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

Disabilities

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!


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.


To Save a Life – Youth Event

To Save a Life


I Believe in the Enigma of Expressions

“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.


Searching for the Real Avatar – “I See You!”

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.”


Re:Genesis With Dr. Jeff Koep – Finding Health in the Midst of the Greatest Challenges

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


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?!


Upcoming Speaking Engagement at CCCF in SE Calgary

A few weeks ago my friend Rick Bayer at Canyon Creek Christian Fellowship asked if I would speak there on Sunday July 26th, 2009. I of course accepted with great enthusiasm but was unsure to what I should speak on. He left the book wide open to me and I was nervous as to how I might speak or what I should say after not having done so for quit awhile. Or so it seems anyway.

It wasn’t to long after that that I was having a conversation with a close friend in our near by Second Cup with regards to our ministry plans in Re:Genesus in the fall. I was explaining a number of the themes and avenues to our gathering and used the word spirituality to describe how we approach themes of faith while reaching out to the people who face challenges or disabilities in our community. It was in that moment that he interrupted me expressing a mistrust or grievance against Christians using or being involved with a word or activity such as spirituality.

To be honest, it took me off guard and I was puzzled by my friend’s fear towards Christians expressing spirituality. The more I thought about it and looked at the number of examples where the church here in North America has become increasingly more resistant to the idea of spirituality being a part of the Christian faith I was alarmed at the loss which we faced in our relationship to Jesus and the disconnect it seemed to have with Jesus’ call to be born again in water and in Spirit (John 3:1-15).

At the same time I could see why so many would be afraid of spirituality when you consider the times religion has been abused as a sense of power and led to horrible misrepresentations of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. My thoughts were of Lee Camp’s statement “‘Jesus is Lord’ is a radical claim, one that is ultimately rooted in questions of allegiance, of ultimate authority, of the ultimate norm and standard for human life. Instead, Christianity has often sought to ally itself comfortably with allegiance to other authorities, be they political, economical, cultural, or ethnic.

You don’t have to go back as far as the dark ages to see how the church or Christianity has been abused through misplaced spirituality. As near as the 1990′s and early 2000′s we can see the murderous practices and abuses of such powers in such groups as the LRA in Uganda and South Africa.

At the same time here in North America spirituality has been under a different form of social attack; namely the practices of economic abuses and consumeristic excess. To some extent I think we can place the blame on New Age theology where the individual bases his or her “spirituality” on whatever they feel fits. I think of the many experiences Bonnie and I had last September at the Body, Soul, and Spirit Expo here in Calgary and it was not long before we understood; spirituality was based and measured upon how much you are willing to spend. L. Ron Hubbard himself as the founder of Scientology was quoted famously for his statement, “Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion.” (Time Magazine April 5th, 1976 Page 57)

At the same time we cannot exclude the Christian church from there own misrepresentations of spirituality. The health and wealth gospel has had great damages on what it means to be a follower of Jesus. We can look at the great persecutions of the church in China and see how they have neither health nor wealthy church budgets and yet it is considered one of the fastest growing movements of today.

With the consideration of these issues I suppose I cannot argue my friends reasoning for being afraid of or disliking Christianity being involved with such a word as spirituality. Yet I still ask the question if I am born again in water and sprit; what does my spirituality look like? What is Christian Spirituality?

And there you have it. This upcoming Sunday July 26th, 2009 I will be speaking at Canyon Creek Christian Fellowship in SE Calgary on the Rebirth of Christian Spirituality. I would love to have you come along for the journey!


For Such A Time As This… I Have Arrived

TimeCheck it out for yourself: Ecclesiastes 3

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11

Time. It is a perplexity of life and something which we seem to never escape. In honesty, I had thought of many things I might want to share with regards to my thoughts of time and the way in which we treat it. Ways which seem to treat time as though we poses it and have the right to use it as we see fit to our own desires. I think often of the statement “Don’t waste my time!”

Likewise, we never seem to exist in the moment of time which we are currently in. When we are at church we are thinking about what we will do when we get home. When we are at home we are thinking about what we will do when we are at work. When we are at work we are thinking about what it will be like to be on vacation. The dichotomy we create between what our bodies are doing and what our minds are doing develops such a rift that I wonder if we ever really truly arrive in the moment to which we are presently in.

It was when I was in this thought pattern that a friend of Bonnie’s and mine wrote an email to us that just seemed to strike right at this thought of time and our inability to see the whole picture to which God was present and aware of. We met Katie about five years ago as she lived in a group home here in the SE side of Calgary while adjusting to living with MS. She has since become a good friend of ours and in many ways an inspiration to following Jesus. A part of the Center Street Church community, Katie is greatly involved with social activism and fights for many of the rights for the disabled community here in Calgary and Alberta. She also is a very talented creative arts painter and promotes her work on her website www.oralart.ca/.

In any sense I felt moved by the timing of her email and wanted to share it with you as part of my devotional to Ecclesiastes 3 and For Such A Time As This… I Have Arrived.

When do you know that you have arrived? Have you arrived when you get married and move into the house of your dreams? Have you arrived when you have your first child? Have you arrived when you get the perfect career and have assured your security? When you have grown old and actualized all of your goals?

I started taking my trip on a bright red, reliable and strong bicycle to get to the ends of the earth and find adventure. I soon came across a Village of Fatigue and crossed over a bridge of Uncertainty. I came upon a dirt road that led to many scary turns and frightening hills. I had to get off my bicycle and I had to stop in a worrisome and unpredictable city called Exacerbation.

My tires started to go flat and I had to lay my bicycle down since my kickstand broke off while navigating around a rock of Depression. While momentarily stationary, I found a place to live, found some work, got a cat, and found love but I never found rest or a sense of direction.

Overnight, my bicycle was stolen, my house burned down, the business went into receivership, my cat died and my boyfriend left me. In desperation, I caught a bus that ended up on the road that was muddied and impassable. It eventually crashed in Suicide Gulch and I became broken. I was lost.

While in the hospital, I was introduced to a wonderful Man [Jesus] who tried to comfort me and heal my wounds. He became my new Map Reader. The road continued to be long and hard and my pain continued. We were unable to find a place to convalesce. There was an Apartment of Despair, a Townhouse of Inequity, and finally a House of Horrors.

We continued to reach dead ends but I think that my misplaced self-reliance kept grabbing the map out of the Man’s hands. I needed to follow. His acute navigational skills found me in a House of Care with a backyard that stretched out for miles. The old house still needs some major renovations but I was safe. In the backyard, I was planted in enriched soil, grew strong roots, and was sheltered from unpredictable storms. My many gardeners fed, watered and pruned me and soon I was able to learn some gardening skills of my own.

I was able to plant bright, sweet smelling flowers of fun, excitement, confidence, perseverance and gratitude. I spread grass seeds of hope that grows lush and green every year, provides comfort when I lie down and its fragrance reassures me. At times though, I still feel sad and grievous when some of the blooms fail to open but I am optimistic some will thrive in the next season.

I grew trees that scattered pollen of awareness that attached themselves to anyone who was willing to listen. I started to paint fences of isolation, with my art, to inspire and motivate those who were weary.

With a convicted spirit, I took the harvest of my garden and shared it with others who were able to change the landscape, pave roads that were once unsafe, to find those lost on their journey and to relieve them of their heavy loads.

I have a new bicycle now. It sits in a sturdy bike rack called trust and I take side trips to build my character. It’s a bicycle built for two because my Map Reader needs a comfortable place to sit. My journey is over and I am now on a mission. I have finally found a new Place — in my heart — called Joy and Contentment. I have arrived.


Lynda Belisle Passing

It is with a heavy heart that I pass along the news which I received this morning from the family of our friend Lynda Belisle. We have known Lynda now for about a year after meeting her one Sunday morning in worship. She was a person of great character and we loved her smiles and laughter. It is without a doubt that richness of spirit which touched all of us as she grew to be a part of our community here at Re:Genesis. Lynda accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior several months ago and it is in this deep faith that we know she is in God’s Kingdom with renewed passion in life and undoubtedly reunited with her husband at her side.

Please keep Lynda and her family in your thoughts, words, and prayers over the coming week as together we mourn and look forward to the time we see each other again.

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

2 Corinthians 5:1

 

After a long couple years and several ups and downs Lynda’s poor health became more than what her body could handle. For thoes who were close to her, it was obvious that she was not quite herself for the past 6 months or so. The last couple weeks in particular were quite trying and Lynda ended up in the hospital with severe dehydraion and was experiencing some delusions as a result of a bladder infection. Her appetite had not been well and she was not eating and drinking properly.

We were able to spend some time with mom last night prior to her pasing and at that time she continued to display the same symptoms as she has the past couple weeks. She played littlest pet shops with kendra at the end of her bed and I gave her a wonderful back rub. We left mom at approx 8:45 pm so she could rest and we received a call at 11:00 pm from the hospital saying that she had taken a turn for the worse. When Dan and Rob arrived at the hospital she had been recessitated and was on life support. It was decided that it would be best to take her off life support and mom passed at approx 3:30 am on April 03, 2009. Her passing was a result of a massive heart attack.

Dan, Stephanie and Kendra


Re:Genesis – Finding New Life in the Midst of the Greatest Challenges

regenesis-designDo you face physical challenges in your life? Emotional or psychological challenges? Or are you connected to anyone who does?

It is said that, “Adversity is the foundation of virtue” and together that virtue can lead us to new life and a community of friends which can support and lift us up. We will find friendship, inspiration, acceptance, spirituality, purpose, and transformation as we hear encouraging words and engage with one another.

Join us in gathering once a month for an Engaging Speaker, Dinner, and time to find fellowship with one another. Together we can Find New Life in the Midst of the Greatest Challenges.


In Thought of the Social Justice Movement

A few days ago Bonnie and I sat in our living room with our coffee in hand as we watched the Inauguration of Barack Obama into the 44th Presidential office. I must admit that even as a Canadian I may not have always agreed with Obama’s policies but, my heart leapt at the thought of the American people electing an African American into office for the first time. What a huge step of honesty, integrity, and commitment for the social justice movement which started sixty years ago!

In the same breath and moment I felt convicted as a follower of Jesus while listening to Rick Warren’s Invocation and prayer. I have always been inspired by the stories and lives of people like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Malcolm X. People who stood for social rights, justice, freedom, and the strength of integrity through social integration and diversity. But, here is where my conviction came. Where is our Social Justice Movement today? What are the oppressive natures which create division and segregation within our nation’s society and communities? Who are our leaders in such movements and why do they not stand out as strongly as they once seemed to back in the 50′s and 60′s?

I’m not trying to say that the Social Justice Movement does not exist today. I still hear echoes from musicians like Lenny Kravitz ‘s “We’re Back in Vietnam” and John Cougar Melloncamp’s “Nooses in Tree’s” as a symbolism to artistic freedoms along with people like Rick Warren and his wife who take the needs of addressing such issues as AIDS, Abortion, Orphans, Religious Persecution, and Human Trafficking through interviews and articles like that as the one in last February’s issue of Reader’s Digest. But, are we as individuals willing to still march the streets for such causes? Are we as holistic beings created with spiritual, psychological, and physical integrity free and willing to accept the possibility of imprisonment, oppression, and even death for such radical needs for social transformation?


I end up asking myself the question, “As a follower of Jesus; what bus am I willing to sit on in the hopes of Jesus showing up?” In part, I think I began trying to answer this question while sitting in an office last Wednesday afternoon with my friends Tim Schmidt and Ron Fraser. Tim who lives with Cerebral Palsy; myself who lives with a spinal cord injury; and Ron who with his brother has been involved with the disabled community for several years began to ask the question of, “What are the ways in which the city of Calgary has reached out to the individuals who face disabilities with the hopes of offering a sense of belonging and support?” Perhaps in a secondary sense we were also asking as individuals who follow Jesus; “In what ways does the Church offer support and belonging to those who face challenges in life?”

AdventureWe spent the next hour and a half mapping out just how we might approach these issues and what our major focuses might be over the coming few months. I’m not sure where this might take us and in truth I am continuing to push myself as to how committed I am and if Jesus might be calling us to something more within this movement. That said I realize that sometimes God takes the momentum of such journeys and catapults them into the stratosphere. Who am I to deny my creator a Lord? Perhaps we just might find ourselves saying, “I have a Dream…”

“When we feel lonely we keep looking for a person or persons who can take our loneliness away. Our lonely hearts cry out, ‘Please hold me, touch me, speak to me, pay attention to me.’ But soon we discover that the person we expect to take our loneliness away cannot give us what we ask for. Often that person feels oppressed by our demands and runs away, leaving us in despair. As long as we approach another person from our loneliness, no mature human relationship can develop. Clinging to one another in loneliness is suffocating and eventually becomes destructive. For love to be possible we need the courage to create space between us and to trust that this space allows us to dance together.”

Henri Nouwen

Thus says the Lord:
“Keep justice, and do righteousness,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my deliverance be revealed.
Blessed is the man who does this,
and the son of man who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it,
and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely separate me from his people”;
and let not the eunuch say,
“Behold, I am a dry tree.”
For thus says the Lord:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
I will give in my house and within my walls
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.

“And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,
and holds fast my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.”
The Lord God,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,
“I will gather yet others to him
besides those already gathered.”

Isaiah 56:1-8


Christmas at Expressions ’08 (Video)


It’s a Snow Day Here in Calgary!!!

Just some pic’s to which Bonnie and I woke up to this morning! Happy Snow Day Everyone!!!

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Everything is amazing and nobody is happy…

O.K. So Bonnie and I watched this video last week on my friend Steve’s blog and it was hilarious. Bonnie would not leave me alone about it saying, “You need to post this on your blog too.” So… here it is:


Re:Genesis Project

O.K. So I have been preparing for a new group which I am hoping will meet once a month starting on Saturday, January 17th, 2009. My thoughts are that it would be a support and social group for local people who face great challenges in their daily lives. I am thinking that it would be mainly for those who have physical challenges but I would like it to be open and inclusive to those who face other challenges too whether they are psychological, emotional, physical, or spiritual in nature.

To start it off in January I planned on us gathering for dinner followed by my friend Brad sharing his thoughts on how we can “Find New Life in the Midst of the Greatest Challenges.” Something which I thought could be a bit of a catch phrase and theme to the group. Anyways, I was designing some logo images to share with the community and was unsure which would be the best one and I wanted to share them here and see what you thought of them.

Which image do you think is the best fit?

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Possessive Vs. Submissive: Random Thoughts of Life and Immortality

Immortality. I can’t help feel as though most people, if not all, subconsciously believe that they possess some sort of immortality. Or at least they desire it and feel they can obtain it through some sort of great work. Even in the personal sense I would agree that immortality or eternal life is deeply engrained within my own faith and has a great roll in the lifestyle and beliefs to which I live. I suppose in many ways you might say it can become more about who we are rather then what we do.

That’s why I seem to puzzle over two questions which seem to point at the way we view this immortality and the how in viewing it this way it seems to have more of an effect to paralyze it then to catalyze it.

  • Why is it that we always view immortality as being more of a suspension to the way things are here and now in the present rather then in the mystery of the unknown?
  • Why do we always seem to look for that immortality in something we can possess as though it was materialistic, gnostic, understandable, or objective in reality?

In short I’m not sure I am able to answer those questions in the here and now. I think they are more something which we each can wrestle with over conversation and friendship. I might say though that I think immortality has less to do with a possessive nature and more to be about a relational submission (Luke 9:24-25).

In truth, this thought stream has all stemmed from an experience I had in the local Cyclepath which I went to this past week to pick up some new gloves for wheeling. I confessed to the gentleman behind the counter that I was extremely hard on my wheelchair with regards to the distances to which I pushed it. Upon questioning me as to why I didn’t buy another more “suitable” wheelchair I blurted out in a spontaneous remark:

“What is the point in living if you can’t out-live the wheelchair you’re in while doing it?!”

I suppose it wasn’t until later that I realized the effect the remark may have had on those who do not live in the same lifestyle that I am accustomed too. In brief, I have been finding great inspiration from the current Olympics and as my conversation with the gentlemen in the store was centered on the anticipation for the upcoming Paralympics I give great due to those athletes who are competing this year. But… let’s give great due to the source of all original inspiration as I thank my heavenly Father for giving me the opportunity to live that statement out while looking forward to a future immortality which only he can define and I can submit to through my relationship with him.

“We would rather be ruined than changed.”

W.H. Auden

“The whole law of human existence lies in this: that man be able to bow down before the infinitely great.”

Fydor Dostoevski


Expressions Movie Night: Music Within

Richard Pimentel (Ron Livingston) begins his life as a fighter, and his life’s work becomes a process of fighting for the rights of others.

Rising up from a childhood in a dysfunctional family, armed with a talent for public speaking and a winning personality, the young man makes his way to a Northwestern college, confident that he will ace his try-out for his idol Dr. Ben Padrow (Hector Elizondo), the coach of the winningest team in the history of the College Bowl.

But Dr. Padrow shatters his dream when he rejects him. Richard’s immediate reaction is to enlist in the army for a tour of duty in Vietnam. During combat, the young recruit loses his hearing to a bomb blast, and has to deal with this newfound disability on his return to civilian life in Oregon.

Richard discovers that his disability and the struggle to transcend it is a defining moment in his fight for what he believes in. When he tries to help his friends, vets like himself and others with disabilities, to get work in an environment that treats them with pity at best and disdain as a matter of course, he realizes that he can make a difference. The friends who make up his close-knit clique are: Art Honneyman (Michael Sheen), a student wheel chair user with cerebral palsy who uses his rapier wit to deflect the prejudice that greets his disturbing appearance; Mike Stoltz (Yul Vázquez), a fellow veteran with a lot of rage and nowhere to put it; and then there is Christine (Melissa George), the passionate libertine who strokes Richard’s ego and initiates him into the world of free love.

Together, the friends experience the currents of those turbulent times, and the wild, joyful energy of winning through confrontation and humor. Without his hearing Richard is all the more prepared to listen to the message deep within himself, and to carry that message to the thousands of people whose lives are improved by the movement he helps to organize.

Expressions will be hosting a screening of the movie ‘Music Within’ upon invitation due to the limited amount of space. Thank you for your interest.

When: Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Time: 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm

For more information on the movie please visit: http://www.musicwithinmovie.com/


Simple Acts of Kindness

This has quit possible been one of the most difficult weeks of my life. I feel completely and absolutely exhausted; not only physically but emotionally too. My wife Bonnie has dealt for several years with chronic infections and has been treated with so many antibiotics that her body now can no longer respond to these treatments. As such the doctors pursued surgery on Tuesday with the hopes of stopping the constant attacks of infection.

The follow up was appalling as she was discharged that day with the instructions that we were to contact Home Care for assistance. On the other side was Home Care stating that the hospital can only make the contact. And so the political burocratic circle begins. “No, it’s not our responsibility. It is their’s!” “No, I’m really sorry but, it’s not our responsibility either. It’s theirs!” Why does political paper work take more concern over the health and welfare of the human being? Does no one care for others anymore? Does no one care about my wife and I?!

It was a difficult moment and in truthfulness I was prepared to remove some heads. That is when some close friends of ours responded to our call. Geraldine is what I would call a 70 + year old marathon runner. No word of a lie she showed up on our door step with a box of freshly baked breads, home made soups, and a tin of cookies which were still warm from the oven. With tears coming down her checks she hugged us and said she was praying and felt a calling from Jesus to contact Anne who was a Home Care nurse in our church. Anne would be visiting us that afternoon (Thursday). Following Anne’s visit, Bonnie felt waves of relief as she promised to return this coming Sunday. It was the greatest news and blessing we could ever have received this past week!

The week has yet to finish out and Bonnie and I are still waiting to hear the results of some biopsies which they took during the procedure. However, I can honestly say that I have felt Jesus with us throughout this week. At times it has been extremely difficult but it is then that we have felt the simple acts of kindness which only faith could have provided us. The many emails we’ve been sent – Jesus wrote. The many phone calls we’ve answered – Jesus spoke. The simple acts of kindness which we have received – Jesus was there!!!

“Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
O offspring of Abraham, his servant,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones!”

Psalm 105


Don’t Give Up!

Probably one of my favorite Musicians: Eagle Eye Cherry!


Shaw TV Interview with the Calgary Aikikai Dojo

A couple of days ago my friend Todd contacted me about an interview which he was setting up at the dojo with Shaw TV. Of course I agreed to be part of it despite dealing with an on going shoulder injury making it difficult to use my right arm. To tell you the truth, with little time to practice I felt as though I did pretty poorly. I gave it a go though and thankfully the TV crew did not spend too much time focusing in on my techniques. As a slight correction to the commentary however I might say that prior to being in a wheelchair I spent 3 years studying Karate. Following my car accident in 1994 I studied 9 years of Kung Fu and for the last 2 years I have been involved here at Calgary Aikikai Dojo with Aikido.

Anyways, take a look and let me know what you think of the video!

My Apologies as the video has now been taken down by Shaw and I was unable to attain a copy!


A Voyage Through Space

Recently while trying to recover from surgery I spent some time on NASA’s Website looking at the many pictures in there archives. I was blown away by there beauty as I strayed off in my own day dreams. I have always been fascinated by the idea of space travel and seeing all of the wonders of God’s creation! Anyway, I thought I would share some of those beautiful pictures with you.


Praying Through Psalm 77

I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah

I take this time to focus my thoughts on your presence with in this very moment Father. I cry out to you to fill me with the presence of your Spirit as I draw to you in meditation. I open my heart just as I do my hands that it might be soft spoken in the aweness of your taking notice of me; your faithful and loving servant.

You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.”
Then my spirit made a diligent search:

I am thankful Father for your delivery through this past Tuesday’s surgery but, I seek after you in the pain I am experiencing now. I feel guilty in asking this of you and am hesitant to speak but in lack of sleep I cry out to you for mercy that you might hear my pains. My head is pounding like a ticking time bomb and my body screams within the agony of my joints. The cutting of flesh is done Father however, my heart continues to bleed. I am exhausted Father and feel the emotional settlement of feeling defeated.

Yet I am alert and look for the excitement of your guidance as I examine myself in spirit. Yes, I am in pain however I am alive! I bleed yet remember that you bled also and resurrection is soon to follow. My emotions may be squelching and yet I am surrounded by the blessings of family and a wife who loves me.

“Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?

Of course not! I hold to your unending faith and your desire to be with me both in my times of need and in my times of great joy and celebration!

Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah

I know that the answer is simple and straight forward… “No!” I must confess in my own struggle to see this whole heartedly though Father. Perhaps it is within my own blindness but, why would you love me? Why would you bring compassion and graciousness to my existence as I am yet a small puppet within this glorious creation of yours?

This has no bearing however as I acknowledge all these within my life. You are truly a merciful, kind, and loving God who enriches my life with your graceful presence!

Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

I am once again reminded of you words to Job that “You are God” and we have little understanding yet of that. You are God and you have been at work since the dawn of creation. As you are the creator of the foundations of this world I can find new roots within your promises. My faith is renewed as I reflect on the times you have brought me through so much already!

I remember laying in an ICU bed in 1994 and you made a promise to me through the words of my mother that, “You and your father will be just fine.” I know even now with this pain that that promise is still true. You have great plans for the future and much work for me as your humble servant. Your seeds of fruit are great and nothing will hold them back!

When the waters saw you, O God,
when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
indeed, the deep trembled.
The clouds poured out water;
the skies gave forth thunder;
your arrows flashed on every side.
The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lighted up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
Your way was through the sea,
your path through the great waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.
You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

There is a fluidity to your creation Father. It rises and falls in crashing waves of love, kindness, goodness, mercy, and great blessing. It speaks of your ways both in the softness of beauty and the loud clashing of spiritual fire. I praise you Jesus for the glories you so richly disserve and I continue to seek after you in all my ways. I pray that you hear my words and bring me quick healing that I might bless you more through serving your people. Amen. Amen.



Six Word Memoirs: What’s Yours?

My Memoir: Wheels Help Make Life Roll Along!!!

Erik Freiburger

What would be your six word memoir?


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