.


Michael Ignatieff’s Equality for All Speech

Michael Ignatieff

Started writing this morning on FB about some of my thoughts to Michael Ignatieff’s speech in Ottawa and it kind of turned into a full note. Anyways, it’s been a bit since I’ve been writing; I just needed to get some things of my chest, so it’s nothing extensive but I thought I’d share it here also.

Michael Ignatieff - “Equality for ALL” (From this mornings speech in Ottawa) – Question: Does this same equality include the Canadian Citizens within the Federal Prison Systems be they people seeking reformation or employees amidst over population? Does this same equality include those who are in service to our military struggling with substandard equipment?

They are honest questions of Federal prioritization. In light of resent global events, I’m not sure I’d count on the US covering our _____ in the event of military movements! :( Prisoners serving their detentions in a correctional facility are not second class citizens in a society which claims equality for all. Over population can also force into early release in dangerous circumstances which in turn also impacts society. Should we not give adequate space and legislative time to the reformation of such people; not to mention the danger over population places of Correctional Employees?!

Family Care, Health Care, and Education are also all valid concerns and issues Canadians face. Yet, these can be issues perhaps more directly addressed within the Provincial and Local Municipalities alternatively. Ultimately, my personal nee-jerk reaction is to say it also falls to the role we as individual citizens play as active participators and care givers to our society and communities.

We must stand up for our neighbour and ourselves; not leaving the sole responsibility of health and education to government parties. We must make better health choices for our own bodies and inspire and encourage others to do the same. We can and should give freely to others as they have needs out of our personal responsibility to care for one another – this is a responsibility of individuals and community not institution or organization. (Please note: This includes Religious Institutions however… it does not dismiss responsibility to personal faith, belief, and world view which may become expressed through such organizations. I wish I had more time to define this but perhaps another time.) Yes, this may mean we need to change our expectations of personal status and wealth as a social vision but let me ask you… what are you asking of those who are in the minority of the vote? (i.e. – Prison System, Military, Immigration, ect.)

Ultimately, I am concerned we have become a society of “Me First!” mind sets. This must change. Please do not consider this as my vote cast. There is still many policies to be defined and clarified. It is simply just my wonderments for the time being… :)


Have You Heard the Good News???

Paper People

My good friend Michael Coghlin and pastor to Connections Christian Church wrote an article not to long ago looking at Good News and the way many of us might struggle with the word “Evangelism”. Take a read and maybe weigh yourself into the conversation… What stops you from sharing the good news?

Evangelism” can be a scary word. For me, it immediately conjures images of obnoxious street preachers shouting hellfire and brimstone, or door knockers handing out tracts to convince me I have an invisible problem and then (conveniently) giving me a when-I-die solution to that problem. Ask me to evangelize a stranger, and I get a knot in my stomach, my palms start to sweat, and I’ll find any excuse to disappear. But ask me about my iPad, and I turn into an Apple evangelist!

So,” I ask myself, “What gives? Why am I an eager tech-talker, but a hesitant faith-talker?” Here’s a few reasons:

  • The message of Jesus is exclusive, and bound to be an unpopular message in a tolerant-of-anything-but-intolerance culture;
  • Canadians are private, and what drives my life is reserved for discussion with my closest friends or psychologist, if anyone at all;
  • I’m ashamed of the things others have done in the name of Jesus (residential schools in SK, bombing abortion clinics, picketing with signs like “God hates fags”);
  • I fail to live completely into the Christian faith, and I fear that if I share it (the talk) I’ll be found out as a fraud (the walk);
  • I haven’t been taught to share my faith, and I hate doing jobs I’ve not been given the tools for.

Accurate though these reasons may be, they only address outside issues. They don’t press me to question, “Do I experience Jesus as good news? Do I believe Jesus is good news for my neighbours? Do I believe Jesus’ good news is worth giving anything and everything for (riches, career, family, reputation)?” We need to ask these questions.

But, if “evangelism,” “sweaty palms,” and “running away” are three sides of the same coin, then how we think of “evangelism” also needs a serious overhaul. Jesus proclaimed the “good news [Greek: evangelion] of the kingdom” as he healed many people (Matt 4:23). What we lose in translation is that Jesus’ speech and actions were evangelism!

If we are to redeem the language of evangelism, here’s a few thoughts. First, let us start thinking, saying, and believing “good news” when we hear “evangelism.” Second, let us scour the gospels to see what was “good” about the good news Jesus proclaimed and lived. Third, let us give ourselves to “good newsing” our communities—as good parents, good friends, good neighbours, good coworkers.


2010 in Review of Just Wondering…

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 5,700 times in 2010. That’s about 14 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 23 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 166 posts. There were 55 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 23mb. That’s about 1 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was January 6th with 102 views. The most popular post that day was Returning to a State of Just Wondering….

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, search.aol.com, expressionscommunity.org, backtype.com, and openwindowyoga.blogspot.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for christmas cartoon, just wondering, chaos theory, kingdom of god, and the last supper.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Returning to a State of Just Wondering… November 2009
3 comments

2

Nothing Always Leads to Something December 2007
1 comment

3

“If You Go God Will Show…a New You!” October 2007

4

Mouth Painting Expressions January 2008
1 comment

5

Coming to the Table in a New Light October 2007


Broken

Broken

I starred blankly at the news screen as they described the story of a stranger who was listening and after hearing the faint cries of a baby, leapt into a garbage bin. After peeling away the layers of garbage they took off their shirt and wrapped it around a new born boy who with its umbilical cord still attached was rescued from the clutches of death. It wasn’t until later that the stranger would find out that he was not a stranger at all but the unexpecting father of the child.

Let’s face it; it’s a story we have all heard so many times before. We cry out in frustration, “What’s wrong with that person!” “How can they just not know…?”

A Colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces is arrested and charged with sexual deviance, rape, murder, and other horrific charges. Teenagers are found gang raping teenagers in the school yard. And prostitution is legalized in certain states and provinces. It all seems so wrong, so decayed, so grotesque, so… Broken.

I was four years old when I was exposed to the realities of a broken world. My mother worked long days and would leave me at a day home behind our condo in SW Calgary. I remember the lady running the home would keep us locked in the basement all day exclaiming, “That’s where children belong.” Usually with a few “F” words in the mix.

It was here that the eldest daughter of the lady who ran the home began taking me with her to the darker corners of the basement. I don’t remember much, but I remember that I spent most of my childhood trying to hide it and make sure no one ever found out. Most importantly, I tried to make myself forget it ever happened because I thought it was my fault. I was Broken.

I was broken and because I was broken the world will never look the same to me again. The world has become a place of overt violence with battlefields in every marketing advertisement plastered on the billboards and storefronts in shopping malls and road ways; in snippets of film, movies, television, and commercials as they provocatively  exploit the psyche of human relational conjecture; in the one liner jokes we so innocently speak to one another with; and in the headlines of news media leading to social judgements based upon the bias of social and personal exclusion from the stories context.

My Brokenness has caused me to become angry. Why can we not see the exploitation of human sexuality and relational identity as the violence which it truly is? Why has it become normal to treat human sexuality as a consumer product and individual right rather then a relational identity and spousal gift? I suppose the reality to which I found is that I am broken, just as everyone is has been broken. The world is Broken.

Jesus’ brother James gives us something we can use in our brokenness. He wrote and called us to, “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” and promised us that, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16-17)

I don’t have all the solutions to the broken realities of our world but I do believe James is right. We need to first recognize our own Brokenness; and once we’ve accepted that we need to expose it, confess it to those around us, and talk about it. When we can be open and real with one another about the struggles we have, the challenges and fears that are a part of our lives; we can be honest in the midst of communal grace and truly seek to transform those realities. Then we can see the real beauty, the real gifts God has placed in our lives.

Secondly, we need to pray for one another as well as ourselves. Speaking to God about our need for healing and openly asking for his hand in our broken reality brings an internal connectivity which reaches to the very depth of our created being as it was meant to be. In Jeremiah God speaks to us saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

Lastly, we must live with grace for one another; accepting that we are all Broken in a reality to which none of us can ever fully understand, experience, or comprehend. Forgiveness is not always easy to work out but, judgment is never ours to make lest our own judgments come upon our own brokenness.

This world will never be the same to me as it will never be the same for you. I will pray for you though just as I pray for the Broken people which I wrote of in the beginning of this post. I hope you would do the same for me.


John Lloyd Inventories the Invisible

Invisibility

I thought this was rather brilliant this morning as I contemplated the beauty of Gods creation and the humor of finding things of invisibility. I must use this as an illustration some time!

By the way, in answer to John’s agnosticism and defining terms… I believe that is the point! Man cannot define God’s terms just as we cannot define his character. To do so is to miss his existence entirely and in the midst of trying would only be caught up in ideology and ultimately idolatry. It is God who can and did state his terms through the act of incarnation not through words or things!


Who am I?

Who am I

Who am I?

I am a man of Authenticity,
What you see is what you get;
More so I am the same in public as I am alone,
And visa versa.

Who am I?

I am a man of Honesty,
So much so it can get me in trouble;
My life is an open book,
One which I freely share in the hopes to inspire.

Who am I?

I am a man of Integrity,
My word is my bond;
Even greater to me are the words of action,
Everything I do is meant with purpose and a sense of personal moral ethic.

Who am I?

I am a man of Justice,
I seek it in everyone and in everything;
My heart breaks to the point of physical pain and tears,
At the smallest witnessing of prejudice, bias, or inequality to our relationship with truth.

Who am I?

I am a man of Love,
In the eternal agape sense anyways;
I love life, people, animals, adventure,
And the wonder of all miraculous moments when this amazing gift returns!

Who am I?

I am a man of Faith,
Convicted strongly in my relationship with God;
Through the Truth of Jesus’ eternal presence,
In my heart, soul, and wellbeing.

Who am I?

I am a man of creativity,
I let my imagination drift with the realities around me;
So as to bring life to grips with Truth,
And freedom of expression to redemption in righteous relationships with God, my wife, and those who journey with me.

Who am I?

I am a Husband,
Married to my wife as one flesh;
I can do nothing apart from her blessing,
As she becomes the greatest of blessings throughout my life.

Who am I?

I am a Pastor,
Not one by earthly titles, status, or appointment;
But by example, presence, and character,
Which only the Holy Spirit might bless and sustain.

Who am I?

I am Incomplete,
Journeying through my destiny in search of my fate;
One which only God can complete,
And measure by standards of his grace, love, and acceptance.



A Great Grandmother And Mother, A Beautiful Woman

It has been a few weeks since Bonnie’s mom Marie passed away. Bonnie’s niece Terra shared a poem in the funeral which touched many peoples hearts including mine and so I wanted to share it here.

Strong, beautiful Mother and Grandma, so peaceful and serene,
You deserve to live in Paradise and shown the finer things.
Life has dealt you plenty of cards, some winning, others bad,
And tides have brought in waves of memories; both happy and sad.
Gracious, beautiful Mother and Grandma, so wonderful and divine,
You’ve endured many heartaches-oh the world is so unkind!
Your speech is confident, your eyes are soft and your walk is hard and bold
Your laugh equals happiness, your heart contains love, and hides the stories untold.
Tired, beautiful Mother and Grandma, so patient and so calm, it’s funny how you hold the family’s fear within your palm!
With wrinkles, stress, and worn-torn hands, tell me how do you smile so…
When you’ve traveled this long, endured all this pain, and still have miles to go?
Blessed, beautiful Mother and Grandma, so collected and confident,
I can’t imagine a gift greater than you-your love is Heaven sent.
Don’t you dare give up now, just stay strong, your reward is comin’…
Strong, courageous, gracious, blessed, and beautiful Mother and Grandma.

Rest in Peace

We all Love you grandma.


Did You Know…


Weeping…

Jesus Wept

“Jesus wept.” Two simple words and the shortest sentence in the Bible (John 11:35). Yet it seems these words to me have become such a deep revelation into the authenticity of Jesus’ love for humanity and the lives of those who he calls friends.

Have you ever been in those moments where sadness and fear have gripped you so strongly that nothing else seems to matter? When the daily practices of life seem to become surreal in nature? Or when the very fabric of life itself becomes infinitely perplexed by the loss of a loved one in the midst of it?

This past week has been a blur for me as my wife and I came to grips with the slow understanding that we were losing her mother to multiple organ failure. I was struggling with the questions, “What do I say?” and “Where is God in all of this?”

In a lot of ways I suppose that is how Jesus’ friends felt after Lazarus had died; numb, dazed and confused as to where Jesus was when their brother Lazarus was sick and close to death. After he passed away Jesus arrives and Mary Magdalene called out to him, “Where were you Lord when my brother was sick?” And Jesus wept.

Taking Jesus to the tomb where Lazarus’ body was he stood in front of it calling out, “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43) The miraculous happened.

I don’t suppose to know the mysteries and power of redemption or the process of salvation and the ways in which the miracle of resurrection happens. Nor do I understand why sometimes prayers are answered and sometimes there not; or at least not the way we hope for. But if it is one thing that the story of Lazarus has spoken to me about in the last week, it is that death does not stop the miraculous.

Until then though I pray for comfort in the midst of silence, knowing Jesus is with us, weeping.


The Greatest Gift – Three Keys to a Healthy Marriage

Last May Bonnie and I celebrated our tenth anniversary. I thought it might be great if I planned a surprise family dinner to mark the occasion. It seems fate had other plans as Bonnie ended up in the hospital instead with a bad blood infection.

Still, I bought the biggest bouquet of flowers that I could find along with a box of her favorite chocolates and headed up to the hospital to spend the day with her. I knew it was not what we had planned but it did not matter because as we shared the box of chocolates while laughing at the small square TV in her room we found an extraordinary gift still binding us together. It was love.

It is hard to say nowadays what makes a marriage last it seems. So many times I hear about how couples are drifting a part for this reason or the next; in most cases it seems because they express it has just become to hard to “make it work”. Maybe that is the point though; you can’t make love work. You can only wait for the precious instances in which you experience it between each other and celebrate in those moments.

After ten years of marriage myself I still find comfort reflecting on three keys which the Apostle Paul gives in 1 Corinthians13:13. He says, “So know faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

I don’t think Paul meant faith in a religious sense; but rather faith as the relational tension between two people. In the Biblical sense faith is defined between two Hebraic and Greek understandings. In one sense it is about what I know and understand about my wife and who she is. While in the other sense it is about the way I act and speak about and towards my wife. To put it in short, when I consider my marriage in all situations and places; I place my thoughts and actions entirely upon my integrity. As Oliver Cromwell once said, “Subtlety may deceive you; integrity never will.”

The second key of hope is closely expressed with the passions of dreaming and sharing my aspirations with Bonnie while sharing in one another’s gifts and talents. Like the tensions in faith there are times when I recognize Bonnie might seem like she is drifting away with different pursuits and enthusiasms. Likewise there are times I might be doing the same. It is in these moments when I begin to feel like there is this emotional elastic which is stretching between us and the further apart it stretches the more I feel like it just might snap. I don’t consider this sort of tension in our relationship a bad thing though and nor do I think that it must be resolved in the immediacy of our awareness of it.

However, at some point I always recognize this as a sort of calling to strive after Bonnie; to act in faithfulness, find interest in her talents, passions, and giftings while wanting to participate in her hopes, goals, and pursuits. Believe me; it’s not always easy as she seems to always have me cutting the onions in her latest recipe! But the rewards from sharing are hopes and dreams always balance out the work put into them.

Ahhh the rewards! I suppose this is the key to these moments when I recognize the real gifts I receive when I am faithful and pursue hopes with my wife Bonnie. Love cannot be created. Love is a treasured gift that is found through faithful action and inspired relational hope. I didn’t really make love happen, I just seem to recognize how it shows up between us as we live life together. As one person puts it, “Marriage is not finding the right person; it is being the right person.”

Yes; if you were paying attention to the grammar I used above I did say “gifts” in the plural sense of love as I have come to see each one of these expressional moments as separate, unique, and new every time I encounter them. It is what makes them special and something which only I can recognize and cherish. I live for these moments when they come in bundles and when they seem so far a part as Joseph Addison puts it by saying, “Mysterious love, uncertain treasure, Hast thou more of pain or pleasure! . . . . Endless torments dwell above thee: Yet who would live, and live without thee!”

I wish you all a Happy Valentines Day that you might all live Faithfully, strive Hopefully, and encounter the greatest gifts of all – the gift of Love!


Praying for Heart for Home in Haiti

Bonnie’s and my prayers are reaching out to our friends Ricot and Mandy Leon in Haiti after the earthquake yesturday. I pray for their safety, courage, and wisdom. Please Jesus let their faith be a light to the many in need there today. I ask that they might be strong in the face of disaster and that God might bring hope to their hearts, minds, and spirits!

Please visit: http://heartforhome.wordpress.com/


Returning to a State of Just Wondering…

It seems like forever since I’ve been writing here on Just Wondering… In the same sense my time of sharing my thoughts on SE Calgary News over the last three months came and flew by. During that time a friend of mine asked if I would share some of my articles here on Just Wondering so I thought I would return to my reflections on Ecclesiastes as well as interjecting them with some of the articles I wrote for SE News.

Life has been busy here not only with work but with our involvements in our Expressions Community. Anyways, as an opener I thought I would just share some musings which have poked my life as of late!

I have been reading this. – It seems an odd choice I know for my Missional friends but has offered me an argument to wrestle with; if for nothing else the willingness to let the “other side be heard”.

I have been listing to this. – I have come to love this band and would welcome the opportunity to go and hear them live anytime!

I think this is the most incredible thing I have ever seen and only hope I might get to take the great leap myself one day… oh’ya, one day!

I am going to this.

I can’t wait for this.

I am Just Wondering… what is God going to do next?!


Vanity of Vanities and the Pursuit of Wind: Let’s Take a Deep Breath!

Check it out for yourself: Ecclesiastes 1-2

“For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.” – Ecclesiastes 2:26

As a teenager I dreamed of being a pilot. For years I would stick my hand out the window of my parents moving car and day dream of being in a British Aerospace Sea Harrier with the wings carving through the air as my hand drifted this way and that through the wind. I was no Top Gun but I loved the sense of freedom and adventure it brought. There was nothing I couldn’t make that plane do high up in the sky. At least nothing my imagination couldn’t do.

Pilot SeatI was thirteen years old when I took my first flight as a copilot in a single prop Cessna 150. It was my thirteenth birthday and my best friend and I were both given the flight at Springbank Airfield as a gift from a family friend. There wasn’t really enough room in the plane for the three of us to fit so I just stood in awe of the other planes on the tarmac while my friend went up first. After a couple of hours it was my turn and we circled the plane a few times on foot before climbing in to do the take off check list.

Being that it was my first flight; the pilot did most of the take off procedures. After being in the air a few minutes he looked over at me and said, “OK, well why don’t you take over the wheel for a little while.” It was then that it struck me. The unrelenting reality of independent responsibility. The rules and gravitational laws which dictated the possibility of human flight. It was an over whelming sense of fear and self doubt. I remember looking over at him and thinking, “Who Me?!”

Cessna 150I gripped the wheel with slow hesitation; scared to push, pull, or turn the wheel the wrong way or too much. I looked at the pilot and said, “Where do I go?” He smiled and answered, “Any where you like!” In that moment my mind and body was paralyzed; transfixed solely on the destination which to me was to land safely back on the ground without crashing. The pilot looked at me again; “Just enjoy the flight.”

The memories of my first flight seemed to resonate with me as I looked at the characterizations Solomon struggled with in the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes. Solomon finds this internal struggle where part of him is striving for the complexities of truth, wisdom, and the legal realities or reason for life. He desperately wants to get it right and arrive safely at the destiny or destination to which his creator so desires for him. On the opposite side he finds himself freeing his imagination in the pursuit of creative desire, passion, and the fulfillment of enjoying his life’s ambitions.

Locked between them he is paralyzed with the thought,

“What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun?… For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.” (Ecc. 2:22;26)

For Solomon it seems that all things both between the legalities of wisdom and the creative pursuits of pleasure; everything comes to the reality of striving after the wind. But why the wind? What does he mean by wind and where do we find this wind so to speak within our own sails?

In English the word wind commonly means “a natural movement of air of any velocity; especially: the earth’s air or the gas surrounding a planet in natural motion horizontally”; but Solomon wasn’t really talking about the earth’s wind. The Hebrew word he used was ruah which in a more liberal sense means spirit. So in a sense what Solomon was trying to say was that all things pertaining to an individual’s life, whether done for wisdom or for pleasure, become an expressionism to their pursuit of spirituality. A spirituality which for all comes to a head when faced by the presence of God.

Jesus had a common saying throughout the gospels. He would often recite that, “the Kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:31; Mark 1:15; Luke 17:21) His revelation to the Kingdoms presence though was never meant to place us in a state of fear so as to focus solely on our destination and save as many souls as possible before we go to heaven. The nearness of God’s kingdom was meant to free us with the awareness that ruah is not only in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit but also in our own individual strivings for creative passionate dreams and ambitions.

In essence Jesus is our pilot and is now turning to you saying, “Why don’t you take the wheel for awhile?” Where will you go? How will you express your spirit? What does your imagination tell you that you can do?” However way you choose to express your spirituality and strive for ruah remember… enjoy the flight!

“All the way to heaven is heaven.”Catherine of Siena


A Rationale for Ecclesiastes

Some time ago I posted a poll on writing a devotional. I have been thru much over the past few months which has delayed my ability to do so until now. Admittedly, my spirits have been low as of late and so writing… or at least my desire to do so has been strained with questions of purpose, significance, and value. Needless to say I feel God pushing me to press on.

I realize that of the votes cast it would seem writing on the book of Job would be logical; especially when you consider the present realities Bonnie and I find ourselves in. I still sense a desire however to look into the letter of Ecclesiastes. Maybe for no rational thought or real reason and maybe for the deeper struggle I seem to face in this moment. The deeper struggle of wondering what my purpose, significance, and meaning is in life and what truth or Truth that might hold for me.

Since I was a young boy I have always been a wonderer of truth and the reasoning behind everything. My mother would read old fables, moral driven fairy tales, and ethically driven stories to me and I never seemed to grow out of the old added question of “Why?”

I suppose that is why I have a deep appreciation for the reflections and life stories of Solomon who I have always been told and consider one of the wisest men to have ever lived. He too had a fascination with truth and wisdom even if it was a bit morbid or pessimistic at times. Perhaps wisdom is not always best understood with the constant fluffiness of optimism.

No, wisdom seems to be something else. Something which transcends simple knowledge or conceptual philosophies and yet touches and reflects off of everything that is. You might say wisdom is in existence yet… not of this existence.

I’ll write more in the coming weeks.

 


Exhaustion and Need for Prayer

As many of you know Bonnie and I have the dream of one day planting Expressions as a church plant here in the Calgary area. As such, much of our activities, energy, finances, and home space are vital to the model which we see Expressions functioning under. However, we both have faced a number of great challenges over the past few months which have made these things extremely challenging; leaving us exhausted a drained physically, mentally, and spiritually. It is for this reason I would like to reach out to you for prayer in the following ways:

Our van lift has broken down to the point that it needs replacing. This is deeply affecting our ability to transport both for health needs but also the many trips we make in coordinating gatherings, connecting with leadership, food providers, and pastoral visits/services. We have a make shift fix which can finally get us back on the road after using Calgary Handi-bus for the last month as of today (thank you Jesus). However, in order to replace the lift we are applying for funding through DRES as we are unable to do so ourselves.

  • Please pray for safety for Bonnie and I as we use the make shift lift!!
  • Also please pray for DRES to recognize our van requirements as being “work related” even though I’m not officially on staff in a church and in so doing granting us funds for the replacement of the lift.

We both have been experiencing a number of health issues. I have had a “lump” on the right side of my chest for a couple months which has been giving me grief with sweats, pain, discomfort, and tingly sensations on my right side. You might say my “thorn in the flesh”. We are not sure if I broke something or what it is however the doctors are in pursuit! Bonnie has been getting severe pain and weakness in her right arm which she broke back in 2000. She has been unable to use it as well as she did before as well as the back pain she deals with due to Osteoporosis. She has been dealing with a sore which is not healing and the doctors are doing a biopsy later in April too. Transportation in those pursuits is and issue again.

  • Please pray for health and healing for us both, wisdom for the doctors, and wisdom for us to take the right course of action.

Last night after arriving home from work (at Home Depot) Bonnie and I discovered that our washing machine had broken down leaking water all over the upstairs laundry room, draining down the vent and flooding our dinning room ceiling, table, and floor. We have phoned our home insurance and they came over right away to assess the damages and we are relieved that they will be helping us through this process. As you know, we are deeply reliant on our passion for hospitality and this hits us hard in our ability to have an open home.

  • Please pray that Bonnie and I do not need to leave our home in order for the contractors to do the repairs. This was brought up last night and is a great fear we have due to our physical needs in accessibility.
  • Please pray that the repair work goes quickly and that the damages are not too extensive. Also, that it does not affect the events we hoped to host over the next month. We had planned for a couple movie nights, Re:Genesis, and the possibility of Forge Canada’s Pilot Groups to be hosted here. We are greatly excited by what we are planning for Expressions in the next year as well as the possibilities of working with Forge Canada.
  • Please pray for Bonnie’s and my peace of mind. The amount of change in the last few months has hit us very hard both in security and accumulative breakdowns/damages whether it has been the markets, our elevator, van, lifts, house, and health.

Lastly I’d like to ask if you would please pray for the community of Expressions. Many of you have participated with the many activities we have been involved with in this community whether it was a movie night, Sunday Night Expressions gathering, Grey Cup’ of Coffee, Re:Genesis, Mustard Seed Visits, or something else. We have not articulated its definition too greatly as we believe it to be more about just doing life together in the hope you and others might find Jesus in Life and Community. You are all a great blessing to us and an inspiration to our faith, hopes, and dreams. If you would like to know more about Expressions please invite us to meet with you over coffee or check out our website at www.expressionscommunity.org. Please pray for:

  • Leadership and people who would like to come along side with us in Expressions Journey.
  • Clear communication and vision partnership with our home church McKenzie Towne Church and others who would like to come along on the journey.
  • Continuing leadership development, Networking, and partnership with Forge Canada’s Missional Training Network through their Pilot programs. (www.forgecanada.ca/).

I thank you all for being willing to pray with us and for us along these lines. You are all good friends and we cannot show enough appreciation for the ways in which you are a part of who we are. Thank You!

“There is no such thing as a ‘self-made’ man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.”

George Adams

“Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’”

Isaiah 58:7


Bad Journalism in CBC’s Fifth Estate with Regards to AARC

aarclogoMy friends Steve and Dawn have recently been affected by some of the bad journalism presented by CBC’s The Fifth Estate. It has no doubt affected them both personally and in their community supports. In those regards here is their response which I would like to share.

Dear friends,

As you are undoubtedly aware, the CBC’s Fifth Estate recently presented a very disturbing report about the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Center (AARC), entitled “Powerlessness”. I have taken great exception to what I firmly believe to be inaccurate comments and unethical journalism. Without AARC, I do not know where my family would be today.

As such I have written a letter to the CBC, a copy of which is on my face book account, if you care to read it. In addition, I have done some searching and have found the following video and news clips that I feel will shed some true light on what many trusting CBC viewers might be feeling about AARC at this time.

Included in these is a news report on Jordon Remple who was the only”grateful” AARC graduate shown on the Fifth Estate together with his parents. Unfortunately, the Remple’s were not given much air-time despite what I understand to have been quite a lengthly interview.

Many of you spent an hour watching the Fifth Estate, please do our family and many of the other 403 families who have passed through the doors of AARC a service by spending about 13 minutes watching these.

With sincere thanks,
Dawn Driediger


My Confession to Atheism

For some of you I know this statement probably comes as a bit of a shock but just give me a few moments. For those of you who know me however, this probably will come with easy understanding. Here is something which I have been wondering about over the past week…


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