I 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.”
I 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!
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.
“Where were you when Crosby scored the golden goal?” That was the question I woke up to this past Monday morning as I sat there sipping my hot coffee and watching the Global Morning News. Like 85% of the rest of Canada I was sitting on the edge of my seat in front of the TV praying for a miracle!
As I watched the highlights one more time the theme song of “I Believe” crept into my thoughts and I began to wonder, just what is it that I believe in? Over the past few weeks Canada has been swept away in a spirit of national and global pride, of communal unity, and the celebration of gifted success in athleticism. But that belief also came in the form of unique and diverse accomplishments of greatness.
As a follower of Jesus I believe faith is united through the crux that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah and Lord over all of life and creation (John 3:16-17). But I also believe that this enigma is expressed through each individuals passions, gifts, and talents as they grow in relationship with Jesus (Matt. 16:15-19). I suppose that is where the story of Expressions Community begins and why I follow a mission of Seeking Expressions of Jesus as Lord in Life and Community.
This mission has led and continues to lead Bonnie and I through some amazing Expressions of Jesus such as our Re:Genesis group which offers support and inspiration to those who face challenges in life. Re:Genesis is meant to inspire people who face many challenges; and not necessarily just physical examples either but all trials in existence, to find a sense of new life and values which encourage us with purpose and significance in God’s calling.
God at the Movies has found Expressions of belief and truth in today’s parables and silver screens. I laughed as my friend Mike who is not a follower of Jesus (yet) began to grow in faith as he said to me, “Going to watch a movie and talk with my friends at Expressions just didn’t seem like going to church!” I couldn’t help but see the paraphrase in Jesus’ words to his disciples (Matt. 13:10-17).
Expressions has also led us to take on many transformational missions such as Conversations in ESL and Expressions of Compassion at the Mustard Seed each month. I am particularly looking forward to our Adventures in Mars Hill mission this April as we lead a group down to the Body, Soul, and Spirit Expo to share about a Kingdom which makes the unknown God known to those who are seeking the truth (Acts 17:23). We did this last September 2008 and were blown away by the miracles we experienced. We were touched after receiving a letter from Perry who we had developed a friendship with while at the Expo as she wrote, “You were the unplanned special gift that will hold a sacred place in my heart when I think of my Calgary trip. The light and radiance you two send out into the world is like a magnetic veil of pure unconditional love.”
The mysteries of belief are not always an easy road to travel as even Jesus said, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matt. 7:14) I count myself blessed and privileged to be one of those who finds himself in the midst of expressing that enigma of belief.
Perhaps you are asking too “Who do I say Jesus is?”, “What is it that I believe?”, and “How do I express that belief?” Perhaps we can explore that enigma together and what it means to follow Jesus as Lord in Life and Community. Perhaps together we can find Expressions of Jesus – www.expressionscommunity.org.
Last Friday evening I had the opportunity to sit in a packed theater and watch the film Avatar for the first time. I was blown away by the amazing effects and swept into the story line by the many cultural connections with our world today. Like so many other films have done in past, Avatar grappled in its undertones with real issues such as environmental concerns, native relations, and military movements with stunning pictures of wildlife and language uses such as words like “Shock and Awe” and subtitles for native speech.
I must admit though that this is not what toke my heart away during the course of the film. What really got to me was the central storyline with the character of Jake and his questions behind identity as a paralyzed marine. Sitting in my own wheelchair I began struggling with the same uncertainties he was facing in the light of a new world.
Who is my Avatar? What would it be like to have a new body? Or as Col. Miles Quaritch said to Jake; to have my real legs back? Who is the real me?
Being a gen X’er, the word avatar always seemed to me to be an image you put on your facebook page or blog address to which people identify you as. It surprised me to realize after looking it up in a dictionary that the word avatar actually means “the embodiment of something: somebody who embodies, personifies, or is the manifestation of an idea or concept.”
In that sense really think about it for a moment and ask yourself; Am I the same person at work that I am at home? Are you the same person on Sunday at church? How about when you are standing with the other parents outside the school while waiting to pick up your kids? How many Avatars do you have? Which one is the real one?
There is this moment in the film when Jake and his new found friend Neytiri are arguing over the fact that she does not see him as being authentic. In a sense she is saying, “I do not know who or what you are!” It is during this moment that the spirits of Ey’wa, the Na’vi’s understanding of God, descend around Jake and it becomes a sign to Neytiri that even if she cannot see the real Jake, Ey’wa could see him.
It is easy for me to conceal who I truly am in character as a husband, son, pastor, or follower of Jesus behind shadows of personal conception and agenda. In some sense it seems as though I can get lost in these avatars myself and forget who the real me is. No matter how hard I try though it doesn’t seem to change the fact that God still seems to know me as he whispers the words of Jeremiah 1:5; “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” It is a mystery I still wonder about today.
Jesus himself became an avatar in the sense that he was God incarnate. I guess you could say he was the real avatar. One day he went fishing with a group of fishermen. He spent the entire day with them while learning who they were, speaking their language, and seeing who they truly are. It was then that he turned to them and said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:19) Jesus in becoming one of them saw right through them to their hearts; he saw their real avatars!
Throughout Jake’s journey he was offered healing but it came in two forms. On the one hand Col. Miles Quaritch offered him purpose in being used as a marine and in doing so he would be “given his legs back”. On the other hand Jake could choose to submit his entire being to the wonder and care of Ey’wa in the awakening of a body given through love and the mystery of recreation.
Without giving anything away I admit to struggling with this in the personal sense. It might be easy to expect God to heal me as a paralyzed man on my terms with my own expectations of time, appearance, and significance. But is healing meant to be easy and solely about me or is it really about the relationship which I have with my creator?
It seemed a question to which I might wrestle with for many years to come until I heard a comment William Young, author of ‘The Shack’, stated in an interview the other day. He said, “I do not believe God heals people so that he can use them. I believe God heals people because he loves them; and then he invites them to play.” It was in this moment that the questions seemed to disappear and the visionary wonder of healing and recreation coalesced with the trust that God would find the balance (1 Corinthians 15:35-49).
Is the movie Avatar a Christian film? I do not think James Cameron intended it to be so when he first developed it but; like most created things, if we are willing to extend a listening ear we just my catch the faded whispers of truth from a loving creator who is saying, “I see you.”
Last November we had the honor of my friend and chiropractor Dr. Jeff Koep coming and sharing his faith with our Re:Genesis group. He had quite the testimony and spirit for encouraging holistic faith and health while we spoke for about 1 1/2 hours! Jeff offered five practices of holistic health which when applied with our faith can give a real representation of what it means to find health in the midst of the greatest challenges. Here is a letter which he offered at his practice of South Trail Chiropractic Family Wellness Center in the following weeks.
To see a write up on our January Re:Genesis gathering Click Here.
Believe it or not, my goal in last week’s newsletter was not to depress you! In fact, it was meant to a) honor an incredible woman and b) to get you thinking about who in your life might be taken from you prematurely if they keep living the way they are living. You see, that man who died in the gym could have been anyone; even someone you know right now. It could happen to someone you know tomorrow or 20 years from now if they don’t change. I also wanted you to think about what YOU need to change so that you can live life fully right now and for many years to come; so that you can fully enjoy your family, your work, your passions, and your purpose. It is our mission to help you and your families achieve that.
The “part two” of this is that there absolutely IS a better way to live that will ensure a long healthy life. But most people do not live that way. We here at South Trail Chiropractic are dedicated to teaching you this way of living, which we call Maximized Living. There are Five Essentials to Maximized Living and all are extremely important if you are planning on living a full and healthy life and raise the healthiest children on the planet! The 5 Essentials are:
1) Maximized Mind – includes time/stress management, sleep, spirituality, and positive relationships.
2) Maximized Nerve Supply – the power to heal and be healthy is in the spinal cord. When the nerves are interfered with (subluxation), the body cannot function or heal properly.
3) Maximized Quality Nutrition – food provides the fuel and building blocks that your body needs to continue to power and heal itself on a daily basis; you are what you eat!
4) Maximized Oxygen and Lean Muscle – Exercise allows your body to take in higher levels of oxygen and creates lean muscle that keeps both your body and mind healthy.
5) Minimize Toxins – toxins affect our bodies in a negative way and inhibit us from functioning at optimal levels eventually leading to illness and disease.
The 5 Essentials are the core foundation of Maximized Living. Without any of these Essentials, you are unable to live the long, healthy and fulfilled life that you are meant to live. Each of these Essentials work together to keep your cells in optimal shape and your body functioning at its highest levels. If you only focus on one of these essentials, such as exercise, you are leaving out other core elements that keep your body healthy. Of course, your adjustments and spinal correction exercises are taking care of Essential #2, which makes sure that the brain-body connection is fully functional, but what about the other four? Again, we are dedicated to teaching you about them! Starting in January, we will be holding bi-monthly advanced health workshops teaching you the Five Essentials of Maximized Living. As well, we will be holding a one day Maximized Living Makeover to teach you how to regain your health in 40 days.
The exciting part of this is that you CAN regain your health; and you CAN save a life by sharing this information with your friends and family. The North American lifestyle is literally killing people and many don’t see it happening until it’s too late. We will be asking you to bring guests to our events to make sure that we are all reaching out to those who need us. Again, I ask you, what if you gave a dying person the information they need to LIVE? You CAN save a life.
Maximized Blessings, Dr. Jeff
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?!